#RAOK724 – Paying Forward My 35th Birthday


On 7/24 I celebrated my 35th birthday. From sunrise to sunset giving every last hour, ounce of energy & passion in effort to pay forward 35 Random Acts of Kindness within my community – Attempting to make a positive difference in the lives of those who least expect it, yet most deserve it. Joining me on this blessed day was my daughter, a host of family & friends – several by my side, many others on their own, in secret, placing their stamp of giving upon Greater Grand Rapids & the Gold Coast.


Throughout our day, a select few of the recipients we knew. Most others were never aware they’ve been in our thoughts for months. Some realized who delivered their act of kindness, most still do not. Some acts were simple gestures, others were significant, impactful, intricately planned & executed. In all cases, each individual, organization & community were entirely deserving.

To articulate how this birthday experience of social charity continues to mold my perspective of giving & gratitude is indescribable, emotionally & spiritually rewarding beyond words. Selfishly, it’s in this act of giving that I most identify with who I am & hope to be – both for myself, my children & community. I only hope those who receive an act of kindness do so with an open heart & giving spirit, with consideration to paying forward this effort, not only on 7/24, but in the following days, months & year.

For those that were by my side, to the tens of thousands who were following online & participating in their own communities – my most sincere thanks to you. I was entirely humbled by your support & so touched by the outpouring of love. You. Are. An. Inspiration.


Be forewarned. Less than a year from now I will ask for your support. I will ask for your to join me, both from near & afar. I will ask you to help me make a difference. Although in the grand scheme we may be relatively small in number, together we are strong & our actions speak loudly – we represent the change our communities both need & deserve.

To gain a glimpse of how #RAOK724 Version35.0 unfolded. Scroll below. Cheers! -David


1. Far before sunrise. My alarm clock rang at 4am. On this morning, at the crack of dawn alongside 3 of the most selfless people I know – Chef Ed, Caleb Brown (and George (taking photo)) – We represented the 4 Horsemen of Degagé Ministries Kitchen, both preparing & serving breakfast to West Michigan’s homeless community. Degagé supports approximately 500 individuals daily – providing meaningful help, hope, nourishment & care to homeless & disadvantaged individuals in our local community.


Such a blessing to work in this kitchen with true Christian men making a difference in the lives of those who need it the most.


2. Do you work for my wealth management firm? Do you make a tremendous difference for me professionally & personally? If so, you may have walked in your office @ 630am… found this note, these flowers & my signoff on you leaving at noon for a long weekend!

Thank you, Ms. Lisa. -David


3. With no doubt, my engine will be running this morning on a 5-gallon bucket coffee. I think I’ll just pay for everyone in line behind me @ Starbucks. Dear Mr. Barista – let the black gold flow like the salmon of Capistrano, open the gates & allow the overly-caffeinated to disburse about West Michigan!


4. In partnership with the best Krispy Kreme crew in the business – Store 346 of Grand Rapids, MI – Armed with 4 dozen freshly glazed donuts, we are venturing on a mission west to Gilda’s Club of Grands Rapids (GCoGR). Founded in 2001 by survivors of cancer, GCoGR provides free emotional healthcare to children, adults, families, & friends on any kind of cancer journey.


Dear residents, please take a brief moment to ease your concern & the stress you’ve undertaken coping with hospitalized family members or loved ones who’ve recently passed. If only for one meal. Pull up a chair at the breakfast table. Let’s watch sunrise & share our stories as we tip back chilled glasses of OJ & dig into dozens of warm, freshly baked donuts.


5. Dear people who don’t know how to return carts to the corral at the grocery store. YES, YOU!

Allow me to introduce you to my 6yr old daughter. Her name is Ava. She weights about 50lbs. Here she is demonstrating how to return THREE CARTS AT A TIME. We are doing this across Grand Rapids today – Saving our fellow shoppers from lazy people & dinged doors one grocery cart at a time.


6. Donating Blood. Trust me. Photos not pretty. And for greater intent to maintaining any degree of street cred I’ve established to this juncture, I won’t post pics of  my crocodile tears while having a massive 9 foot long needle injected into my body while a few gallons of blood were withdrawn from my veins me enduring pleasure of this harmless procedure. Also, the doc mentioned something about HIPPA. Fancy hospital lingo isn’t my bag – So, as they say, just following Doc’s orders.

7. One day only. 23 hours of 100% FREE Hugs & High Fives. The 24th hour is full price, so don’t procrastinate your opportunity to invade my personal space early & often this Friday. I’d hate for it to cost you later.

8. Television. Behind the scenes. It’s always serious business. Seriously!;)


LIVE on NBC’s Woodtv8 eightWest! Tune in by clicking the video below as I share birthday shenanigans of ‪#‎RAOK724‬, give the secret step-by-step to my favorite ‪#‎PureMichigan‬ recipe & offer special invite to a charity event that I’m hosting in support of Kids’ Food Basket!



This recipe is surely reflective of my 2nd home – Cherry & Wine Country nestled in the far northern reaches of resplendent Traverse City, MI. Fresh, bright, rustic, big & bold flavors, imparted with sultry hardwoods & served alongside ice cold root beer floats & craft-brewed IPAs. This burger is formed of fresh ground & locally harvested venison, brisket & short rib. Then gently rolled into thick burger patties – loaded with a bounty of sweet cherries, aged & crumbled Amish blue cheese, chopped shallots, roasted garlic, toasted black walnuts, balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard, Worcestershire, kosher salt & coarsely ground peppercorn.

Grilled to tender, mouthwatering medium-rare perfection, plated over buttered & gently grill sesame seed kaiser buns, rested upon spring greens & heirloom tomatoes, then topped with caramelized cherries & red onions. Commence drooling. Be blessed. Be great. Eat Michigan!

Click on Burger Photo below for link to this recipe. Cheers!

9. Today, 7/24/15, I’m publicly sharing for the 1st time a preview into the beginning stages of a 501C3 I’ll be leading in the State of Michigan. The intent of this coordinated non-profit effort will be aimed at addressing a fundamental flaw in the dietary composition & origin of fare provided to our students through the traditional lunch program. We will raise both awareness & funding within +300 k-12 schools to sustainably overhaul the degree of locally-sourced produce available to our children on lunch hour.


The runway is long & hurdles are high to achieve this objective. But, the wind is at my back & there’s a spring in my step. A one-of-a-kind organization, with a narrowed focus & passion to see through this mission, underwritten & funded by a one-of-a-kind social event – Tying together our schools, farming community, dietary & physical wellness.

I will make a difference. I will ask for your support. I will make this happen. Join me.

10. Again, this year, I presented my Facebook audience with a Share for Donation Challenge – Every time this image was shared on Facebook I committed to donating $.05 to the American Diabetes Association.

With good reason, most folks wonder if social network posts like this are real…

Well, this year, I decided it was time to Stand UP 2 Diabetes by making an even greater contribution to the battle against the fastest growing disease in the United States – By tripling my original donation commitment. This photo was touched by 40,000 Facebook Users & shared nearly 1,000 times.

As such, bright & early on the morning of 7/25, Ava, Mr. Moose & I awoke to proudly hand-deliver a check on behalf of my Social Network,  immediate family & friends who are negatively impacted by this horrible disease.  The mission is far from accomplished. But, through a formula of Social Awareness + Social Charity = We made a difference!


11. What does A Bachelor & His Grill, Amber Kilpatrick (Pop-Up Yoga), lululemon athletica, & The Body Mind Being Project have in common? Well, we joined forces on 7/24 to offer free donation yoga classes to benefit The Body Mind Being Project – A local non-profit delivering healing services to individuals and families affected by trauma and PTSD. On a gorgeous Friday – the streets of Grand Rapids filled with yoga enthusiasts supporting a tremendous cause. Just beautiful.



12. It is sweltering over the cement & blacktop pavement of downtown Grand Rapids. Here we are in Rosa Parks Circle. I’m supporting my good friends John Gonzales, Amy Sherman & Ray Sierengowski – They’ve combined to partner with Hudsonville Ice Cream, home to the absolute best Ice Cream cultivated in the great state of Michigan.



Try to keep up. Amy & I are on the run! Scooping & handing out THIRTY-SEVEN GALLONS of FREE ICE CREAM to folks downtown looking to chill out & enjoy a sweet treat! Thank you, John, Amy & Ray for letting me join in on the party!

13. Who says raising money & awareness can’t be fun??!

Just left West Michigan Woman Headquarters. We’ve joined forces to address Breast Cancer in Greater Grand Rapids – I’ll assist in leading the charge by donating a 5-Star Cooking Experience Package to the Wine&Wig Event on 10/10/15! 100% of event proceeds are benefiting Susan G. Komen Michigan, West Michigan Office, American Cancer Society, Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids.

Such a wonderful group of Ladies making a tremendous difference in our Greater Grand Rapids Community!


14. I challenged my Social Network followers to nominate friends, family or acquaintances who deserved a date night on the town – My treat. Originally, I hoped to select just 1 candidate… But, the responses were overwhelming & testimonies provided were, in some cases, heart-wrenching – So many nameless individuals in our community who deserve a night on the town. So, I picked up 2 date nights – tickets to the movies & gift cards to a local restaurant. And, of course, a big thanks to Celebration Cinema South & their leadership team (see photo below) for their support of this donation package – It’s great charitable organizations like this who make a difference daily in West Michigan.


15. Throwing down the biggest barbeque in Michigan on 7/24. A surprise feast for Grand Rapids’ finest – Our uniformed men & women in blue – The Grand Rapids Police Department. Proud. Honored. Humbled. To serve GRPD on this gorgeous afternoon. The very least that could’ve been done to offer thanks for the services those officers undertake & sacrifices they make to ensure this is the best city in the world to live & raise a family.



A tremendous thanks to Chief David Rahinsky, Officer Jeremy Huffman, & my wonderfully talented culinary partner-in-crime, Jenna Arcidiacono of Amore Trattoria Italiana – Another year. Another birthday. Another incredible BBQ together!

p.s. Want my Nationally-Awarded Blackened & Blueberry Balsamic BBQ Chicken Recipe?! Well… CLICK HERE!



15a. All of a sudden a guy starts working out, hitting gym weights & people think he’s wearing an apron?! C’mon, man?! Your’s Truly teaching GRPD Officer Huffman how to BBQ like a Boss. In the buff style!

HUGE thanks to Chef Jenna for both snapping this photo & the best surprise birthday gift ever! What an awesome lady!


16. Spring cleaning came late this year. Suits, ties, & children’s clothing dropped off by the bags to Goodwill.

17. Helped an old woman cross the road. Yup. This happened. Understandably, this lady originally had some doubts as to the intent of my assistance. But, none the less, all’s well that ends well… And, all parties safely crossed from one side of the street to the next. Making downtown GR a safer place… One elderly street crosser at a time. Boom!

18. Did you pull up to one of several gas stations in West Michigan… only to find that your gas purchase was prepaid??!


19. This mechanical riding horse was an endless source of joy on weekend grocery store trips as a young child. Well. At Meijer Stores this weekend – The next 100 rides are on me. Grab a penny from the stack & enjoy kiddos. Giddeyup!!


20. My daughter starts attending a new school next week. We decided to purchase art supplies. For the whole class!


21. I’ve missed you. So I called you. I love you. So I told you how much. I’m sorry it’s been so long. I won’t let it happen again.

22. Lending a helping hand, a truck load of snacks & refreshments to the hard working crews of Habitat for Humanity. Rebuilding our GR community one dedicated volunteer at a time.


23. Our waitress was phenomenal this evening. Attentive to our group from beginning of the evening to end. Friendly. Energetic. Personable. And, without a doubt the hardest hustling young lady in the restaurant. I think I’ll just double my tab as a tip. Thank you, Jackie. Cheers! -David


24. Cooking with a legend – Chef Brian Bookman. Together we’re conducting a special demonstration & dessert service for the elderly men & women who reside under care at Fulton Manor in Grand Rapids.


I’ll be honest. I don’t cry. But, the sincere appreciation & the stories shared from these folks this afternoon brought a bit of perspiration to my eye lids. I’m exhausted beyond words. But, these Ladies & gentlemen have given me a much needed 2nd wind!

25. The good Lord put me intentionally at Fulton Manor this afternoon. Over a special dessert service for residents I was introduced to this wonderful lady. Today is my 35th Birthday. Today is her 100th Birthday – Yes, 100!


Chef Bookman & I were able to rally more than 50 residents to sign the loudest “Happy Birthday” to this beautiful woman with the pretty smile. We celebrated with a Bluberries Foster over creamy vanilla bean ice cream. Here’s to wishing her the most incredible year ahead. Cheers!

26. See photo left (my gray Acura), as I attempt to demonstrate for Mr. White Toyota how to park your vehicle with a reasonable sense of courtesy. Ladies & Gentlemen – There is 1 & only 1 way to park… And, it’s not like a farmer. Particularly when electing a front row space. C’mon, man! 3 spaces + blocking half of the driving lane?! Really?


27. An heart-wrenching visit to the Humane Society of West Michigan & special tour of their facility has resulted with us falling in love with this fluffy 4-legged ball of energy. Ava named him, “Bear.” We spent time walking the puppies, learning about the services provided by this vital organization, the opportunities for future volunteer work, process for adoption, & donation needs.


28. In honor of the 4 Marines & 1 Navy Sailor who tragically lost their lives a little more than a week ago in Chattanooga, Tennessee – I’ve donated 5 trees to the Armed Forces Career Center – To be planted in the names of those young men who paid the ultimate sacrifice far too soon. God speed, gentlemen.


Sgt. Carson A. Holmquist
Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall Smith
Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan
Staff Sgt. David A. Wyatt
Lance Cpl. Squire K. Wells 

29. Across numerous bars in West Michigan this evening, Sargent Lucas T. Beachnaw will have a cold mug, full beer & a center seat reserved, from open until close of business.


On 1/13/2010, Sargent Beachnaw (Lowell, Michigan) was Killed in Action, giving his life to defend the freedoms of our country – His heroic actions on the Afghan battlefield saved the lives of countless American Marines & posthumously was honored with the highest degree of individual recognition for his bravery – a Bronze Star & Purple Heart.

Although gone, REAL Heroes such as yourself will never be forgotten. We are all indebted to you for your service & sacrifice, Sargent. God speed. God bless. ‪#‎BeersForHeroes‬ ‪#‎BeersfortheFallen‬ ‪#‎ThisOnesForYOU‬

30. A full day of giving has turned into an incredibly successful evening of charity fundraising. Your’s Truly + my sweet co-host, Jordan Carson (photo right) + The Kids’ Food Basket leadership team @ THE #RAOK724 CHARITY EVENT – “PAYING IT FORWARD TO KID’S FOOD BASKET”


WHY IMPORTANT: In Greater Grand Rapids, 1 in 5 children are negatively impacted by hunger. Yes, 20%. Through 100’s of volunteers & charitable funds raised, KFB feeds +6,000 children daily across 36 schools in Kent County. It was our focus this evening to raise both awareness & $25,000 in effort to make a meaningful impact upon the financial costs it requires this 501c3 to service our undernourished youngsters.



THANK YOU to Peppino’s for their gracious donation of the facility + financial support & to all who packed the restaurant this evening in support of #RAOK724 & KFB – such a tremendous evening! We. Are. The. Change. –David OlsonLeigh Platt, Ashley Diersch, Michelle Covington, & Jordan Marie at Peppino’s Downtown.


The Adventure Continues

This all said. The truth is. I failed. I failed to accomplish all 35 Acts of Kindness on 7/24.

I did my very best & gave everything I had to every individual, organization & community we worked within, from sunrise to sunset. We spent every last waking hour from 4am Friday to 1am Saturday, trying to make a meaningful difference… time just ran out.

On Saturday, 7/25, Ava & I awoke at the crack of dawn. After a brief bit of rest & breakfast. With tired eyes I gazed across the table & asked if she wanted to help me finish the job. With zero hesitance. Her sweet little voice said, “Yes, Daddy.” Exhausted & physically wore down, together we hit the streets. Under blue skies, drenching humidity & sweltering heat we drove to the south side of Grand Rapids with 7 RAOK left – To finish the job we started.

31. Although most of us have the opportunity to obtain shade, air conditioning & a cool beverage, many in our community to do enjoy such luxuries – That said, our homeless citizens were hydrated with clean, fresh water this afternoon. Over early hours of 7/25, a truck full of bottled H2O cases were distributed on the south side of town & Heartside Park to those most in need.


30. As we walked about with hundreds of bottles of water, this little princess (and Mr.Moose) tag-teamed all morning to draw pictures for people downtown. The last picture Ava made was for her Daddy – My birthday present from her – A picture of us spending time together doing nice things. In case you can’t tell – that’s me there on the right with a Detroit Tigers baseball cap & as you’d presume, Ava with a princess crown.

Pretty much melts my heart. I just love that little girl. And that massive, semi toothless smile!


32. Over the course of this previous week parents & children of the 12U baseball travel team I coach banded together to donate a library of books for all ages – young & old. Bags of new & gently used books were delivered on the doorsteps of Meltrotter Ministries late this morning – A privilege to make this donation to MTM on behalf of the kind hearts who represent The GR Flames.

Mel Trotter is a human services charity that exists to demonstrate the compassion of Jesus Christ toward the hungry, homeless & hurting of the greater Grand Rapids. A tremendous organization supporting those who need assistance the most in West Michigan.


33. One special care package loaded to the tilt & dropped off @ USPS for a long trip over the Atlantic into the far desert reaches of the Middle East. Delivering to Army Sargent Blackhawk Mechanic, William Bendall. Sir, thank you for your service. My family rests easier knowing our freedoms are being defended by brave men & women such as yourself. God bless you & Bravo Co 351.

Also, a special thanks Chaz Manifold (US Military Veteran) & his wonderful wife, Marie, for their contributions to this package & introductions to Sargent Bendall.


34. There’s a very special youngster on the 7th floor of Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital with a bigger, stronger heart & more courage than you, me or anyone I know. We’re here as Ava thought Board Games & Minion Goggles would be the perfect prescription for smiles, laughs & a great weekend afternoon. And for the parents of this inspiring individual… Dinner Gift Certificates to the local Steak House. On me.


35. Mentoring this beautiful, whole-hearted & sweet young lady. Friday & Saturday. From Sunrise to Sunset. Demonstrating 1st-hand how to give without the expectation to receive. So incredibly proud of Ava, her dedication, loving heart & kind spirit – I’m the luckiest guy in the World & so incredibly grateful to our Good Lord for the privileged to be her Daddy. 





Now. 24hours removed. On Sunday, 7/26. After 12 hours of sleep + an early afternoon nap, it’s time to relax, kick back & enjoy a bottle of wine. An awesome birthday weekend concludes under the sun, next to the backyard barbeque & these 2 gorgeous ladies. Life is good. 35 is great.

Goodnight, Social Media. Goodnight, Blog Friends. Goodnight, Moon. -David


Written by Live Fire Republic
David Olson is a nationally-recognized American Culinary Federation Chef, television personality and international social media influencer, award-winning recipe developer, live fire grill master, global adventurer-extraordinaire, and the creator behind, "Live Fire Republic." David has an organic and attentive audience of more than two million households weekly via countless television and event appearances, his blog, and various print, radio and social media channels. Meanwhile his recipes and creative content continue to be shared across the web and in print publications from sea to shining sea. For all media inquiries, please email PR agency, The Lisa Ekus Group; Boston, MA - Jaimee Constantine, 413.247.9325 or jaimee@lisaekus.com.