7/1/12 Secret Millionaire Features Steve Kaplan in Chicago Giving Away Some of His Fortune

Welcome to the Nobody’s View write-up of the 7/1/12 Secret Millionaire Featuring Steve Kaplan.

Let’s see who’s receiving part of Kaplan’s fortune this week.

[You already know we blog America’s Got Talent here, because we believe that regular people living their dreams is worth a few words.  Heck, that’s sort of why we exist!  And, this season, we’ve decided to again blog Secret Millionaire.  Why?  Well, first, we’ve noticed some of you coming back from last season looking for the write-ups.  So there’s that.  But we also like the idea of people giving back.  And, we notice that sometimes people check in here for names and information on the groups that benefit.  So, if we can help you find some information, then that’s fine by us.  Enjoy!]


So, where do we start?  Ah, yes.  A montage of cars, nice houses, and the streets.  You have to hand it to ABC.  They know how to juxtapose.

Huh.  I don’t think I’ve ever used that word in a blog post before.

So, let’s see what Steve Kaplan is doing in Chi-town.


He’s a consultant in Buffalo Grove.  He started his own business with nothing and slept in his car.  Wow.  I guess that’s the fire you need!  He wrote a bestseller and was retired by 35.  Nice.  Good for him!

Hey, he has a pool.  Olympic size.  In Buffalo Grove.  I hope it’s warm there.

But Aspen.  Now there’s a second home!  I’ll take that.  Love Aspen.  Great place.

Kaplan loves being a dad, and I’ll be he loves his Porsche as well.  But…y’know…that’s a different show on a different network.  And, I’m guessing by the end of the hour, that’ll be the last thing we remember.

He’s leaving the phone and money behind, and heading downtown on the El.  E. 118th Street on the South Side.  Not too far from Buffalo Grove, but then again…a billion miles away.

The neighborhood he’s going into?  Drugs.  Gangs.  Violence.

The house?  Well, it didn’t look too bad, but then…the bags of garbage, the crumbling paint, the graffiti inside.  Dark messages on the walls.  Anger.  Frustration.  These things have an energy, don’t they?

Day 2 saw him walking the streets and heading into the community.  He introduced himself to a group of guys playing basketball at a non-profit called Kids Off The Block.   The Kids Off The Block youth center was across the street.  One woman—president and founder Diane Latiker—started it all in 2003, hoping to save some kids from the streets.  It’s an after-school program for kids 12-24 years old…a place where they can be safe.  There’s mentoring, tutoring, community services, music.  And it grows and grows.  It grew up in Latiker’s apartment.  She brought Kaplan on to help with a memorial across the street for murdered youth.  It was impressive.  And sad.  They need to add 177 more blocks, and it’s growing.  Before the break, Kaplan made a good point.  One we all know intellectually, but not necessarily in our hearts.  If that violence was happening perhaps in another neighborhood, people would sit up, tune in, and take notice.  As it is?  Well…


After the break Kaplan was still in the South Side building the memorial to gang violence.  Name after name after name.  She told him about a boy who belonged to Kids Off The Block whom she found shot to death.  But that was just one story in the stack of bricks.

Kaplan’s next organization was H.O.M.E., or Housing Opportunities and Maintenance for the Elderly.  There, he met Bruce Otto, Executive Director.  H.O.M.E. helps low-income seniors maintain independence.  They have apartment buildings where students work and help.  The residents need help, and H.O.M.E. provides it.

Steve volunteered to cook lunch for the senior and met a woman who has volunteered there since 2002.  He spoke to an incredible man, 85, who says H.O.M.E. has become his family and, quite possibly, saved his life.  The experience at H.O.M.E. seemed to really bring home the recent loss of his mother, and gave him a better appreciation for where he was volunteering.

The biggest impression it left on him?  The family atmosphere.

Too true.


The next day, he was feeling a little more comfortable.  It was back to Kids Off The Block.  It was mural painting day.  Oh, and by the way, they can’t touch the graffiti because they could get shot.  That’s right.  Wrap your head around that.  Kaplan met James at the mural.  He told Steve that his life had been rough–around drugs, guns, gangs.  How amazing that his brother brought him to Kids Off The Block.  Thank God for his brother.  And Diane Latiker.  “You do what you have to do when you have a passion,” she said.  Say that again to youself.

A hundred times.

After a good paint-smeaing, he seemed to really be enjoying himself.


Next up?  BinDonated.  The founder, Judson Kinnucan, said he puts the barrels around the city to get donations from hotels and offices and gives them to local charities.  Good idea!  Collected for free.  Given for free.  Judson says he has about 75 charities he’s working with.  One guy.  He quit his job, started a charity with his whole life savings….

To help others with nothing.


His fiancee also showed up to help  sort.  She’s a resident physician at Northwestern, so she said she sees a lot of the people Judson serves.  They were on their way next to a drop-in shelter, PADS, to give away some of the collections.  Kaplan seemed really moved by a one-man show changing the lives of thousands.


The next day, Steve went to met a repairman, Andre, for H.O.M.E. on a service call.  They fixed a light and a fan for an elderly woman, and they also moved some of her stuff into her basement.

See said if it weren’t for home, she’d be in nursing care.  But now, she can stay in her own house, where she’s comfortable.


On his last day, he said he’d be missing the South Side.

But it was time to write checks.

First up?  BinDonated.  He told them he was a millionaire, and then gave a check for $75,000.  That’s a LOT of shampoo!  Oh, and advice.  I’m guess the advice is worth ten times that check.

Next up?  H.O.M.E.

The residents and staff were happy to see him.  He then revealed his millionaire status and presented a check for $50,000.

And the last stop?  Kids Off The Block.  He called Diane Latiker a hero (she is) and revealed his millionaire status.  Then, he gave a check for $100,000.  If that’s one less brick in the memorial, then it was the best $100,000 he’s ever spent.  And I’m sure he’d agree.

Then, the cement truck rolled up to build a new court with lights and bleachers.  Ms. Diane said she didn’t know what to say, but y’know?  Somehow she said it all so beautifully.

Kaplan said he’s a “better person” at the end of the week.

H.O.M.E. purchased a van to get residents to appointments and outings.  BinDonated hired an employee and upgraded the loading dock.  And Kids Off The Block bought a van, completed their memorial, and served Thanksgiving dinner to 1,000 youths.  The court is finished and Kaplan still works with the group.

Not bad for one millionaire and a few bucks.


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