Six innovative changemakers from all over the United States shared their incredible stories and journeys as they were honored in front of a live audience at the first annual GoFundMe Heroes Celebration at the Pearl in San Francisco, California, on Nov. 14.

One of those prestigious honorees was Madison’s own Lisa Peyton-Caire.

Peyton-Caire, whose Foundation for Black Women’s Wellness works to empower black women and girls to build and sustain healthy, thriving, wellness-centered lives, was one of the very special guests at GoFundMe’s first annual Heroes Celebration in San Francisco. 

“To be flown out to San Francisco doesn’t happen every day. It was wonderful to be treated to that experience. I loved meeting the core team at gofundme. We were treated like celebrities,” she tells Madison365. “We were greeted with this wonderful welcome. We were put up in a beautiful hotel right down on Fisherman’s Wharf [on the northern waterfront in San Francisco].

“This experience really reinforced why our work is important and our commitment to it,” she adds. “We intend to build on this tremendous experience.”

Team members from Madison’s Foundation for Black Women’s Wellness

The event was hosted by Mike and Nick Fiorito, who were previously recognized by the company for their fundraising initiative to buy blankets for the homeless. The event’s live stream was hosted by popular YouTuber Matt Santoro. You can watch the entire thing below (Lisa’s award presentation starts at 1:45:45).

“It was such a moving ceremony that night,” Peyton-Caire recalls. “Hearing the stories of other people and being able to tell a bit of our story on stage and watch our videos play out and see how it moved the people in the room. It was so gratifying and just beautiful. There were few dry eyes in the room.

“The attendees at the GoFundMe Heroes Celebration were intergenerational and very diverse. So that was really cool,” she adds. “We built a lot of relationships with the people in that room that will prove to be meaningful to us going forward.”

Launched in 2010, GoFundMe is the world’s largest free social fundraising platform, with over $5 billion raised so far. The GoFundMe Heroes program “celebrates the good in the world and amplifies those who are making differences in their respective communities.”

The GoFundMe Heroes program includes an opportunity for the public to nominate heroes in their local communities for a chance to be honored at the GoFundMe Heroes Celebration. Alia Stevenson, Adrian Jones and Oscar Mireles nominated Peyton-Caire for the award from here in Madison.

For Peyton-Caire, the first annual GoFundMe Heroes Celebration was a chance to highlight black women’s health and talk about the issues the Foundation for Black Women’s Wellness is addressing in Madison, Dane County and throughout Wisconsin. It was also a chance to hang out quite a bit with the other honorees.

“They are ordinary everyday people who saw a need and an opportunity and felt compelled to do something about it,” Peyton-Caire says. “Their stories are absolutely mindblowing. 

“It just shows us how we all have the power to impact people’s lives. People are doing it every day. And they’re doing it with their own resources, with little support. They’re doing it when nobody is watching. They’re doing it without recognition and when there’s no money coming in,” she adds. “That was what was most profound. Every one of us of this school of five started on their own volition with nothing except an idea and a desire to change the situation.”

You can read about all of the honorees here.

The other GoFundMe Heroes, selected from thousands of nominations, included: 

◉ 16-year-old Daniel Alvarado, who started Cancer Fighters to the Rescue Toy Drive to bring a toy, and joy, to every kid in need.

◉ Michael Benavides & Sergio Cordova, who help feed and shelter asylum seekers who had no home, no country, no belongings in Brownsville, Texas

GoFundMe Heroes Celebration honorees meet and greet and prepare for the big night.

◉ Lance Cooper, who started the #SaveFlintChallenge and has distributed more than 350,000 bottles of water while partnering with Little Miss Flint’s Clean Water Fund to help the people of Flint

◉ Charlie Hyatt, who is turning Houses into Homes for veterans in Cleveland, Ohio

And, of course, Peyton-Caire and her Foundation for Black Women’s Wellness, who received a surprise $10,000 donation from Gofundme to support her work.

GoFundMe CEO Rob Solomon presents Lisa Peyton-Caire and the Foundation for Black Women’s Wellness a check for $10,000.

“We intend to keep building on the momentum of this experience in San Francisco with the upcoming Giving Tuesday on Dec. 3,” Peyton-Caire says.

Those interested in supporting the ongoing fundraising campaign for the Foundation for Black Women’s Wellness and its new center can do so at the gofundme page here. Peyton-Caire says she expects the grand opening for the new center to take place in January 2020 and hopes to keep the momentum going from the fantastic San Francisco trip – a trip where they made so many new friends and networks.

“While we were out there, we got to do what we do best – advance black women’s wellness. We hosted a Well Black Woman Walk over the bridge in Oakland that Saturday after the event,” Peyton-Caire says. “What was really great about that is that one of our Madison ambassadors, Lashunda Prescott, who is originally from Oakland helped to organize it in advance of us arriving there.

“We weren’t really sure how many women were going to show up, but at least 40 women did show up from Oakland!” Peyton-Caire adds. “And even more stopped to talk with us when they saw us on the sidewalk with our Well Black Women t-shirts on. We were able to share information with women in Oakland and connect them to our website.”

A group of women gathers for a Well Black Woman Walk in Oakland.

The Foundation for Black Women’s Wellness made many new friends and networks not just on the walk but throughout the whole weekend as it took a huge step forward in its evolution being honored on a national stage.

So, I guess the Foundation for Black Women’s Wellness is truly a national organization now?

“I think so!” Peyton-Caire laughs. “Right now, we’re just thinking about how we can leverage this incredible opportunity and how we can build on it to build more attraction and support. We’re a small organization with a very small infrastructure, but opportunities like this don’t come often so we’re thinking about how we can use it to our advantage to really get our message out there.

“We want to not only garner support for our organization but to really activate and mobilize black women and folks inside and outside our community to understand the gravity of the issue that we are dealing with in saving black women’s lives,” she adds, “and the urgency of addressing health disparities, economic disparities, opportunity disparities and all those things we know that impact our quality of health and quality of life in this country.”