Before we begin...to all my besties, acquaintances, and anyone else who knows me as a proud native son of Michigan, I apologize in advance. But please allow me to explain.
What you're about to see on this embedded video may give you pause to believe I have turned my back –– and the sweatshirt that covers it –– on the Great Lakes State. Nothing could be further from correct. I was born in Muskegon, raised in Spring Lake, summered in Grand Haven, matriculated in Holland, and spent the majority of my adult life in Detroit. The blood that courses through my veins is Pure Michigan.
However, in the video you're about to click, you will see Jim McFarlin clad in (I can hardly bring myself to write it) a University of Illinois hoodie. While it's true I have lived outside of Chicago for the better part of a decade, I assure you I have not crossed over to the dark side of the Big Ten Conference.
This was clearly a "when in Rome" –– or in this case, Champaign-Urbana –– situation.
You see, I am a member of a committee called Life Goes On Champaign, an outgrowth of legendary Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White and his passion to increase the number of Land of Lincoln residents who register to be organ and tissue donors. White's obsession was fueled when his sister received a life-saving kidney transplant many years ago. And since I received the identical miraculous gift in 2011, I'm a big fan of the effort myself.
(For more information, go to LifeGoesOn.com.)
Since April is Donate Life Month (you did know that, right?), White and his people unveiled a new ad campaign and video highlighting the fact that as of January, 16- and 17-year-olds are permitted to register as donors in the state of Illinois.
Liz Hager, White's wondrous right-hand woman and our committee chair, connected with a delightful University of Illinois undergrad named Bridgette Rasmussen who volunteered to help produce a separate public service announcement on behalf of Illinois Student Government, specifically for the U of I Union. It would alternate with the official Life Goes On PSA and air continuously throughout the Union, to be seen by thousands of collegians.
Since I am one of the few men on the committee, and by far the biggest ham in the room, I happily volunteered to participate.
Because it was going to be shown exclusively on campus, I decided to dress the part for the video shoot. All right, yes, I was sucking up...but for a good cause!
I donned my orange-and-blue-on-gray Illinois hoodie –– the only piece of Illini apparel I possess, and I only wear it to work out, I swear! –– and drove to the university's creative services office for the taping. I would be joined by my fellow committee members, Lauri Umbarger and Robyn Deterding.
Now let me say at this point that I enjoy many things about growing older gracefully, but total loss of memory is not one of them. I elected to run a few quick errands before driving to the U of I studio, ensuring I would arrive early for our 4 o'clock taping.
That is, until I casually glanced at my calendar while stopped at a red light. The taping was set for 3 o'clock! I forgot! Instead of being comfortably early, I stood to be nearly an hour late!
I raced to campus, found a parking place several blocks away –– looking for parking at a major university in mid-afternoon can bring a grown man to tears –– then ran to the studio, arriving flustered and out of breath. My only saving grace was, as I knew from experience and hoped in this instance, that video shoots almost never start on time.
Thankfully, I was right. And by the grace of God I was scheduled to be the last person taped, which gave me time to right myself. The script, loaded onto a TelePrompTer, was simple and straightforward, which meant I could read it slowly and give it some sincerity. I wasn't half bad, if I say so myself, but you be the judge.
Apparently, the video crew thought so. When we were finished, the director stared at me and asked, "Have...you...done this before?" I explained that yes, I used to do some voiceover work in Detroit and hosted shows both on TV and radio.
He asked for my business card.
Wouldn't it be a hoot if volunteering to play a part for a cause I feel so strongly about led to getting some paying work as well? Talk about paying it forward!
But hey, like they say: Life Goes On.