Social Entrepreneur Ryan Long Uses Philanthropy to Resolve Troubled Past
What do Sir Richard Branson, John Paul DeJoria, Robert DeNiro, Halle Berry, John Travolta, Quincy Jones and Russell Simmons have in common?
At first glance, the answer might be celebrity. But on deeper analysis, each of these individuals has overcome challenges and hardships. All are deeply committed to helping others surmount life hurdles through philanthropic efforts of their own and others. And all have participated as speakers and honored guests at events entrepreneur and philanthropist Ryan Long has produced.
This year, the City Gala 2017 program in February expanded to a two-day event (which my company, SnappConner PR, represented) that included a one day Summit of celebrity and entrepreneurial speakers followed by the traditional Grammy after party, with awareness and funds for programs including International Arts & Philanthropy Foundation and Breed Life Organization.
The struggles and achievements of those who spoke and attended met full measure in Ryan Long, along with event sponsors and guests. Now 38 and based in L.A., Long has found philanthropy and life inspiration to be the ideal antidote for resolving his own troubled past.
Why Give? Why Now?
As a youth, Long endured a troubled and impoverished childhood. He met his birth father at age five, but was badly beaten during one of their only outings, to the point that his mother never allowed them to be alone together again. His mother remarried, and the new stepfather was a disappointment as well. Ultimately she fled, taking Long, his half brother, and an unrelated stepdaughter along, for the child’s safety, and raised her as her own daughter from then on.
As he reached the age of junior high, Long’s mother was able to move the small clan to a better level of assisted housing and worked full-time to support the young family while putting herself through college at night. Long spent many hours in the company of his beloved grandfather, who, in an effort to quell his troublesome nature and to channel his energy, persuaded and taught him how to play baseball. It was a life-changing adventure that gave Long a welcome taste of success.
A Difficult Youth
Long’s troubles were far from over. In his first semester of college, a school mate took to picking on him and bullying until one day, in frustration, Long fought back. With a bat. It became the first of several confrontations he was to endure with the law.
He fathered a child, which spurred the desire to be ambitious and to be a present and supportive father. Like his grandfather, Long’s work ethic knew no boundaries. He took on two jobs, as a personal trainer and a provider of roadside emergency service.
Then he joined LA Fitness, quickly rising to Fitness Director of personal training, selling at a pace the company could quickly see was unmatched. He became a trainer of other trainers. His entrepreneurial life began when friends persuaded him to invest in a nightclub party. But fate was not kind when the project failed, the money was lost. The team’s re-attempt at success failed as well. Worse still, when LA Fitness discovered the moonlighting project, the adventure also cost him his job.
Now desperate to succeed, he endured several more failures in the nightclub business, but ultimately was able to turn the tide to breakthrough success. Music showcases. A successful income, at least. But tragedy struck again when he learned that his beloved grandfather, now suffering from dementia, had taken his life. Distraught, he plodded through a painful time of his life, getting engaged, ending his engagement, and dabbling in the nightclub and real estate business. But things were still “off” and he ended the engagement.
Broken and alone, he moved in with his grandmother. From his grandfather’s former room he read personal development books. Now feeling progressively more alive and inspired he built vision boards. Every one of them had a common theme, he quickly discovered — the concept of contributing and giving. From that time forward, Long knew that whatever influence he might achieve in his lifetime would be tied for himself not to fame, but to contribution. He would help musical artists be discovered. He would join with everyone of influence he could gather with him to create opportunities to “connect and contribute” — an increasingly magic formula that he knew would be a central point of focus for the rest of his life.
A New Beginning
In 2014, the concept of the City Gala was born in order to assist startup, non-profits obtain seed funding so that they could launch into a full fledge business. The idea was to bring highly visible, and influential individuals to speak on behalf of the charitable organizations, and attract large donors and sponsors.
After City Gala 2016, Long was contacted and invited to be the Executive Producer of the Novus Summit at the United Nations. The focus of the Novus Summit, which took place on July 17th, 2016 was to bring together leaders in innovation and technology and create a conversation on how to advance humanity into the future. That event, which took place in association with UN DESA, was centered on the Global Goals initiatives of the United Nations and featured a keynote speech by Xprize Founder Peter Diamandis among other notable speakers.
For the future, Long envisions making the City Summit & Gala series an event of such magnitude that he hopes to no longer be issuing invitations, but instead becomes an event that many celebrities would eagerly want to attend, and to share their own stories of hardship, achievement and the sources from which their own inspiration has come. The program is fulfilling his dreams (and has become his primary business).
Those who attend also come to give, for now and forever. Long is most proud, perhaps, that his early events have contributed several hundred thousand dollars to programs that support LA Youth, Health & Medicine, Domestic Violence support programs, U.S. veterans and more.
Call to Action
For more information about City Gala and to attend or participate in future events, readers can visit www.citygala.org, or can send an email through the website to speak with Long about the programs direct. As always, he will be happy to share.