This all began with a nickname my surfing buddies gave me, they call me "Rhino". My name is Todd Burton and I am the Creative Director behind @rhinosurfer & #respectthehorn - both Instagram based social media campaigns designed to create awareness and action toward saving the world's endangered Rhino's and doing good.
I grew up in central New York in the Ithaca area of the Finger Lakes region where I inherited my father's love of water and athleticism in it. I'm half fish or amphibian, my fingers are actually webbed if you look close. While I didn't see the ocean until I was 12 years old I dreamed of surfing and covered my walls with pages and pages from Surfing Magazine.
As a freshman in high school I branched out from skateboarding & BMX freestyle riding to join the swim team as a diver. Very early in my first season on the team they were short a person in a relay and they pulled me in to fill the gap, after posting the second fastest split of the race in my black Jams with purple femur herringbone pattern I was advised that I was now a swimmer too.
This was the beginning of what would be an eight year legacy in the pool commemorated with a long list of pool records, school records, five time NCAA All-American status and a multiple time US Open Swimming finalist. It was a lot of hard work but I learned a lot about myself, life and people in and around the pool. My results in the pool were the first lesson in which life demonstrated to me that anyone can accomplish much more than even their biggest dreams.
Early on my academic interests were in the arts with aspirations of architecture. I began my secondary education in Physics at Ithaca College where I was fortunate to receive an academic scholarship, captain the Men's Swim Team, founded the Ithaca College Judo Club, follow my passion for music and participate in Ithaca's college radio station 92WICB spinning jazz on weekends and standing in on Reggae Explosions. While I ultimately earned my Bachelors of Arts majoring in Economics, my passion remained within the arts - specifically photography, drawing, 2D design and lithography.
After completing my degree I had no idea what I wanted to do and went on to spend several years in retail and development spending nine years curating and developing retail environments for leading shopping center developers: Westfield, The Rouse Company, The Pyramid Management Group, and the Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust. With expansive insights on the Landlord side of the industry I shifted to the Tenant side assisting the store development efforts of The Children's Place, Disney Store, Aerosoles, Swatch Group US, and Rainbow Apparel.
In 2007 the early stages began of what would become a significant shift both professionally and personally. If I was going to describe my life in simple terms I would have to say I was very sheltered and naive into my late twenties. I was fortunate to have a strong mind and body growing up, being ambitious and competitive with myself there wasn't much that I set my mind to that I didn't accomplish in fact, most of life seemed to come easy, up to this point.
At the height of my career something happened. I lost control, or the appearance of control. It wasn't until I started to come to terms with accepting the things I could not control and taking responsibility for the choices that are within my control that I started to grow and feel alive again.
Potentially one of the most important things I gained through this life experience surrounded by so much loss was a new perspective on happiness. I learned that it was not job title, material things, a paycheck, or relationship that brought fulfillment and or happiness, rather it was my own attitude and comfort level with my choices in life. I was introduced to "raw" food eating clean, juicing, and Alejandro Junger's book "Clean" that helped me achieve better physical health. That improved physical health helped me better deal with the all stress.
"A healthy body supports a healthy mind, a healthy mind helps sustain a healthy spirit." ~Rhino
During this time Hurricane Sandy hit home, the Jersey Shore, and while I was fortunate to be largely unaffected the devastation and loss all around was like nothing I had ever personally seen. I got involved with a local volunteer group to help on some local projects and cleanup. The synergy of this group lead to new friends and experiences and ultimately the Best Day Foundation.
It was also within this group of mostly surfers that I earned my nickname "Rhino" and during that time that I learned about the atrocities of poaching the rhinos were being subjected to. With this awareness also came a mindfulness of other human and animal rights issues.
As old chapters in my life began to end, new ones began. Connecting with Donald Robertson helped to relight my creative spark. Over the last two years I've been working through ideas, distractions to bring better clarity to my vision.
What has become crystal clear to me is that I need quality time with my loved ones, to create, live well (healthy), be active in the outdoors, help others and do good in order to thrive mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Today, September 11, 2014, launching this website is taking one step closer in my personal commitment to myself and others to keep going. It is an especially meaningful day to me as 14 years ago I was looking into my two month old baby girl's eyes realizing that had I not changed my schedule that day I would have been in Tower #2 and would likely never have seen those eyes again or my son's ever.
If you are reading this I hope that you will join my tribe and or start your own, help me be better, share your passion and please help me share mine. Our world and all the diverse life - human, animal & plant is in desperate need. With almost 5,000 critically endangered plant and animal species we must act now. And as much as we have advanced technology and medicine there is no excuse for the world hunger, poverty and illness so prevalent worldwide and across cultures.
"If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." ~Native American Proverb
Let's go together. But whatever you do...
"Walk in beauty." ~Marcellus “Bear Heart” Williams
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