Ben and Ariella Sharf, two entreprenuial siblings from Williamsville, were home in late March under quarantine, living with their parents Michelle and Dr. Zvi Sharf. Ben, 24, was a senior at Colgate University at the time, finishing his last semester before moving to New York City to work for Ernst & Young. Ariella, 27, was living in Toronto, studying for her Master’s degree in Project Management and running her own company, Eight by One, what she calls “retail therapy for a cause,” an ecommerce platform where she sells accessories and clothing, with a portion of every sale donated to charity.
Like many other young adults, Ariella and Ben were caught up in the COVID-19 pandemic. Both couldn’t finish school. Ariella couldn’t go back to Canada and Ben couldn’t return to school for graduation. So they watched television each day and witnessed the hundreds of doctors, nurses, even mail deliverers walking right into the virus’ line of fire. They also were bored and were looking for something to keep them busy. So, together with five other friends, they came up with a way to thank first responders during this perilous chapter of history. “We all had an urge to give back in some way, because we realized a lot of people had it way worse that we did,” Ben said “This led to the inception of 6FTCloser, a platform designed to allow people to send front line workers personalized videos thanking them for their service.”
He explained that the video messaging service was created from two components. First, many people wanted a way to give back to courageous first responders, but didn’t necessarily have the monetary means to send meals, money or gifts. And second, they also wanted a way to express personal gratitude to specific individuals, not just a group of, say, police. “We wanted to be able to create a way to personalize thank you messages,” Ben added. “For example, in New York City and in Israel, people have been going outside on their porches or balconies and singing or playing music each evening as a way to thank doctors, nurses, hospital workers and others. But we wanted to be able to personally thank individuals, not groups.”
The group started by sending personal videos to people in their personal circles. The initial response was overwhelming. Ben explained that he got a return message from a first responder who hadn’t had a day off in two weeks. This medical worker said “The thank you reminded me why I do what I do,” and another one said “I just got a message and broke into tears.” And there were many other grateful and passionate responses.
Ben, Ariella and their five partners launched 6FTCloser during the second week of April. “Since then, we have sent 1500 videos to front line workers,” Ben said “… doctors, nurses, mail deliverers, cashiers, janitors, firefighters, law enforcement, grocery store workers and more. No words can capture the gratitude we feel for these workers and what they’re sacrificing to fight this battle. By creating a human connection between those of us at home and those on the front lines, we’re bringing everyone 6FTCloser.”
Ben and Ariella are not making money from this, “but we hope to see if there are uses in the future for platforms like this, perhaps surrounding disaster relief, mental health, bullying or others areas.” They are happy that their idea is making a difference to individuals who make a difference the world. And they are helping to repair the world at the same time. So what are YOU doing in your spare time? Why not express your gratitude to one of the countless individuals by uploading an appreciation video, or nominate someone you know on the front lines to receive a video. Just go to www.6FTCloser.com