Undercover millionaire makes a difference

Local altruist gives big on reality television show

Although lines have been drawn in the sand between the "99 percent" and the "1 percent," one San Ramon Valley local is bridging the gap to help the less fortunate.

When Danville resident Hilary DeCesare set out to ensure online safety for children with a website, she didn't expect to change lives. But an appearance on ABC's reality series, "Secret Millionaire," which premiered July 8, changed DeCesare's life and business.

"Secret Millionaire" places undercover self-run business owners in poverty-stricken cities around the country for a week, where they seek selfless individuals who are most deserving of a financial gift. At the end of the week, the millionaires unmask their true identities and present significant checks -- from their own bank accounts -- to the community.

DeCesare became a millionaire after creating a kid-friendly social networking site, Everloop, for children under 13 years old. The 43-year-old also worked at Oracle for 10 years, a career that gave DeCesare the business skills to run a start-up.

"I initially created Everloop because all of a sudden, my kids were wanting to explore more online," she said.

Because Facebook has an over-thirteen age policy, DeCesare set out to create a website where young children can socialize with their friends, play games, and have a safe, fun time, while also learning about the dangers of the Internet.

"Kids think that a friend they're talking to online is as much of a BFF as they would be in person," DeCesare explained. "They don't know that that person isn't who they say they are, so they give out tons of information. I want them to be aware of what could happen."

DeCesare also wants to educate these users about the risks of putting out personal information online: once something is out there, it never goes away.

As the mother of three kids, DeCesare is even more aware of these issues. "I built (Everloop) around them," she said. "We use (our children) as role models and focus groups, which empowers them. We give them the voice to say what's cool and what's not."

For her appearance on "Secret Millionaire," DeCesare traveled to an impoverished area of Long Beach, Calif. in October. Undercover, she developed lasting relationships with the residents of the neighborhood.

"It was so impacting to me," DeCesare described. "When I came back, I wanted to make sure I didn't lose (the relationships). It's so easy to slip back into your life, and I just said, 'I'm not doing it.'"

One person that really stood out to her was 8-year-old Jonas, a selfless young boy living with his mom in a small home. Although Jonas and his mother were not well-off, he realized that he had it better than most in the area. DeCesare helped Jonas make 63 sandwiches and deliver them to homeless people in a park; he then visited a pre-school for homeless children and gave teddy bears to the entire class.

DeCesare was so moved by this boy's compassion and genuine nature that, in addition to awarding Jonas $15,000, she created a new feature on Everloop called Evergive which spotlights kids who are making a difference in the world. Jonas was designated as the first Evergive.

"Now, other kids: what can you do?" DeCesare proposed. "At a young age, kids want to give back but they don't know how to do it. We want to give them a voice. Even the small things matter."

After visiting Jonas and witnessing how he was so selflessly improving the lives of others, DeCesare said, "I am the CEO of a company that encourages kids to go out and make a difference. I didn't really realize that I was being hypocritical in saying, 'Kids, go out and make a difference!' What was I really doing to make a difference?"

DeCesare called developing Everloop and participating in Secret Millionaire "the most rewarding thing" in her life. She said that helping people is the best way to feel better about oneself; if someone is ever having a bad day, giving back is the way to cure it.

"What better way to use your money than to give it to someone who is really trying to make a difference?" she asked. "The show's name is 'Secret Millionaire,' but it is really about unsung heroes. One hour of your time can make a difference in someone's life, that's what the show is really about."

On the television show, DeCesare was a shining light as she personally affected the lives of people who wanted to help those less fortunate, but did not have the means to make it happen. DeCesare donated a total of $140,000 -- all out-of-pocket -- to three organizations and families in Long Beach. Each group responded in stunned tears as DeCesare gave them money as well as the hope and spirit to continue.

"It's not about what you have, it's about who you have in your life. To find hope in anything, gives you the hope to go on," DeCesare said of her experience.


1 person likes this
Posted by Caesar
a resident of Blackhawk
on Jul 10, 2012 at 7:10 am

Hilary and her story are very impressive but I'm guessing one part is incorrect.

Everloop is not why she is a millionaire- It is a Internet startup, with little funding.

I'm speculating her husband, Michael, is the source of their high net worth. He is highly compensated as co president of Mcafee, wholly owned by Intel, ran sales before it was bought by Intel, previously was at EMC through the acquisition of Documentum where he was a pre IPO executive, following early career in sales at Oracle. (His moves from Documentum-EMC-Mcafee-Intel all followed his boss Dave Dewalt.)

Sorry to drag this up but since the story claims she is a "self made" millionaire due to her ceo role at startup everloop, it is fair game.

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Posted by Mom
a resident of Alamo
on Jul 10, 2012 at 11:19 am

Thanks for the info Debbie Downer!

1 person likes this
Posted by Pleasanton Dad
a resident of another community
on Jul 10, 2012 at 12:40 pm

Having watched the episode of Secret Millionaire that featured DeCesare, I was impressed with the degree to which the writer of this story captured her personality. I could really feel and hear her through Ms. Altman's prose.

I appreciate Caesar filling in the picture (I wondered if she had a husband), but the fact that DeCesare might not actually be a self-made millionaire is not terribly relevant, in my view. She is a woman from means and affluence who chose to leave her comfortable environment and seek those deserving of a break in life. That is what makes for compelling television and an engaging story, which Altman tells well.

1 person likes this
Posted by social eye
a resident of Danville
on Jul 10, 2012 at 1:34 pm

I watched that episode and was touched by Hilary's obvious caring and how she was affected by the people she met. While the source of her giving is irrelevant, but that she gave is more important, facts are facts, and they should be correct. Otherwise, she should have simply gone out on her own and donated anonymously, without all the attention that was put upon her before potential millions of viewers. If what she did does cause others with accurate stories to come and 'pay it forward', then her efforts outweigh any questions about the nebulous background of her financial source.

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Posted by Nancy
a resident of Danville
on Jul 10, 2012 at 9:19 pm

El crocko of stuff..Hillary is NOT self made ..She married the bucks..

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Posted by Alamo resident
a resident of Alamo
on Jul 11, 2012 at 7:02 am

The source of Hilary DeCesare's funds are unimportant to me. Buried in the story, is that she attends Community Presbyterian Church, as we do. I don't know HIlary personally, but as a CPC member, we are encouraged to reach out into our communities and to make a difference in helping others. She stepped out of her comfort zone and shared her many financial blessings with strangers. You don't have to be a Millionaire to go onto and check out the many opportunities to help others.

I was moved and touched by Hilary's effort and story. Our President continues to polarize our country and you don't have to be a member of the 1% 'to reach out with a grateful heart to help others. In my book, God Bless Hilary and thank you for the positive changes she has made in many people's lives.

1 person likes this
Posted by Julie Krommenhoek
a resident of Danville
on Jul 11, 2012 at 10:08 am

I do know Hilary and I've worked with her on school projects and she is incredibly bright, efficient and easy to work with, and definitely capable of earning millions, and whether she has or not is unimportant. What she has done, with both Everloop and Secret Millionaire, is wonderful. If more people used whatever skills or funds they have in the manner that she has used hers, the world would be a better place.

I encourage you all to use our Alamo resident's advice and go on or find another way to use your resources to help those in need as well. We are very fortunate around here and I appreciate Hilary showing people that we can make a difference with whatever we have.

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Posted by Marie
a resident of Diablo
on Jul 11, 2012 at 5:56 pm

I have this on DVR and can’t wait to see it. I think it is pretty cool to have someone from our “backyard” doing something to help make a difference in a positive way.

1 person likes this
Posted by Jean
a resident of Danville
on Jul 16, 2012 at 7:42 am

I don't care that Hilary married into money, I don't care if she did it in front of millions or privately. I doubt the people that received the money to continued in their helping of others care either. The publicity didn’t just show off Hilary, it also helped show the world that there are good people that care for others. There is enough negative in this world, let's look at the positive and appreciate her caring and generosity.

1 person likes this
Posted by Gina
a resident of Diablo
on Jul 16, 2012 at 5:14 pm

I know Hilary and have for a long long time. It matters not where the money came from. What does matter is that she shared it with some very worthy people.
Hilary comes from a very nice family and her generosity is heartfelt.
What did you want to accomplish Caesar with your information? And why do you feel you needed to post that? Totally rude and only makes YOU look bad, not Hilary.
A tad jealous perhaps??

1 person likes this
Posted by Lisa
a resident of Danville
on Jul 18, 2012 at 8:13 am

Hilary demonstrated selflessness and service to help others in need. It is what we are all called upon to do and I respect and appreciate her for doing so. How much better this world would be if we all followed her example! I hope that any negative comments fall by the wayside. I am proud to have you as a neighbor, Hilary. You go girl!

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Monte Vista High School

on Jun 2, 2017 at 1:26 am

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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