California Real Estate Investor Follows Efforts of Brad Pitt, Giving Home to Hurricane Katrina-Displaced Family By Getting Physically Fit and Paying-Education-Forward

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Philanthropic endeavor incorporating fitness and a real estate investing education "Blueprint." The "Blueprint" provides enormous advantages to both the beneficiary and the benefactor.

It's rare a person would publicly expose what they consider their most vulnerable flaw. It's rarer still a person would create a way to have that flaw benefit others. But, that's exactly what Los Angeles-based real estate investor, RE/MAX Realtor and U.S. Marine Corps veteran Matt Theriault is doing. And he's doing it with a smile on his face. Theriault says he has good reason to smile given the recent launch of his website

Complete with a bold photo of Theriault - bare-chested and revealing his current weight - the purpose of the site is three-pronged: To shed at least 30 unwanted pounds (i.e. "fat belly"); to further the cause of his foundation, Rebuild the Bayou ( (i.e. "fat pockets" for New Orleans); to shine "a very bright light of attainable and sustainable wealth" on the real estate market (i.e. "fat pockets" for others). Theriault refers to the website as the "game" he's playing in life, and he's committed to adding thousands of people to his team's roster.

A Passion for Giving

Last December Theriault and his wife/business partner, Dione, founded Rebuild the Bayou with a mission to build and give away one home to one family displaced by Hurricane Katrina through a pay-it-forward "blueprint" formula they created using their real estate investing education business (Nouveau Riche) as its nucleus. The couple conceived the project after personally witnessing the woefully slow progress being made in some of New Orleans' lower income neighborhoods nearly three years after the storm ravaged the antique city. Now they're inviting others to contribute using their "blueprint" formula, as they are personally reaping the financial benefits of learning what very few know about real estate investing. They're convinced what they've learned about real estate investing is the difference between paycheck-to-paycheck living and early retirement, and they're committed to helping the masses get that information.

The Rebuild the Bayou Foundation "blueprint" formula - which incorporates the foundation's slogan Renew. Empower. Inspire. - includes:

1. Renewing the Lower Ninth Ward and enabling its residences to reclaim the neighborhood through others' efforts.
2. Empowering others to achieve financial literacy with an inimitable real estate investing education (i.e. Teach a man to fish…).
3. Inspiring others to adopt the "blueprint" system and to donate additional homes to Lower Ninth Ward families in need.

"We were appalled at the level of inaction being taken to rebuild areas like the Lower Ninth Ward, New Orleans East and other lower income neighborhoods, which were full of tax-paying citizens before Hurricane Katrina hit," said Theriault. "Three years after the storm, the infrastructure in these areas is still virtually non-existent. There are hardly any operational gas stations, restaurants, grocery stores or retail shopping centers in the parts of New Orleans with the lowest incomes because the former merchants cannot afford to insure their businesses anymore."

"The merchants - and many of New Orleans' former residents - have been priced-out of the place they have always called home. It seems most of our country has forgotten about the lasting effects of Hurricane Katrina. The Rebuild the Bayou Foundation and is our not-so-subtle reminder."

The home - which Theriault estimates will cost approximately $150,000, and will likely have to be paid for in cash as financing is rarely attainable in the Lower Ninth Ward - will go to a family chosen by the Theriault's through an essay contest in which children from the Martin Luther King, Jr. Charter School for Science & Technology - the only functional school in the Lower Ninth Ward - participated. The Theriault's have formed an alliance with the school's principal, Doris Hicks, who was honored as one of People magazine's 2007 Heroes of the Year, and is a powerful figure in the New Orleans community.

"When the Theriault's called me - out of the blue - and told me they wanted to donate a home to one of our King Charter School children, I screamed," said Hicks. "The children did a wonderful job submitting essays describing their Hurricane Katrina experiences. We're so encouraged knowing there are people like the Theriault's who care, and who understand how special the Lower Ninth Ward is to us - and to the many people wanting to come back and rebuild."

The couple visited the King Charter School earlier this year, and they were warmly welcomed by the school's faculty and students. During their visit, several local residents toured them through the parts of the city no longer receiving local or national news media coverage.

"The faculty and children at King Charter School are part of the heart-and-soul of New Orleans; they are an absolute delight," said Theriault. "However, we saw some incredibly sobering post-storm images including multitudes sleeping under the Interstate-10 (Claiborne) bridge in tents, with a high-rise building sitting empty just a few hundred feet away. These are people who get up, go to work every day, and are forced to look at what could easily be their shelter in the interim while the powers-that-be haggle over bigger and better plans for the building. I can't believe this story isn't covered on every national news program (after the Iraq war) every night of the week."

Helping Others; Helping Himself

Theriault's website represents his willingness to expose his physical shortcomings if it means others simultaneously get exposed to financial literacy and a worthy cause. He created the unusual approach to illustrate his commitment to his physical well-being, and to ensure his commitments to himself and to others are widely known.

"The key to achieving any goal is to share it with as many people as possible," said Theriault. "I saw this as a perfect way to connect the idea that making a commitment to yourself can coincide with your commitments to others. By showing everyone why I want to lose at least 30 pounds, I'm inviting them to hold me to my word."

Theriault also launched to offer an additional opportunity for others to contribute to Rebuild the Bayou. People can pledge money for every pound he loses between July 1, 2008 and September 30, 2008. The Theriault's will designate 20% of all income generated through their real estate investing education business toward building the home.

It's the Levees, Stupid

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita impacted the lives of 4.5 million Louisiana citizens. As a result of the two hurricanes, more than 650,000 people were displaced from their homes, more than 1,000 residents died, more than 6,000 were reported missing and more than 3,000 were unaccounted for. "These are Americans on American soil still recovering from a three year-old catastrophe, and they continue to need assistance," said Theriault. "I'm inspired by the charitable efforts of people like Bono, Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates, Brett Favre and Charles Barkley to name a few. I see no reason why 'average Joe's' like my wife and me can't make as poignant an impact as do our celebrity contemporaries."

Theriault is convinced that properly repaired levees could sustain another category five storm. "Considering the landscape of the city, the levees have never been built the way they should be; we've yet to receive a satisfactory answer about why this hasn't happened," he said.

While visiting New Orleans, the Theriault's met with representatives from Brad Pitt's Make It Right Foundation and with Global Green, which is donating sustainable materials to the King Charter School for continued rebuilding maintenance. Harry Connick, Jr. and Branford Marsalis also conceived Musicians Village, the New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity (NOAHH) rebuilding effort honoring the area's multi-generational musician residents. Theriault says he learned through his research of these organizations that neither celebrity status nor financial positioning has made rebuilding in the Lower Ninth Ward an easy process for anyone.

The Theriault's remain undeterred.

For more information, to contribute to Rebuild the Bayou or to participate in the Rebuild the Bayou blueprint formula, visit or

To interview Matt Theriault, Dione Theriault or Doris Hicks, call 310-684-5442 or email mtdt @

To read the People magazine "2007 Heroes Among Us" story on Martin Luther King, Jr. School for Science & Technology principal Doris Hicks, click the following link:,,20153759_20051849_1,00.html


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