Dan Marcus – Board of Director Emeritus
Dan Marcus, along with Scott Barbeau and Rich Johnson traveled to Zambia in the summer of 2006. The trip was nothing short of life-changing and was the spark that inspired Spark Ventures. For over a decade now, Dan has served on the Spark Ventures Board, providing key fundraising support and strategic guidance. He has recently stepped into a new role of Director Emeritus and to mark that occasion we had a great conversation with him.
What do you remember most about your first experience at Hope?
Zambia knocked my socks off. My first day in Zambia felt like it was a year long. Everything was so new to me. We were flying by the seat of our pants when we got there! The highlight of my trip was building bunk beds for the orphanage. I had no woodworking skills but I built some bunk beds in college. We went to the store and bought the wood and nails. We built them and the kids loved them and painted them.
What other charitable work have you been involved in over the years?
I volunteered at Lurie Children’s hospital for over 2 years working in a bereavement and play based therapy program. I eventually ended up volunteering in the hospital for over 8 years. I’ve supported homeless people in Chicago and volunteered with the Night Ministry for about 3 years helping homeless youth and low-income adults. I also volunteered at CYCLE – a community program for children in Cabrini Green. I met some great people like Nancy O’Leary and Tasha Seitz through my volunteer experiences who ended up becoming Spark supporters.
What has it meant to you to be a co-founder of an organization that’s changed so many lives?
When I went to Africa, I didn’t go there to start Spark – I went to go and come back. I’m happy and proud of what Spark has become. I’m glad that we could do what we did. The impact of what we did with Spark has been incredible. Taking people to places like Zambia, Nicaragua, and Mexico puts their life in perspective. It gives them framing – and makes them more empathic, more caring, and more appreciative for what they have. I’m very appreciative for what I have in my life.
Tell us more about yourself, your family, job & hobbies. When you’re not working and being a dad, what do you like to do?
I’m married, I have three great kids – I love them all to death. My oldest daughter is Ellery – she’s 12, my son Evan is 10, and my youngest daughter Emmery is 6. I have one thing that most people don’t know about me – I used to be an ultramarathon runner. When I’m running, I’m at peace. I’m not thinking about anything other than taking the next step. Many years ago I ran a marathon in the Sahara desert in Morocco. I also ran a 100 mile race in California in the Angeles National Forest. I was running with two other guys for about 60 miles. Then I had to slow down and run by myself. It was the middle of the night and it was about 90 degrees. I was running up a hill and thinking how I got myself into this situation. I was alone and had 40 more miles to run. I had no idea how I was going to get to the finish line. I sat down on a rock and thought I can’t do this. I started to think about DC – a friend I met when I was helping homeless people in Chicago. DC lived his life hour by hour, day by day. Then a light went off in my head – I didn’t have to run 40 more miles, I just had to get off that rock and take one step at a time. Now that’s how I do everything in my life – one step at a time. I try not to think too far ahead and it gives me a lot of peace of mind. Taking one step at a time is the key to getting anything accomplished.