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Facebook fans chip in together to buy a snow blower for a weatherman

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After this very cold and snowy winter, outpouring support for meteorologist might have been reserved for kids and teachers reaping the results of countless days off of school. But this is one of those feel good stories that extended much farther and perhaps is something we don’t hear about enough. It is also a story I happen to be in the middle of, and it has been one of the most humbling experiences of my (extended) career. So please indulge me for a moment as you read on. This is by no means a bragging or ego boosting attempt on my part. It truly is about the power of social media, connecting with people, and survival beyond just the harsh weather. I just happen to have a large platform to tell this story and send a huge thanks. I want to credit everyone involved, and hopefully share an uplifting side of the human spirit.

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I was speechless. But there were so much thought and kind kind messages, that I needed to return the gesture. This is a little long winded, but I felt the need to share my appreciation for those involved, and give a little more of myself back.

The Gift:

I had many reasons to support my call for a very active and storm winter, but I had no idea that the famed Polar Vortex would be met with the warmth of humanity. I am a forecaster and broadcaster. I write online, post, and share frequently. Every single day! In large events I will wake up early and stay up late. It all depends on what the set up may be and sleep can be caught up another time (I hope).

For some reason this winter I have been able to see ahead of most storms. Even with an honest heavy reliance of one or two particular computer models, I will point out errors when I see them and stick my neck out on a call. This winter I felt like I was like Chris Davis at the plate, able to knock more out of the park than ever. Oh, I get some wrong and will be the first to acknowledge it. I even ask for public grading of my forecasts… That is just keeping it real. But I guess I made a connection with a lot of people and continued to prove to be a valuable resource for information that I will never take for granted.

I live in the colder, northern part of the Baltimore metro area, and received a fresh 24 inches of snow in our latest storm. This was after two weeks in February of multiple snowstorms, including an ice event, and almost 4 days of lost power to my house. I stayed upbeat while sharing my experiences: Shoveling a pile of snow as high as my basketball net; having trouble breaching the snow plow wall to my street; and at some point might have mentioned I broke a shovel. At least it wasn’t my back. But this is a real winter in my book. I embody ‘Faith-in-the-Flakes’, and I am determined to make the most of it. It was the heart of some complete strangers that was beyond what I expected.

In those two weeks, my public Facebook page grew form 70,000 to over 120,000. I have not been on TV for two years, and it was only 5,200 the day I left my last station. So this is my primary outreach. I felt like the pressure was really on to ‘perform my duty’, but little did I know that some were gathering to thank me. Thank me for something I enjoy doing in the first place.

Without knowing, a few people found each other on my page and created a private group page. They gathered dozens of people (almost 60) and collected hundreds of dollars to buy me a snow blower. Wow! My first reaction was that I didn’t deserve this for doing what I enjoy. There are so many other people in true need that could be served by this generous effort. But I have learned that accepting a gift is a virtue, so I did with complete gratitude.

“Anita Haven has an idea. Julie Smith had a way. Danny Bendebba had a contact. Pete’s Cycles had a discount”- Printed in my card.

See the slide show for images and messages from that card, a poem from Leslie Adler, and more. Please again understand, this is not about me, but the generosity. I have list of everyone (I am aware of) that participated at the bottom of this post.

I will be the guy who will offer to help clear my neighbor’s driveways now. That offer has been extended to me and it’s pay forward time! My two boys were a big help in clearing snow this winter. My youngest still can only handle the car (if left outside), but my oldest will certainly have fun learning how to use this.

If you are superstitious, I am a little too. If for some reason this ends my string of accurate winter storm forecasting OR our snow for the season, perhaps I should drive to California and wash my car. Maybe that will end their drought. I would need some help to organize that trip.

Survival:

I didn’t want this article to be about me, but I feel obligated to give a little background. Connecting like this with so many people is a special thing. I am honored and humbled. I am as authentic as they come. I am a guy who loves to do his thing. My kid’s rainbow loom bracelets are my only bling. I wear my heart on my sleeve, and have been redefining my career for the past two years. I am far from perfect and easily point out my errors often. But there is a time to focus, be serious, and be driven, and others to be laid back. That is the essence of my Facebook Page. We never run out of stuff to talk about or great photos to share, and everyone who is a part, plays a part. That 120K played a role in us reaching over 5 million people in a 7 day stretch. When Phil Rizzuto said ‘Holy cow”, maybe he had this in mind too?

  • I got my meteorology degree from Cornell University, but found out my sophomore year I had dyslexia. I obviously figured out some way to get around it, and rather than use it as a crutch, it is a badge of honor I proudly share with students and grown ups who may struggle in their own way.
  • I almost lost my leg when I was 14 years old. I was in the hospital for almost 2 months, and then home on IV treatment even longer. Rather than hear the ‘no’, I wanted to ‘go’. A few years later I built back to be a successful track sprinter. I still show a video during my school visits, of a race where I came from behind to win at the finish line. Those visits are part of a program called Wind for Change. It is a program I designed that combines a weather assembly with a contest and fundraiser for the students. I sit on the board of the Cool Kids Campaign and in a little over 3 years, my program has raised over $65,000 . This is for kids that today are dealing with cancer or other major illness in hope to preserve their childhoods. I have never and will never take a penny for myself. Everything is for those kids.
  • I left TV two years ago and started my own business, Just In Weather, LLC. I have had many debates with family about my ambition to give away my time and efforts for free. It is something I have done all of my TV career, and I had to keep doing it that way. I made social media my job, and the people that continue to follow me make it that much more valuable. In the meantime, I gathered consulting clients and developed mobile apps. It wasn’t an ulterior motive, but a philosophy to give all I had up front in hopes that when needed, the benefits would come back.

Pay Off?

I was good at my old job, but believed in this new direction. TV has provided a good foundation to transition. Through social media, I have won a few awards and met many more people across the board than ever. I even have few new exciting projects that are already in development as a direct result. With a gift like this snow blower, I see the relationship I have with many people and will be more dedicated than ever. Developing a connection with over a hundred thousand people is a special thing I value beyond words. Sure there are people who just as easily don’t like me, attack me online, and don’t understand what my intentions are. As much as I would love to give it back to them, it is not worth it and I take the high road. I gladly let anyone comment on my page, as those who disagree make it more legitimate. I think the numbers have shown that perhaps being real, dedicated, and NOT perfect, can be infectious.

I could have left town for another TV station, but my heart was here, with the people and community surrounding Baltimore that embraced me AFTER 14 years on local TV.

Mobile Apps are the future and my first one has been successful. I built Kid Weather App with my son who came up with the idea while he was in kindergarten. Now in 2nd grade, we have had downloads in 29 countries, won a Parent’s Choice Award (among others), and been featured by iTunes five times. It has been a bonding experience for us and we continue to get stories from other families about how our relationship and accomplishments have inspired them. We are sitting on a major upgrade in just a few weeks and hope that will shed more light on our ultimate vision for our fun and educational program that lies ahead.

My next mobile app is the main event. It will determine if my vision and this social network thing will pay off. If it does, I will gladly share my secrets to anyone who wants to listen. This app is one of those ideas that you might think ‘how come this has not been done already’? At least that’s the reaction I’ve had so far… It is for a grown up audience and has implications on a much broader scale than that. So its success could lead to a lot more development ahead. Being based on an inexpensive subscription service will be the trick to pay expenses, further develop, and see how dedicated my network is. THAT is when I will finally be open and honest about my need for support from all of those that I have been serving online. That will be make or break time. What I have been able to do in building this community network truly has my sincerity and integrity built in. That support will help springboard a grander idea into reality over the next year.

I am a survivor and have many more profound stories that are beyond the scope of this topic. I hope my actions and message are something that resonates with a lot of people in a positive way. Rather that trying my hand a corporate support, it is this grass roots philosophy that has the soul build in from the ground floor. So hopefully this support will be something that is still fresh in the next few weeks when my next app is released. I dream big! I want to bring anyone who wants to join me along for the ride.

*A gift like this snow blower is like a second wind as I approach the finish line of a long race. Rounding the corner and seeing all of these people join together… It is beyond ‘me’. It is a group supporting an idea that benefits everyone involved. It is something I hope is seen as a classic American story of success. The way it use to be! I truly hope that message is what resonates here, because that is really what my tireless efforts are all about.

Also keep up to date via my Social Media Networks:

Facebook: Justin Berk, Meteorologist

Twitter @JustinWeather

Instagram: justinweather

Pinterest: justinweather

http://www.justinweather.com

Sign up for email alerts to my articles for Baltimore Weather Examiner

Special thanks to all that contributed to my gift. I don’t deserve it but I appreciate your outpouring generosity:

  • Amber Arrington
  • Amber Baker
  • Amy & Tim McGovern
  • Amy Salmon
  • Amy Thomas
  • Anita Haven
  • April Hebron
  • Barbie Currie
  • Betsy Fruhling
  • Bridget Lynch
  • Charlotte Haller
  • Chuck Robertson
  • Cindy Casper
  • Crystal Daugherty
  • Danny BenDebba
  • Dawn Jones
  • Dawn C
  • Douglas Mast
  • Erica McAndrew
  • Erin Polanowski-Morris
  • Gina Miller
  • Jen Cepko
  • Jennifer Sturgill
  • JoAnn Hutchinson
  • John Willey
  • Julie and Dan Smith
  • Julie Ward
  • Kathryn Murphy
  • Katrina Kuster
  • Kortney Kepner
  • Krista Brewer
  • Kristeena Smallwood
  • Kristy Burkey
  • Laura Schonbachler
  • Lees & Carol Knight-Moore
  • Leslie Adler
  • Leslie Adler
  • Lisa Werner
  • Marcy and Dave Kahler
  • Mark Eisner
  • Melanie Kelly
  • Melanie Willetts
  • Michelle Calloway
  • Michelle Perry
  • Nicole Broadhead
  • rebecca seipp
  • Rick Coleman
  • Sue
  • Tim and Becky Poole
  • Tina Smith
  • Todd Frederick
  • Tom Lathroum
  • Tracy Wontell
  • yaakov rappaport
  • Pete’s Cycles
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