“Fame is a vapor, popularity an” accident and riches take wings, only one thing endures and that is character.” ~ Horace Greeley

For many, the American dream of success lies in being “celebrity” famous, “Facebook and Instagram popular”, and “lotto jackpot” wealthy.  Add in “photo shopped” perfect looks and body, and “Zoom” whitened teeth. BINGO, you’ve got it all.

But do you?  What about character, that enduring trait, the place where true and everlasting beauty resides?

Character is the essence of who we really are.  It is our spirit, identity, personality, nature, temperament, mentality, reputation, and stature.  It is the quality that is often most tested when we encounter various trials.  And it is one we often see toppled when those we admire for their fame, popularity and riches, tank their “brand” in greed and lies.  Think one time successful entrepreneurs Bernie Madoff and Lance Armstrong.

Recently I was named a finalist in the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year for Michigan and Northwest Ohio.   The EY entrepreneur of the year is recognized as the most prestigious business award program in the country, celebrating the most innovative business leaders.  Believe me when I say that just being in the company of these visionaries, trumps the trifecta of success as defined by fame, popularity and riches.

However, for years I bought into that definition.  In fact I married into it, giving up my career to lead a life of luxury.

For 15 years, I had it all; the big beautiful home, luxury vehicles, private schools for the kids, first class vacations, jewelry, a designer wardrobe; and a small staff which helped to maintain it all.

And then I lost it all, when one afternoon I drove up the driveway to our home, my five children, ages 4-13 safely strapped into the back of my gas guzzling Suburban, to see a small note tacked onto the front door.  Where we lived, notes were NOT tacked onto the front doors, but instead to the service entrance around the side.

Ripping it off, I read the small print, indicating that our home was to be auctioned off in 30 days.  You can only imagine the unpleasant conversation I had with my husband, during which I learned the deal he was pursuing, among other things in which he was in hot pursuit, had not yet come to fruition, and we were broke.  My name forged on thousands of dollars of financial instruments.

Within weeks, I moved out, selling what I could for cash, renting a home in a lovely Leave It To Beaver Looking neighborhood, hiring lawyers to help me navigate the mess, and seeking work.

Over the next eight years, I took every job I could, cobbling together a small income. When my husband abruptly stopped making child support payments, he also stopped making my car payment.   Without notice, the repo man showed up in my driveway early one February morning.  What I thought was a wind and ice storm, causing my trees to bend and creek, was in fact my Ford Windstar being hoisted up on a hook.

The woman who once had her groceries delivered, was stretching the gallon of milk with Carnation Instant Nonfat Dry Milk and picking up $5 Little Caesars’ Pizza Pizza’s for dinner.

My children were, for a time were on Medicaid and had subsidized school lunches.

Then, finally in the spring of 2005, things were looking up.  I was transitioning between jobs with the promise of the potential for a six figure salary, a company paid car and health insurance.

But my annual Mammogram showed suspicions of cancer. A positive biopsy, derailed my job opportunity.

Without my income, no savings and the addition of a COBRA premium of $1200 to ensure my access to life-saving care, our family once again went into financial free fall.  The home I rented for cash and later purchased with the help of my mother, faced foreclosure.  My mailbox was stuffed with overdue notices for my Ford Freestar, Edison and Consumers Power.  I stood in line at the local food bank to help feed our family.

The thought that we might join the ranks of the homeless left me terrified, despondent and hopeless.  Life did not seem worth living.

In this dark hole my character was truly tested.  Without a scheme to lie or cheat myself out of this mess, I began to think what I could do to help others facing similar circumstances.

Hope and Help were born in the form of the organization I founded and now serve as CEO, The Pink Fund. You can read about The Pink Fund here: www.thepinkfund.org

It is for this role, I have been nominated for EY Entrepreneur of the Year.

As part of my nomination, I was asked, “What three words describe you as an entrepreneur?”  I had some thoughts of my own, but went to Facebook to ask friends for theirs.

Here is what they wrote: resilient, inspiring, visionary, giving, driven, passionate, dedicated, devoted, determined, caring, selfless, intelligent, fierce, courageous, admirable, generous, talented, confident, funny, gracious, compassionate, powerful, committed, responsible, unstoppable, enthusiastic, devoted, innovative, resourceful, fearless, brave, engaging, benevolent, energetic, true, friend.

These words do not speak to any kind of fame, popularity or riches. They have nothing to do with my appearance.  Instead they speak purely to my character.  The character developed from losing all I thought had value, to finding what really does.

I am not famous, but I am known, for the work that I do.  I am not popular, but I am respected, for the work that I do.  I am not rich, but I enjoy a richness of life that comes from the work that I do.  And as for character, I continue to work hard daily to earn the respect of others, because of the work that I do.

About Molly MacDonald
Diagnosed with breast cancer in April 2005, she was unable to start her new job as planned. Her family’s already tight budget was immediately overburdened with the addition of a monthly COBRA health insurance payments coupled with the loss of her income. As a result, she was determined to help others suffering from lost income as a result of their diagnosis and treatment.  In 2006 she founded The Pink Fund, where she now serves as CEO working daily to provide help and hope to Survivors and their families. “By providing 90 days of non-medical financial assistance, making payments to the patient’s creditors for insurance, housing, transportation and utilities, we give help and hope.” Since its founding, The Pink Fund has made $845,504.45 in bill payments on behalf of 843 Survivors. For her work MacDonald has been the recipient of many local and national awards, most notably she has been named a Pink Power Mom, by Kids II and Bright Starts.  She is a Purpose Prize Fellow, presented by Encore.org for social impact, and Money Magazine’s 2014 Michigan Money Hero. The Pink Fund was recently recognized as a top global cancer innovator in patient centric care by The LiveStrong Foundation for its work in helping to rebuild financial health; and was named by Time and Money, together with Charity Navigator as a one of five national breast cancer charities worthy of your donation where you can feel confident your dollars will be put to good use. A graduate from The University of Michigan in journalism, MacDonald’s past work experience includes reporting, marketing, public relations and sales. She is a mother to five adult children.