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Entertainer Jon Secada’s Mission
to Help Others

By distributing food at a mission on Sept. 11, the Grammy winner serves his community

On call
Devoting time on Sept. 11 may be special, but Secada would be willing to do something for the Mission on any day of the week.

For instance, on Sept. 12, Secada begins competing on Mira Quién Baila! — Univision's Spanish-language version of So You Think You Can Dance. If he wins competition after competition for a dozen weeks, the Mission will receive the $100,000 grand prize.

Or take a look at Secada's nonstop online presence. In an infinite loop, the suave crooner makes a bilingual pitch for tickets for an over-the-top raffle. The prize — a $3 million waterfront estate that Paris Hilton would envy — stands in bold contrast to the Mission’s dedication to the homeless, but would raise funds for Secada's favorite charity.

“It’s very enticing," Secada says. "Given the amount of tickets they can sell, all in all, you have a very good chance to really win.” His enthusiasm is so contagious that even if you never wanted a beach place, you think you’d be an idiot not to try your luck.

From the streets
Good luck is not the same as good fortune. Secada knows the difference and says it is his profound good fortune that brought him to the Mission. “I am a product of the street where I grew up. I am an immigrant, a Cuban American. My parents came here with nothing.”

Today, he is wealthy from a career that branched out from Gloria Estefan’s backup singer to multiplatinum solo performer. He has played Grease lead Danny Zuko on Broadway, recorded “The Best Is Yet to Come” with Sinatra and served on a federal Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans.

“I have put work into everything I have done,” he says.

As the work paid off, Secada soon began to pay back. A decade before he adopted the Mission, he was helping Pediatric AIDS, music education in schools, Make-a-Wish Foundation and Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

 “A lot of things that need to be done, they need to be done in-house, without government help,” Secada says. These things are being done by brave, scrappy, can-do institutions, such as the Mission of St. Francis.
And for anyone who wants to help such places, he offers a terse reminder. This comes from a self-made man, now a superstar. But it’s a message just about anyone can relate to.

 “There won’t be money,” he says, “unless you go out there and find it.”

Jack Curry, a former editor at
USA Today, is a freelance writer and editor and serves on the editorial board of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, specializing in corporate philanthropy and the media.

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