Editorial: To Be An Angel

By Len Monheit

Many of us, as we grow up, experience that desire to rise above and make an impact – to change someone’s life in a positive way. It might be a ‘good deed’, it might be as part of a youth or community group, it might be simply the chance to do what we do for a living, or as a pro bono offering to help out someone less fortunate or in need, someone who cannot pay for the services we would otherwise charge for.

Some of us though, are fortunate enough to enter an industry where the very products we supply and offer can make a profound difference in health and quality of life, and by providing these products and services, make a significant impact in the course of our business, but also in the chance to go ‘above and beyond’.

As we scan our industry, it is very gratifying to see so many worthwhile efforts to better the human condition, in support of breast cancer, inner city children, hurricane or tsunami victims and many more, in products, in kind contributions and in direct financial support. Truly, we are in an industry where many companies take their responsibility and opportunity to contribute to a better world very seriously – with their voices and their pocketbooks.

This has never been more apparent, to me at least, than at last week’s Natural Products Expo East, at an event called ‘Celebration of Angels’, hosted by Vitamin Angels (www.vitaminangels.org) , a VIP event attended by some 200 invitees where an amazing sum of over $1.2 million was raised to launch the not-for-profit’s ambitious 2007 and beyond initiative, Operation 20/20, a program to eradicate childhood blindness from vitamin A deficiency by 2020.

In an industry that is clamoring for a chance to be part of the healthcare solution, this program represents a huge opportunity. For those upset with the medical profession’s denial of our merits, here is an opportunity to show them, if not wrong, at least misinformed. To an industry attempting to prove that it is responsible and committed to the long term, here is a chance to emphasize our commitment. In an environment where each week, headlines erode credibility and belief in the science of supplements and natural health products, here is an occasion to get notice and make a huge positive impact.

While Vitamin Angels is really about the people it helps, it would not exist if not for the efforts of executive Director Howard Schiffer. I first met Howard at a DSEA breakfast a few years ago, and the pictures he presented and the programs and need he described made an impact on me and on NPIcenter. As a small company there wasn’t much we could do, except to use our voice and communicate. We were glad to do that then, and are glad to keep communicating, not only about Vitamin Angels and Howard, but also the ongoing programs and opportunities, and the companies that are stepping up. At last week’s event, it was organizations like ECONET, Tishcon, Wild Oats, Ocean Nutrition Canada, DSM Nutritional Products, Natural Factors, UNPA and others that stepped up, in a big way, to reach the $1.2 million milestone that gets the ambitious 2007 program underway. And it will take a lot more, for both 2007 and beyond. Companies and individuals all around us are doing what they can for this effort, at a VIP reception this coming week in Las Vegas at SupplySide West, and in ongoing contributions and support.

For those monitoring the nutrition gap that exists in many regions of the world, there is no more compelling evidence. For those of you looking for a cause that can make a difference, this could be it. For those looking for examples of this industry’s potential to contribute positively to human health, keep watching.

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