Could a $235,000 diamond hold the key to a CLE nonprofit's future?

What happens when you mix a dazzling six-figure gem, a mysterious benefactor, and a high-stakes situation for a global nonprofit?


No, it’s not the plot for the next James Bond movie—it’s the unfolding storyline for the next chapter for Because I Said I Would, a Rocky River-based nonprofit and social movement built around the idea of promises made and kept. 

Clevelander Alex Sheen first founded the organization back in 2012 as a tribute to his late father with the ethos that "the betterment of humanity is destroyed one broken promise at a time." Since then, Sheen and his team have distributed 11.3 million "promise cards" in 153 countries; given talks around the world to a total of nearly 570,000 people; and delivered character education programming to 
nearly 180,000 K-12 students.

The diamond entered the picture in 2016, when Sheen was speaking at an event in Las Vegas. When a donor asked to meet with him afterward, Sheen didn’t think twice, as he routinely meets with donors on his travels. What he didn’t realize is he was about to get the biggest contribution the organization had ever seen.


Because I Said I Would founder Alex Sheen“I met her and her mom in the Bellagio lobby, and she hands me an envelope [with a check],” recalls Sheen. “She said, ‘I was going to give you this gift, but there’s something else that’s been plaguing me a lot. I’ve got a diamond from a past marriage, and I’ve been thinking about whether to reset it or sell it—instead, I’ve decided that I will give it to you.’”


She promptly invited Sheen to hop in her Porsche SUV, and they headed to a jewelry store set in a local strip mall. Inside, the donor handed Sheen what he describes as “a plastic toy case you might win out of a claw machine at the arcade,” but instead, it held a glittering, 5.5-karat diamond valued at $235,000.


“I literally started crying,” Sheen says. “Running a charity is a rough ride. You’re working long hours, and there is no end to the road—this type of entrepreneurship doesn’t have a big payday waiting at the end. Every time someone gives you money, it’s like they’re saying, ‘Don’t give up.’”


Sheen certainly hasn’t given up in his eight years of running Because I Said I Would. In fact, BISIW is growing its presence in schools, prisons, and juvenile detention centers via local chapters, which is exactly why Sheen recently launched a nationwide search to find a buyer for the diamond.


“We’ve increased our number of chapters, and we need funding to keep that moving forward,” he says. “For us, 2020 is about creating more chapters, local programming, character development workshops, and volunteer projects. We don't want to slow down, and we're at a turning point where selling this diamond will make sure that doesn't happen."


Sheen says he specifically launched the campaign during the holiday “engagement season” in hopes of finding a taker. Though he’s received two offers so far, Sheen says he’s still holding out for the right one, and he’s got a few people in mind. 

“Baker Mayfield, LeBron James, are you listening?”


Read more articles by Jen Jones Donatelli.

As an enthusiastic CLE-vangelist, Jen Jones Donatelli enjoys diving headfirst into her work with FreshWater Cleveland. Upon moving back to Cleveland after 16 years in Los Angeles, Jen served as FreshWater's managing editor for two years (2017-2019) and continues her work with the publication as a contributing editor and host of the FreshFaces podcast. Along with her work at FreshWater, she is the editor-of-chief of Edible Cleveland and a contributing editor for Destination Cleveland. When not typing the day away at her laptop, she teaches writing and creativity classes for Creative Groove, Literary Cleveland, Cleveland State University, and more. Jen is a proud graduate of Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism.