Saving the World

When this real estate professional sees a community void, he doesn’t mess around. So far, he’s developed two non-profits to help children in crisis and Olympic athlete hopefuls. Here’s how he’s helping his community.

When Paul Scott Gilbertson was 5 years old, his family made a move that set him up for eventual success in real estate. “On my fifth birthday, my parents, who bought a 14-cabin resort in Northern Wisconsin, moved us to a resort in the middle of nowhere on a beautiful lake,” says Gilbertson, now a branch manager and broker of Hudson Stonegate and founder of New House Specialist in Colorado Springs. “It’s a great way for a kid to grow up because every week of summer we’d have new friends from [all over the United States]. It helped me develop social skills, and it framed what I wanted to do in my life, which was something positive that engaged with people.” It was natural that, in 1985, Gilbertson would choose real estate. Over the years, he’s built a building company, owned a RE/MAX office and tried different facets of real estate.

A Charity Is Born

It’s this drive for engaging in a positive way with people that gave him the idea to form a nonprofit organization to help children in crisis. While visiting Ground Zero in New York in May 2007 for an authors’ and publishers’ convention, Gilbertson, a children’s book author, and his wife, Chris, thought about how difficult it must have been for the children of the victims and first responders. “We realized what an emotional roller coaster that must have been for a child who had a parent involved,” he says. That’s when the idea for REACH-A-Child™ took form.

“When you give children a book, they start to lose themselves in the reading and pictures, forgetting what’s happening around them. Books can help shift their focus to something positive in times of distress.”

Helping Children in Crisis

REACH, which stands for Reading Enjoyment Affects Childhood Happiness, works with first responders to ensure that they have the necessary tools to reach children in crisis—age-appropriate books that redirect their attention from the crisis at hand, allowing them an emotional escape from their fears. Whether a child is in an automobile accident, the victim of a domestic disturbance or experiencing a trauma, research has shown that the power of a book and a positive interaction with an adult can turn a negative situation into a positive one. The program began with Paul and his wife, Chris, and has now expanded to a four-person management team with a board of directors. Through the program, 500,000 children’s books have been given to children.

“I’d love to see a national spokesperson step up to the plate. [Such a person] could send out a Twitter feed and have a million people hear about REACH-A-Child overnight,” he says. “It’s a program that should be in every squad car, ambulance, state patrol vehicle and sheriff’s car in the country, because it can have a life-changing impact on a child who’s at the scene of an accident.”

Paul Gilbertson, 53, along with his wife, Chris, started “With Wings and a Halo – R.E.A.C.H. a Child” two years ago out of their Waunakee home. The couple supplies backpacks stuffed with books to police officers and first responders so they can give books to children in crisis situations. Started in Dane County, the backpacks are now in more than 15,000 squad cars and ambulances throughout all 72 counties in Wisconsin and in parts of eight other states.

Making It Possible for Athletes

While REACH-A-Child was slowly expanding nationwide, Gilbertson saw another community void that he felt compelled to fill. Living in Colorado Springs, home of the International Olympic Committee, he was passionate about helping athletes get into the Olympics.

GO-N-PRO™ Athletes Fund, launched in 2016, was an idea that began in Colorado Springs, home of the International Olympic Committee. “When my wife and I moved to Colorado, I was not going to get involved in real estate. I was going to run a nonprofit or work for a nonprofit,” says Gilbertson. Already interested in helping athletes get funding to pay for training, he met with the United States Olympic Committee. “I told them that I’d like to help raise millions of dollars for athletes who can’t afford to quit their day jobs. They said, ‘That’s a great idea. We’d love to have you.’ Nothing happened for weeks, so I figured I’d just start it myself.”

After investigating the funds that the United States Olympic Committee raises and discovering that only 10 percent of the $250 million raised each year goes to the athletes, Gilbertson knew he had to get involved. He says, “The whole idea behind that organization is to increase funding for athletes of all kinds throughout the world who have aspirations to become professional or think they are of Olympic caliber, but don’t have the resources to quit their day jobs to focus on their sport.” Locally, nationally and internationally, the fund is an advocate for financially challenged athletes who cannot afford to support their passion. To get the charity off the ground, Gilbertson hopes to secure some large corporate sponsors to fund the program. “I want a company that has the same mission, so I’m looking for a global company that can see the merits of what GO-N-PRO is all about.”

“Through Go-N-PRO and REACH-A-Child, we wanted to create a way to give back to others who are less fortunate and reach out to them at a time when they need help the most. More than 50 percent of the funds received through our real estate transactions goes to fund both nonprofits,” he says.

Impacting Others

Both charities are extensions of Gilbertson’s desire to impact those around him positively, though he believes in a healthy dose of fun, as well. According to Gilbertson, no matter your accomplishments, life should not be taken too seriously as conflicts and differing opinions will always arise. One of his life mottoes is “Life is too short not to have fun.” In addition, he says, “I’ve always put fun and family at the top of my list.” He and Chris enjoy tandem bike riding, traveling to beer and wine festivals, and enjoying the Colorado outdoors. “We love the tandem bike. It’s a great way to ride together because you don’t have to holler to each other to hear what each person is saying. It’s a wonderful way to see the sights.”

For now, Gilbertson is focused on expanding both of his nonprofit organizations on a national level while continuing to serve real estate homebuyers in Colorado. In the end, he says, it’s all about making dreams come true. “I’ve always enjoyed engaging with people in conversation. If I can help people fulfill some of their dreams, like buying a home, becoming an Olympic athlete or finding solace in a crisis, then I know I’m doing good.”

Charitable Endeavors

GO-N-PRO™ is currently in the process of developing a network of volunteers and financial supporters who can help contact individuals and corporations to ask for their assistance to make its vision a reality. For more information or to donate, go-n-proathletesfund.org.

REACH-A-Child™ provides first responders with books to comfort children in crisis situations. For more information or to donate, go to reachachild.org.

In His Words: Paul Scott Gilbertson

Personal Passions: I love to golf with my wife or my 23-year-old son. My wife and I love to hike the Colorado trails as well.

Three Things You Can’t Live Without (excluding family and friends): My faith in God, my morning coffee and interacting with other people

Aha Moment: When I was 23 years old, I bought a one-way ticket to Luxembourg. I brought a bicycle and traveled all over Europe. I was there for two years. Doing some work on the roof of a mountain cabin in exchange for a free place to stay, I realized that if I fell off and was injured, no one would find me for a week or two. At that point, I realized that my life is meaningless if I’m not interacting with other people.

Bucket List: Helicopter skiing in Banff, Canada, hang gliding. There’s not a lot I want to do other than have a content life where I can watch my kids have families and grow old.

This article was featured in REAL Trends’ LORE magazine. To see the entire issue, go to LORE Magazine 2017.