James with participants of the Bull Runner Dream Marathon (co-created by James to help beginners complete their first marathon)
Many of his successful approaches he has applied to organizations comes from a strong foundation in youth athletics coaching, going back to teaching inner-city kids in Cincinnati Ohio in the early 1980s. Sports can be a great teaching tool for all walks of life, including the business world.
James has always been about keeping perspective. Despite the accolades and honors, the fame or the money, recognize what is important. James was famous during his P&G days for saying,
Successful people have an obligation to give back, to share their good fortune and make the world a better place.
James has had a soft spot in his heart for children, from an age when he could barely be called “An adult”. Starting as a volunteer coach to inner city youth in his hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio during high school, as well as being a “Big Brother” to fatherless youth as a 16 year old, James found a passion in giving back, sharing his luck and good fortune.
He has consistently supported charities and NGOs primarily aimed at investing in our future—the children. He has also followed his passions for specific issues like blindness (based on the inspiration of his dear friend, Erik Weihenmayer, the only blind man to summit Mt. Everest) and Alzheimer’s Disease, which took the life and memories of Celeste Lafferty, James’ mother.
James and Erik Weihenmayer at the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa
James, his wife Carol Lafferty and adopted son, Kenji
What is telling, James gives far more than financial support and writing a check—he gives his TIME. Nothing is more apparent than his investment in the Filipino youth of tomorrow, by teaching entire courses, FREE, for 3 of the top Universities in the Philippines: University of the Philippines, Ateneo de Manila, and De Lasalle University.
And certainly James most lasting legacy of giving back is the decision to adopt a Filipino orphan, Kenji, when he already had 4 grown children and was in his mid 40’s. What started as a 2 week assist to a local orphanage over Christmas 2007, blossomed into a decision to foster care, and ultimately adopt, Kenji as his son. As James humbly says: “Everyone thanks me for saving Kenji. But in reality, I can never repay him for the joy he gives me”.
Calvary Chapel and Orphanage, based in Bacolod in Southern Philippines, has truly captured the hearts of James and his wife Carol Lafferty. The institution is run by Joe and Billie Rosmarin, who James has described as “The finest of humanity” is dedicated to taking in children that often nobody wants…those who are handicapped or scarred by sexual abuse. James and Carol have raised 10’s of thousands of dollars to support their efforts to rebuild the lives of 100’s of children who have nowhere else to go, and just desire to be safe and loved.
YMCA of Cincinnati, Committee of Management: Was appointed the youngest ever member of the board at the age of 19, in 1982. Served all the way through departure from the USA in 1991, and chaired multiple efforts including the “Sustaining fund drive” which raised money to finance inner city youth participation in YMCA programs free of charge. James also founded the “YMCA Striders” track club which became a national track and field power in the USA.
Casablanca American School: Was elected to the board of directors in 1993, and served also as chairman of the fund raising drive which raised over $9 Million to build the new school and facilities.
American School of Warsaw: Was elected to the board of directors in 2001 and established as Chairman the ASW Foundation, which raised money and provided scholarships to underprivileged Polish youth.
Alzheimer’s Association: This is a personal subject for James, who’s mother suffered and died from the debilitating effects of Alzheimer’s disease. Jim was a board member in the USA from 1990-91 and established the “Memory Walk” program in Cincinnati which in it’s first year set all fund raising records and has subsequently been an annual event and cornerstone of the association’s fund raising efforts.
Kilimanjaro Blind Trust: James was an organizer and guide, along with Erik Weihenmayer (First and only blind man to summit Everest) and Paul Polman (CEO of Unilever) of record-setting summit of 5 blind climbers in 2005 on Mt. Kilimanjaro. To ensure a lasting legacy, the group formed the KBT in order to fund orphanages and braille programs for blind youth in east Africa, mainly in Tanzania and Kenya. James is a founder and board member.
Athletics Connection Nigeria: James founded and has funded in the early stages this wonderful effort, to award scholarships to talented yet needy Nigerian youth, to pursue thier studies in the USA and gain a lasting education thru athletic prowess. The hope is to expand this program to other African Nations, as a means to build the future leaders of tomorrow through education.
James has also served on boards and led fund raising initiatives for many charities including Special Olympics, Little Children’s Home (Orphanage in Manila, Philippines), Blind students of Philippines, and many more.