A little over two years ago, Mike and Nick Fiorito quit their 9–5 jobs in order to devote their lives to helping people — but they weren’t sure where to start. That all changed when one sleepless night, Nick kept picturing a homeless man whom he’d passed every day on his commute. He had always thought about stopping but never did. Suddenly, he realized what he and Mike were called to do. And that day, they embarked on a mission to bring comfort and kindness to homeless people — with the help of a few thousand kids.
In Mike & Nick’s words, the story of Blankets of Hope:
N: It all started when Mike and I quit our jobs in 2016. Mike left a fast-growing tech startup that came out of the prestigious Y Combinator, and I jumped ship while climbing the corporate ladder for a Fortune 500 company in Manhattan. We were both on a path that looked promising on paper, but if we were completely honest with ourselves, we felt unfulfilled.
Everything changed one hot summer day when we were commuting into work together. I remember looking around the subway car and seeing nothing but miserable faces. I brought it to Mike’s attention and said there had to be more to life than this. Mike half-jokingly said, “Let’s just quit our jobs and do something about it.”
That joke became real when the next day we went to work and both quit our jobs. We took the entrepreneurial leap of faith in the pursuit of more meaningful work. But it wasn’t all rainbows and sunshine. For the next 6 months, we failed… A LOT! We went from one idea to the next, making no real progress. We were starting to question if we had made the right decision.
But one sleepless night, that all changed. As I lay awake in bed, for some reason, I kept remembering this homeless man’s face whom I had walked by every day on the way to work. Back then, I kept telling myself I would do something about it, but I never did. So that night, I thought to myself, “If I don’t do something now, then when?”
Personally, I hate the cold. When I was commuting into work during the winter, I would put my head down and try to get to the nearest warm space as fast as possible. When I’d see that homeless man, the thought that he’d be out in the cold the entire day always hit me really hard. As a way to help, blankets seemed like a very practical solution.
So I got up from bed and started a GoFundMe. I wrote up the story and told Mike about it the next day. When I did he was a little hesitant, and rightfully so. Up until that point, we hadn’t made a dollar for ourselves, and here I was pitching an idea to give. Logically, it didn’t make sense. But eventually, Mike came around because in his heart, he knew it was the right thing to do.
At that point, we posted the GoFundMe on social media, and thanks to our family and friends, we were able to raise a few hundred bucks to purchase blankets. Before venturing out to deliver the blankets, we thought it’d be nice to make the homeless person feel extra loved if they also received a simple handwritten note from us. We made sure each note included the words, “We believe in you!” We then hit the streets to deliver them and made a short video documenting our day to show the people who donated where their money had gone.
Although we were feeling really good about what we just did, we knew it was time to get back to work. We put Blankets of Hope on the shelf and went back to pursuing another entrepreneurial venture. And that was it — or so we thought.
M: Then one day, we got an email from a venture capitalist in California that changed the entire trajectory of our lives. He said his name was Todd Chaffee, and he somehow came across our video and loved what we were doing. He said the nonprofit he founded, NobleLight, supports people like us and to let him know if we were interested in financial support and mentorship.
We were shocked and even questioned if our older brother was playing a joke on us. We googled Todd, and to our surprise, this guy was the real deal! Obviously, we emailed him back right away and said, “Yes, yes, yes!”
Todd got us to see the potential in our simple idea and pushed us to dream big about the potential impact we could make. He gave us the chance to turn this small family project into a full-blown movement for love and kindness, and we will forever be grateful for him.
M: The blankets aren’t just practical — they’re also symbolic. As kids, we all have our “blankie.” It warms us up not just physically but emotionally. It makes us feel safe. Nick and I are also students of the ancient Greek and Roman philosophy of Stoicism. Back then, purple was the color of royalty. So we give out purple blankets to send the message that we’re all equal.
N: Last year, in our second year of Blankets of Hope, we aimed to 10x our blanket count from 100 blankets in year one to 1,000 blankets. We had no idea how we’d do it but once again were blessed with some magic.
My fifth grade teacher from years ago saw us on the local news and showed it to her current students. They got excited and wanted to get involved. Shortly after, I received a message asking if they could help.
That’s when a light bulb went off. This movement of kindness was about to be way bigger than Mike and I. We were going to get the future generation involved!
We’re thrilled to be working with kids because they add a whole new layer to this that we never could have imagined. Last year, over 500 students participated in writing inspirational handwritten notes that were attached to blankets before being delivered to the homeless.
This year, we’re increasing that number significantly. We currently have 10 schools lined up, but we’re aiming for 50–100 by the end of February. It’s been such an awesome experience to see the kids practice empathy and compassion by putting themselves in the shoes of a homeless person.
Mike and I have personally spoken to and delivered Blankets of Hope to close to 1,200 homeless people and have learned a lot throughout the three-year journey. With that said, we feel like we’re just getting started and look forward to many more years to come.
This year, our goal is to raise $50,000 through our GoFundMe so that we can hand out 10,000 Blankets of Hope by the end of February. Along with partnering with the students to reach our goal, we’re once again hitting the streets and documenting the whole experience in a 10–video docu-series.
M: One of my favorite parts of Blankets of Hope is when we first walk up to a homeless person. They’re usually looking down and appear sad and depressed. But when we show up with that blanket in our hand and ask them if they can use it, most of the time there’s an immediate change. Their face lights up — simply because they appreciate the gesture. Those moments really stick with me.
Every time we go out and have conversations with people on the streets, it gives me a much-needed perspective check. It makes me feel really blessed just to take a warm shower and get into bed. Many of us spend time only with people who are similar to us. But when you go out and take a look at the world from the ground these people sit on, you get that different perspective, and it stays with you.
N: Personally, my favorite part is getting the kids involved. When I think about my life, I wonder, “What is the legacy I’ll leave behind?” Being able to touch the lives of young people and encouraging them to think with a mind of kindness and compassion is really something that lights me up inside.
Mike and I have this saying we like to live by: The secret to living is giving. The happiness we feel from getting things is very short-lived, but the happiness from giving stays with us for a long time.
Mike and Nick continue to raise money through their GoFundMe to give warm blankets to 10,000 homeless people this winter.