staff, staff, June 20, 2015

PennState_BridgilancePenn State alum Josh Blair knows how hard it can be to squeeze time for serving others into a busy schedule. As a single father working a demanding corporate job, it was always a challenge to find even a couple of hours for charity work, even though it was one of his passions.

Incidentally, charitable organizations face similar challenges. Because these institutions have to raise funds, manage personnel and cultivate their network, they spend a lot of time on things that are outside of their direct mission.

Blair established Bridgilance to help some of those charities operate more smoothly, thus enabling them to put more emphasis on their cause. The organization?s name is a portmanteau of bridge (which represents joining or linking two things together) and vigilance (which refers to being aware of one?s surroundings).

Specifically, Bridgilance is ?designed to help charitable organizations connect with underserved communities to address causes that impact them most.? Much of the help the organization provides to other non-profits centers on how they communicate.

?We are trying to bring the organizations that are already out there, already doing good work by helping them tailor and craft their messages,? said Blair, who currently serves as Bridgilance's co-president in partnership with James Burrell.

Every year or two, Bridgilance focuses on a particular cause or organization. Currently, the organization is working on campaigns around sickle-cell anemia and other blood-related cancers and, more specifically, how to help minority groups affected by them.

The goal right now is to get as many African-Americans as possible swabbed for the bone marrow transplant list. Historically, it?s been challenging to get minorities to volunteer to be bone marrow donors, but Bridgilance is helping charities with a concerted effort to get as many minorities on the list as possible.

It?s a cause that Blair has paid attention to for a while. Through his former corporate job, he got involved with Delete Blood Cancer, an organization that encourages people to swab for the bone marrow transplant list.

Through that service, he discovered that African-Americans? odds of finding a bone marrow match are a low 15 percent, compared to 70 percent for Caucasian-Americans. Blair?s son is mixed-raced, and that statistic got him thinking: ?What if my own son needed a match??

When his time working with Delete Blood Cancer came to an end, Blair wanted to keep helping disadvantaged communities, but on a much broader scale. Soon after that, he called up a few buddies from college - Burrell, Justin Williams and Rhory Moss - to brainstorm ways to do that. Soon after, Bridgilance was born.

?I?ve always wanted to be one of those people who can say, ?Hey, I?ve done my corporate time, but I wanted to put my energy towards something for the good of others,?? Blair explained. ?I want [Bridgilance] to be my legacy.?

One of the ways Bridgilance gets the word out is through athletics. For instance, the organization held an event called the Big Man Clinic in Harlem, N.Y., in which former NBA, NFL and All-American players from the Penn State women?s basketball team ran a basketball practice for kids to ?be big on and off the court.?

[btn-post-package]At the clinic, people were encouraged to swab in order to join the bone marrow donor list, as well as teach and learn about leadership and basketball skills. Blair said the event was successful, as it raised awareness and resulted in 30 more minorities being added to the donor registry.

Without Blair?s networking skills, Bridgilance and events like the Big Man Clinic wouldn?t exist. And his Penn State network has been crucial to its continued success, he said.

?If you look at our roster and board, it?s people I went to school with and people [who attended Penn State] I have met since school,? he said. ?It wasn?t just my time at Penn State, but also my time after [graduation] with alumni. The Penn State network has been incredible.?

By Alec Weine