6 Things that Kids can do to Volunteer as an After School Activity

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We would all like to do more to help out. Here are some ways we can encourage our kids to make it a habit.

Some of us have more free time than others, and as busy parents, we often wish we could volunteer or be more available to those we care about. But for kids who get out of school at 3pm each day, those couple hours before homework and dinner can be put to good use in the community or at home. Here are some helpful ideas that can be fun and rewarding.

  1.  Help a neighbor with the yard work. If you live near a retiree or a grandparent, have your able bodied drop by once a week and rake leaves or trim hedges. Even 30 minutes is an act of kindness, a little outdoor time and always deeply appreciated.
  1.  Tutor a younger child. One of the best ways to learn is to teach, a wise teacher once said. When older kids help out a younger sibling or a neighbor, they not only cement their own skills, but they take a certain amount of pride in being able to effectively relay information.
  1. Crafting Holiday Gifts. Children love making things anyway, why not get the jump on the holiday season? Try homemade bath salts, soap and soap dishes, or a photo collage.
  1. Raise Funds for Charity. There are many ways to raise money for a good cause that don’t involve going door-to-door with a box of year old candy bars. Now with crowd sourcing and social media, kids can start their own campaigns or do grass roots work right from their laptop or tablet.
  1. Community Garden. Urban food growing projects are picking up steam all over the country and there is always work that needs to be done. Kids of all ages love to get their hands in the dirt and learn how to grow things. Bonus: picky eaters will often be more apt to try new things if they have grown them first.
  1. Animal Adoption Programs. Humane Societies always need volunteers and some even have programs for kids to come in and spend time with the animals, feed or even walk dogs.

Contributing is good for kids and while they may resist the idea at first, they will eventually find something that offers them the lasting satisfaction of a job well done. It also helps them take a break from their own busy schedules and keeps them active. And that helps everyone.

Top Five Executive Tips Learned from My Eastern European Parents

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When you’re a child, input from your parents can at times seem unfair or unrealistic based on your inexperienced views on life at that given time.  But as you grow and develop, your gratitude does as well, and you realize just how much impact these lessons can really have.  

While I did greatly respect my parents even when I was young, a lot of the accuracy and influence of their actions and advice didn’t truly hit me until I was an adult, wearing many different hats and trying to keep things in balance.  My parents’ Eastern European upbringing and experiences were different than my own in the U.S., but our home here was none-the-less an Eastern European household, and my siblings and I were raised with English as our second language.  I was also exposed to my parents’ Eastern European ways, and the wisdom that resulted – amazingly useful life lessons that were ultimately handed down to me.  The fact that my parents didn’t just talk the talk, but also walked the walk, provided a greater illustration, especially to a child, and even to recall now.

I’ve had some time to not only appreciate these lessons, but to also put them to good use in my own adult life.  It’s important that as business leaders, women support each other, in a similar way to how my parents’ unique experiences and input have supported me.  So let me share with you a glimpse into some of the invaluable teachings my parents have brought into my life:

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#1: When you first wake up, wake up!  If you snooze, you lose.

This may sound a bit silly initially, but you will quickly see what a real difference it can make.  When that alarm goes off each morning, it’s time to get up and get started with your day.  When you snooze, you are essentially missing out on officially starting your day on the right foot.  Splash cold water on your face, wake up, and face the day – straight on.  This solid piece of advice that gets your day off to the right start probably came from the fact that in the village my parents were raised in, there were no options.  If you didn’t get up for the day, you didn’t eat.   

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#2: Work is work.  If it were fun, it would be called fun. 

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to enjoy your work, but you always have to remain realistic that work is work.  This comes from the mentality that there needs to be a solid work ethic driving your life.  You should tackle your job with pride and get it done to the best of your ability.  I well remember my dad coming home from his 30+year position, and every night, we would ask how his workday was.  The answer was always, “Work is work,” and then the conversation was over.  In some ways, he left that at the job, and was then able to be fully engaged with our family.  This principle was crucial for me to learn first-hand.  While at the time, I did want to know more, hear the work stories, etc., now I can clearly appreciate leaving the office at the office, following suit with my own family.

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#3. The Hostess with the Most-ess; always be ready to host.

I don’t know any self-respecting Eastern European household that isn’t host-on-the-go ready.  While I may not have inherited the skill to be able to duplicate recipes on a dime, the always-ready-to-host mentality is forever engrained.  Eastern European households are always this way, and it sets a strong example for both being a gracious host in your own home, and also in the office setting.  Properly welcoming people sets the type of warm tone and environment we all want, supporting communication, comfort, and productivity.

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#4. Live within your means: Budget and budget wisely.

In my own personal experience, both my parents worked hard to put their kids first.  Each of us received a college education and a car when we turned 16, and this on the budgets of two middle-class workers.  To this day, I still am puzzled on how they did this, while leaving work at work.  They were able to stretch their budget and all while not incurring debt.  Quite frankly, this is still a mystery, but if I go back in time, my parents didn’t go on vacations, spend on fancy cars, or even go out to eat more often than once or twice a year.  It is those little things sometimes that add up, and they were incredible financial planners.

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#5. Family first, no matter what. 

Last but not least is family first.  While all the above are in motion, you can’t lose sight of setting your priorities straight.  If you can stay focused and organized, and also prioritize, a lot of your efforts will fall into place for not only you, but for the benefit of your entire family.  My parents saw a lot of changes in their lives, as we all will, but your family is there no matter what.  Don’t lose sight of that, even on rough days.

One of the nicest ways any of us can honor our parents or show our gratitude is by taking and keeping such gems of wisdom, passing them along to others, and putting them to use, no matter where our own lives take us – in business and beyond.  Keeping these tips in mind during the course of a busy day helps you to have perspective, maintain balance, and prioritize with heart.

The Farmers Market and the Future of Family Health

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For some of us, getting the kids to eat is a herculean task. We usually give up and resort to pizza or mac and cheese because at least that’s something, right?

Not to chide, but it’s not. Children in the US are suffering from diseases that are a direct result of poor nutrition. In 2014, an estimated 29.1 million Americans had diabetes.

The slow food movement is a response to commercial, artificial, mass-produced food that has wrecked havoc on our nation’s health and even our sensibilities. Drive-thrus and TV dinners have diminished the value of cooking and eating together as a family. And corporate groceries have replaced the ancient tradition of meeting in the town center to buy and sell surplus. The farmers market trend hopes to counteract the side effects of big agriculture and big business, and communities nationwide have responded with enthusiasm.

In 2013, there were over 8,000 local growers markets nationwide.1

What does that mean for kids? A whole new way of eating. Actually, more of a return to the old way.

Alice Waters is the proprietor of the famous Chez Panisse Restaurant in Berkeley, CA, and is often credited with spearheading the slow food movement in the US. Beyond her Michelin Stars, she is also responsible for the Edible Schoolyard Project, which provides children from kindergarten to eighth grade with a culinary education. Kids not only get to an introduction to the diverse bounty of fruits and veggies, they also plant and cultivate and prepare meals.

Check out what the kids at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School are doing as part of the Edible Schoolyard:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eVrnqZsghHk

Waters started the project because she was acutely aware that most school age children don’t know that a potato makes a french fry. She understood that food presents children with all kinds of learning opportunities: math, history, science and geography are all woven into agriculture. The program doesn’t place so much emphasis on cooking and farming as a vocation, but rather uses food as a touchstone to explore other subjects.

Working with plants and preparing food is a full sensory experience that introduces smells, textures and flavors. The more exposure children receive, the more likely they are to try new things, to experiment with tastes, and to think of cooking as a basic skill when they participate in planting and harvesting. Plus, they get to be outside and interact with community.

Some tips for broadening your child’s palette:

  • Give them a little spending cash and let them pick out one favorite thing and one thing they have never tried.
  • Try fresh fruit that they can help blend with yogurt and make into popsicles.
  • Encourage them to ask questions; farmers love to talk about their products.
  • Get recipes. Farmers are veritable wellsprings of information on how to prepare tasty meals with their ingredients. Ask them how they cook their food.
  • Pick a few of your kids’ favorite meals and incorporate fresh produce.
  • Enforce the “No Thank You” bite. They only get to refuse it after they have tasted it.
  • Keep trying. Pediatricians say that kids need to be exposed to a food up to 20 times before they will eat it. Parents often give up after one or two tries.
  • Try different colors.
  • Don’t make it into an issue. Sometimes insisting will backfire.
  • Enjoy it yourself. Sometimes a little peer pressure goes a long way. When the rest of the family is clearly enjoying themselves, kids want to get in on the action.

For busy families, making the shift from processed, pre-made food can seem like a hassle, but there are so many advantages to visiting your local farmers market, and many of them are fun! Not only are you doing something together, you are interacting with your community, supporting local agriculture and ensuring your family gets their vitamins.

Resources:

  1. http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/statistics/

7 Quick Ways Executive Moms Can Keep Their Blood (and their Brain) Moving

As a busy working mom, it’s often near impossible to put yourself first.  But it’s important to remember that if your health suffers, it affects everything around you –your family, your job, and all else that comes into play with your daily activities.  You should keep in mind that even small things that aren’t necessarily time-consuming can make a big difference.  Healthy habits will keep the decision-making brain optimal, and your body stronger.Let’s take a look at some of the helpful, healthful tips that you can quickly implement into your busy day:

1. Drink water.
Even mild dehydration can affect your body before you realize you’re thirsty, and may leave you with headaches, fatigue, and a general lack of energy.  Drinking a bottle of water can provide a fast pick-me-up, and it’s a great idea to bring one to work with you to have at your desk to refill as needed.  If you drink water throughout the day, you’re less likely to get to a point of feeling sluggish.
2. Never skip breakfast.
That old adage that breakfast is the most important meal of the day just may be true.You’re probably already vigilant about making sure your kids get a healthy meal before school, but what about you?  Studies have shown that people feel more satisfied by food eaten in the morning, and that feeling can translate into better energy for your entire day.  Incorporate protein in your breakfast – a peanut butter banana smoothie, a fruit and yogurt parfait, or an egg white/avocado sandwich on wheat toast.  This will keep you full and alert all morning long.
3. Make sure you have a bedtime too.
Sleep deprivation causes decreased performance and alertness, not to mention memory and cognitive impairment, among other less-than-desirable consequences.1 This hurts not only your work performance, but also has a negative effect on the quality time you do get to spend with your family.  Therefore, just as your children have bedtimes, you will benefit from having one as well.  Consider easing your brain into sleep; turn down the lights, read, and light some candles – make de-stressing part of your nighttime ritual.  
4. Work short bursts of exercise into your schedule.
If the time just isn’t there for a full exercise session, you can instead include small acts of fitness throughout the course of your day, as these do add up.  Take a quick walk around the block with your child in the stroller after work, or just stand up from your desk periodically to do some stretches.  Take the steps instead of the elevator.  You can also take advantage of your work lunch break, even if it’s a short one; on a nice day, you can take a brisk walk outside.  Once you develop a routine that includes exercise, it’ll become second nature and you will reap the benefits.
5. Prepare healthy foods ahead of time.
Planning and also shopping for lunch and snacks in advance ensure you’re not grabbing something quick and last minute that may not be the best for you.  For example, cut up some carrots, red peppers, or cucumbers at home to take to work inZiplock bags for that mid-afternoon hunger.  Vegetables are also full of H20, which helps you out with number one on this list as well.  Fast food and junk food can leave you feeling bloated and lethargic, so if you put in a little time and thought to your meals in advance, you can set yourself up for nutritious success each day.
6. Keep your blood sugar steady.
Wild fluctuations in your blood sugar can be detrimental to your energy level and affect your decision-making abilities.  If you grab a candy bar or a soda for a fast sugar rush, the energy burst lasts just for a short time and then you crash, feeling more tired than before.  To prevent this, eat regular small snacks to keep an even keel.  Greek yogurt, fruits, or hummus are great suggestions.
7. Get into the groove.
Music can ease anxiety while sharpening mental focus, and one recent study involving information technology specialists found that those who listened to music completed their tasks more quickly, and came up with better ideas than those who didn’t, because the music improved their mood.2  So load up your iPod with favorite tunes, or create your own radio station on Pandora.  YouTube is also chalk-full of meditation and focus music that facilitates concentration.Each of these ideas can be incorporated into your daily routine in no time.  They just require a bit of thought and initial effort, but the results can be life-changing and lasting, and this goes for both your work life and your home life.  Balance is possible;you just have to remember to take care of yourself first.
                                                       

Companies that Support Breast Cancer Awareness: Part 2

JCPENNEY

JCPenney has joined other retailers who are looking to raise money towards breast cancer awareness. Their most recent campaign called “Give Breast Cancer the Boot” has them partnering with the National Breast Cancer Foundation where the department store donated $2 to the organization from every boot purchased between October 4 through October 14. In addition, throughout the month of October, JCPenney also spent time encouraging customers to round up their purchases to the nearest whole dollar donating the difference to benefit The Breast Cancer Research Foundation®. Customer contributions donated to JCPenney Cares will directly fund programs focused on breast cancer education, research, prevention and early detection.

“Many of us have had our lives touched in some way by breast cancer, which is why we felt it was important to connect with our customers on this issue by showcasing the real faces of breast cancer,” said Debra Berman, chief marketing officer for JCPenney. “We’re focused on showing customers that by rounding up their purchases at JCPenney, they can help in providing critical support in the fight against breast cancer. Through their donations, they are making a difference for someone’s mother, sister, wife, daughter.and possibly for themselves.”

National Football League (NFL)

The National Football League (NFL) breast cancer awareness campaign, A Crucial Catch, supports the American Cancer Society’s efforts to save lives and finish the fight against breast cancer. Efforts include awareness activities, team participation, player public service announcements, merchandise sales, and an online auction.

A portion of all NFL net proceeds during the month of October benefit the Society’s CHANGE Grant program to increase breast cancer screening rates within communities experiencing cancer disparities.

The NFL and the Society extend A Crucial Catch to the youth and high school level by encouraging thousands of youth and high school football coaches across the country to join the NFL as they “go pink” to raise lifesaving funds that help create a world with less breast cancer and more birthdays.

Fans can visit NFL.com/pink to learn more about A Crucial Catch and the youth and high school football initiative, as well as important breast cancer detection information, prevention tips, and how to participate in their local American Cancer Society Making Strides Against Breast Cancer® events. The NFL has a national Making Strides Against Breast Cancer team Web page where clubs and fans can create teams to participate in their local Making Strides event.

ANN TAYLOR

Ann Taylor and sister company Ann Taylor LOFT have been committed to breast cancer research through their various programs and efforts. Throughout the month of October, Ann Taylor hosts a series of shopping events for breast cancer survivors (Salute to Survivors Shopping Event) that feature in-store discounts with five percent of the proceeds benefiting Susan G. Komen. Customers can also show their support of breast cancer awareness by  purchasing an Ann Cares card both in stores and online where 90 percent of the purchase prices of every card sold is donated to The Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

Companies that Support Breast Cancer Awareness: Part 1

1. Delta Airlines “Pink Plane”

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“In 2010, we painted one of our Boeing 767-400s pink to help raise funds and awareness for breast cancer research in conjunction with the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. In 2012, we added Evelyn Lauder’s signature on the aircraft in memory of her dedication to help find a cure for breast cancer.”

Since the day the aircraft was first given it’s glossy coat of pink paint, Delta’s “pink plane” has carried nearly 266,753 customers on about 1,300 trips around the world, according to menafn.com. Passengers this year can expect even more ways to get “Perks for Pink” as outlined on Delta’s Facebook page which has promised that 50,000 likes for Delta means $50,000 for The Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

2. ESTEE LAUDER

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The Estée Lauder Companies’ Breast Cancer Awareness (BCA) Campaign was founded in 1992 by the late Evelyn H. Lauder with the launch of the Pink Ribbon, the universal symbol for breast health. Devoted to the mission to defeat breast cancer through education and medical research and currently active in more than 70 countries, The BCA Campaign has raised more than $58 million to support global research, education and medical services; with nearly $46 million funding 185 Breast Cancer Research Foundation® (BCRF) research projects worldwide over the past 21 years. In addition to private donations, funds are raised through employee activities and donations, Pink Ribbon Product sales and contributions from many of The Estée Lauder Companies’ iconic brands.

Beginning in October 2015, the global BCA Campaign will:

  • Bring awareness to the importance of early detection and breast health globally by distributing educational brochures and millions of Pink Ribbons at The Estée Lauder Companies’ brand counters worldwide, as well as through BCAcampaign.com and social media @BCAcampaign
  • Convene The Estée Lauder Companies employees around the world to participate in walks, fundraisers, auctions, concerts and other events to benefit BCRF and local breast cancer charities
  • Host a variety of workshops, seminars and trainings to raise awareness of breast cancer and early prevention
  • Illuminate buildings, monuments and landmarks worldwide in glowing pink lights to raise awareness of breast health and empower people worldwide to take action to defeat breast cancer; in New York, the iconic Pink Ribbon will scroll across the mast of the Empire State Building, which will be lit in brilliant pink; additional illuminations include The Eiffel Tower in Paris, The Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw, Some Sevit in Seoul and Shanghai Symphony Hall in Shanghai, and The Bandra-Worli Sea Link in Mumbai and Las Condes City Center in Santiago, among others

Making Philanthropy Part of a Successful Business Strategy with The Go-Giver by Bob Burg and John D. Mann

The cut-throat corporate culture is giving way to a new attitude of altruism that lays the foundation for commercial and individual achievement.

In introducing a new approach to business Burg and Mann present the Five Laws of Stratospheric Success: Value, Compensation, Influence, Authenticity, and Receptivity. Each of these concepts defines worth personally and professionally by a metric of generosity, rather than net gains. Philanthropy, they argue, can be a central part of a successful business, and use these principles to explain how.

The beauty of this book is that it is told in an entertaining, allegorical style so that the real magic of turning from a go-getter to a go-giver is especially resonant.  The hero of the story steps into a larger circle of reciprocity with some surprising and satisfying twists of fate.

What sets the Go-giver aside from other popular business self-help is that it moves beyond the “worker-friendly” mindset, shifting the business objectives toward ongoing, sustainable contribution that actually lifts the business up at all levels.  A fascinating read and 360 from the standard talk about corporate culture, the Go-Giver is authentic without being dogmatic, offering another definition of success that deserves to be heard.

Information courtesy of Amazon.com.

Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose by Tony Hsieh

The CEO of Zappos doles out some refreshing ideas about running a successful business by first making your employees happy.

There is no doubt that corporate culture is changing, and maybe one of the reasons it is changing is because people like Tony Hsieh are turning the old conventions upside down.  Unlike many other leaders, he describes happiness as the core value around which all business decisions revolve and makes the strong argument that this approach allows workers to invest their energies in an ongoing way, bringing profitability and satisfaction to the work.

Hseih tells his coming of age story from young peddler of lemonade and car washing to the top of the online retail world as a graphic novel, a charming and unusually entertaining method for relaying his ideas.  Driven by the notion that a company can be profitable by establishing the wellbeing of the customer as well as the employee, Hseih takes the reader on an inspiring and uplifting adventure.

Information courtesy of Amazon.com.

Top 10 Children’s Charities

1. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

https://www.stjude.org/

Susie Almaneih St. JudesSt. Jude Children’s Research Hospital: Leading the way the world understands, treats, and defeats life-threatening childhood diseases

It can be all too easy to take for granted the healthy children in our lives.  But anyone who’s ever had a sick child knows how scary it can be, and the finances to pay for the best care possible is the last thing that should be worried about in such a scenario.

The kids who come to St. Jude are suffering from life-threatening childhood illnesses such as cancer and sickle cell disease, and many of the treatment protocols require care that can last for years.  St. Jude needs to be at the cutting-edge of the latest medicine and research in fighting life-threatening pediatric diseases, all while freeing families from the biggest burden in getting life-saving healthcare: the cost.  Unlike other hospitals, the majority of funding for St. Jude comes from generous donors.  It costs $2 million per day to operate St. Jude, and public contributions provide 75% of the necessary funds.  Families never receive a bill for treatment, travel, housing, or food.  While the organization does accept insurance, many services provided by St. Jude have never been covered by insurance, and will not be in the future.

Treatments invented at St. Jude have helped push the overall survival rate for childhood cancer from 20% when the hospital opened in 1962, to more than 80% today.  In addition, St. Jude has achieved a 94% survival rate for ALL, up from 4% in 1962, and the survival rate for medulloblastoma, a type of brain tumor, increased from 10 percent to 85% today.  St. Jude was the first institution to develop a cure for sickle cell disease with a bone marrow transplant and has one of the largest pediatric sickle cell programs in the country.  One child saved at St. Jude means doctors and scientists in communities everywhere can use that knowledge to save more children.

2. Big Brothers Big Sisters of America

http://www.bbbs.org/site/c.9iILI3NGKhK6F/b.5962351/k.42EB/We_are_here_to_start_something.htm

Big Brothers Big Sisters of America: Here to Start Something

For many of us, we can clearly recall growing up and having that role model we could look up to, and in many cases interact with, to understand and develop into our full potentials.  Sadly, for various reasons, many children do not have this same privilege, and one person can really make that difference we appreciated in our own lives.

For more than 100 years, Big Brothers Big Sisters has operated under the belief that inherent in every child is the ability to succeed and thrive in life.  The organization’s core mission is to provide children facing adversity with strong and enduring, professionally supported, one-to-one relationships that change their lives for the better, forever.

As the nation’s largest donor and volunteer supported mentoring network, Big Brothers Big Sisters makes meaningful, monitored matches between adult volunteers (“Bigs”) and children (“Littles”), ages 6 through 18, in communities across the country.  The group strives to develop positive relationships that have a direct and lasting effect on young people.

National research has shown that positive relationships between Littles and their Bigs have a direct and measurable impact on children’s lives.  By participating in programs, Little Brothers and Sisters are 46% less likely to begin using illegal drugs, 27% less likely to begin using alcohol, and 52% less likely to skip school.  Big Brothers and Sisters has strived to start something, and the proof is in the numbers that the organization certainly has.

3. Canines for Disabled Kids

http://caninesforkids.org/

Canines for Disabled Kids: The Healing Power of Dogs

At Canines for Disabled Kids (CDK), there is one guiding mission – to support the creation of child-canine service teams to promote independence and social awareness.  The group assists children by pairing them with dogs to assist with a variety of medical needs, including guide dogs, hearing dogs, therapy dogs, seizure alert dogs, and walker/balance dogs.

The organization offers various ways to help educate the public about service dogs, including educational presentations, booth event participation, and Americans with Disability (ADA) consulting.  Members of the CDK staff and volunteers travel all over the country for these opportunities, talking to students of all grade levels, civic groups, religious groups, and businesses about the importance of assistance dogs.

CDK relies completely on private individual and corporate donations.  Without these, the organization could not offer the services that have helped so many.

4. CASA – Court Appointed Special Advocates For Children

http://www.casaforchildren.org

CASA: Ensuring the Safety of Foster Children

Every day in this country, 1,900 children become victims of abuse or neglect, and four of them will die.  Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for Children is a network of 949 community-based programs that recruit, train, and support citizen-volunteers to advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children in courtrooms and communities.

Volunteer advocates—empowered directly by the courts—offer judges the critical information they need to ensure that each child’s rights and needs are being attended to while in foster care.  For many abused children, a CASA volunteer is the only constant adult presence in their lives.

CASA volunteers are appointed by judges to watch over and advocate for abused and neglected children, to make sure they don’t get lost in the overburdened legal and social service system or languish in inappropriate group or foster homes.  Volunteers stay with each case until it is closed and the child is placed in a safe, permanent home.

5. KaBOOM!

http://kaboom.org/

KaBOOM!: Play Matters

America’s kids are playing less than any previous generation.  In part, this is because kids ages eight to 18 now spend almost half of their days in front of screens instead of engaging in active play.  Only one in four children gets 60 minutes of physical activity or active play every day.  As play has decreased, obesity rates and behavioral and cognitive disorders have increased.

Founded in 1996, KaBOOM! is a national non-profit dedicated to giving all kids the childhood they deserve, filled with balanced and active play, so they can thrive.  KaBOOM! works to bring play into the daily lives of all children, particularly those growing up in poverty in America.  The group does this by creating great places to play, inspiring communities to promote and support play, and driving the national discussion about the importance of play in fostering healthy and productive lives.

To achieve its vision, KaBOOM! works to catalyze and create great places to play, empower advocates to promote and protect play, and elevate public discourse around the importance of play.  KaBOOM! believes play matters for all kids, because science affirms that play is critical to a child’s overall health, development, and well-being. Moreover, play can help tackle a number of urgent issues plaguing our society — especially those endemic among low-income communities.   Kids who have play as part of their school day do better in school, become better team players, and develop into more creative thinkers — and they are much more likely to carry these skills into adulthood.

6. Make-A-Wish Foundation

http://wish.org/about-us

Susie Almaneih Make a WishMake-A-Wish Foundation: A Wish Experience is a Game-Changer

The philosophy may sound simple, but its impact is anything but.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation believes that wishes make life better for kids with life-threatening medical conditions.  Tens of thousands of volunteers, donors, and supporters believe a wish experience can be a game-changer, and this serves as the inspiration to grant wishes that change the lives of the kids served.

The wish process begins with a referral – medical professionals, parents, and the children themselves.  Kids from the age of 2 ½ through 18 who have been diagnosed with a life-threatening medical condition are eligible.  A wish team is then assigned to learn the child’s one true wish, creating an unforgettable experience personalized to match the wish kid’s idea of a perfect day.

7. March of Dimes

http://www.marchofdimes.org/

March of Dimes: An Organization with a Long, Rich History

President Franklin Roosevelt’s own personal struggle with polio led him to create the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis at a time when polio was on the rise.  Now better known as the March of Dimes, the foundation established a polio patient aid program and funded research for vaccines developed by Jonas Salk, MD and Albert Sabin, MD.  These vaccines effectively ended epidemic polio in the United States.

With its original mission accomplished, the foundation turned its focus to preventing birth defects and infant mortality.  The March of Dimes has led the way to discover the genetic causes of birth defects, to promote newborn screening, and to educate medical professionals and the public about best practices for healthy pregnancies.  The organization has supported research for surfactant therapy to treat respiratory distress and helped initiate the system of regional neonatal intensive care for premature and sick babies.  The recent Folic Acid Campaign achieved a dramatic reduction in the incidence of neural tube defects, birth defects of the brain and spine.

Since 2003, the March of Dimes’ fight to save babies has been strongly characterized by the Prematurity Campaign.  The rising incidence of premature birth has demanded action, and the March of Dimes has responded by initiating an intensive, multi-year campaign to raise awareness and find the causes of prematurity.

8. Toys for Tots

http://www.toysfortots.org/default.aspx

Toys for Tots: A Holiday for All

The holiday season brings to mind many cherished times, but the sight of children excitedly opening their presents may be one of the most heart-warming and memorable.  It’s devastating to think that there are many children who don’t know this joy.

The mission of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program is to collect new, unwrapped toys during October, November, and December each year, and distribute those toys as Christmas gifts to less fortunate children in the community in which the campaigns are conducted.  This toy serves as a message of hope that will assist recipients in becoming responsible, productive, and patriotic citizens.

Toys for Tots takes an active role in the development of one of our nation’s most valuable resources – our children.  The organization unites all members of local communities in a common cause for three months each year during the annual toy collection and distribution campaign.  However, Toys for Tots Campaign Coordinators conduct an array of activities throughout the year, which include golf tournaments, foot races, bicycle races, and other voluntary events designed to increase interest, concurrently generating toys and monetary donations.

9. Special Olympics

http://www.specialolympics.org/

Special Olympics: Supporting Everyone to go for the Gold

Special Olympics transforms lives through the joy of sport, every day, everywhere.  It is the world’s largest sports organization for people with intellectual disabilities, with more than 4.5 million athletes in 170 countries – and millions more volunteers and supporters.

Through the power of sports, the participants discover new strengths and abilities, skills, and success.  The athletes find joy, confidence, and fulfillment — on the playing field and in life.  They also inspire people in their communities and elsewhere to open their hearts to a wider world of human talents and potential.  The Special Olympics offers the highest quality Olympic-style sports training and competition for people with intellectual disabilities all around the world.  This changes attitudes, and changes lives.

Since 1968, Special Olympics has been spreading the message: people with intellectual disabilities can – and will – succeed when given the opportunity.  Sports can teach us all important lessons.  When we train and strive for a goal, it teaches us to dream.  When we struggle, it teaches us determination.  When we win, we find joy.  And if we lose, we can find the strength to try again.

The Special Olympics brings together a large and inclusive community of athletes, supporters, and families, coaches, volunteers, and many others.  The athletes are at the center of it all.  They become the heroes — to the shared joy of themselves, their families, and their communities.

10. Ronald McDonald House Charities

http://www.rmhc.org/

Susie Almaneih Ronald McDonald HouseRonald McDonald House Charities: A Most Important Home away from Home

Sometimes seeking out the best possible care for a sick child isn’t so close to home.

Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) knows better than anyone that children heal better when they’re surrounded by their families.  While RMHC may not be able to make the medicine taste better or erase the pain of a much-needed treatment, since 1974, its network of local chapters has been making children happier and healthier by keeping families together – giving them a place to rest and refresh, in a place that feels like home.  These programs, tailored to meet the urgent needs of each community, can now be found in more than 60 countries and regions across the globe.

The mission of Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) is to create, find, and support programs that directly improve the health and wellbeing of children.  This includes focusing on the critical needs of children, celebrating the diversity of the people and programs, valuing RMHC’s heritage, and operating with accountability and transparency.  As pioneers of providing family-centered care, RMHC strives to be part of the solution in improving the lives of children and their families, providing programs that strengthen families during difficult times.

In 2014, the three-year “RMHC Impact Strategy” was launched, with a goal to serve one million more children and their families per year. This strategy not only builds on the success from the last 40 years, but also allows the foundation to be stronger and more efficient than ever.

Philanthropic Philosophy

Susie Almaneih PhilanthropyPhilanthropy is more than an act of giving, it’s to encourage change. Whether personal or professional, philanthropic pursuits can be equally beneficial for the performer and the recipient. The field of philanthropy is dominated by professional companies looking to aid worthy causes, but how do you choose which to support? What is the best way to get the most out of your generous efforts?

When preparing to take on a philanthropic endeavor, it’s best to examine it from two different perspectives. First, examine what you’d like to do through a personal lense. Giving yourself to a cause is an intensely personal, and oftentimes emotionally taxing investiture of your time and money. Before dedicating yourself to such a task, don’t be afraid to ask yourself if it’s worth it. Not to devalue any philanthropic effort, but there is only so much time in our lives, and if you’re choosing to dedicate a portion of yourself to a cause, it’s necessary to fully support your subject.

The second perspective to examine is the external. While you are committing yourself to a charitable act, philanthropy does come with it’s share of benefits or returns. If a company pledges to dedicate a portion of proceeds to a charitable cause, it does so with the hope of calling attention to its brand. A mutually beneficial exercise in public relations, a chosen charitable group receives much needed aid, and a business entity receives positive attention from the public. By considering both perspectives, you can better utilize your philanthropic efforts, and assert change where it’s most necessary.

Whether for business or pleasure, when developing your philanthropic strategy, it’s best to engage others. If you’re preparing to launch a personal campaign, ask the family what they think, and be certain not to overlook conflicting opinions. In business, engage shareholders and employees. Utilize outreach programs and use your company as a platform to address community leaders. By opening yourself to opinion, you significantly increase the probability of garnering support from outside sources.

Focus your efforts rather than spread yourself thin. Many companies feel it’s best to use their massive wealth over a wide area, limiting the amount of funding any one charity is able to receive. If you’re looking to affect real change, focusing efforts into one area will better serve your dollar and their cause. Researching your intended charity is also necessary. Too often good causes are championed by those looking to profit off the pain of others. Large sums of your donation could be shunted to sources not of your choosing, and the only way to prevent that is exhaustive research into your intended recipient.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to dig deep. Too many charitable donations come posthumously, denying the generous benefactor the satisfaction of providing for those in need. Consult your financial advisor, whether professional or personal, and assess how much you can do to help. The act of giving is like working a muscle. At first, the concept seems strange and foreign, but with time you begin to feel the benefits of charitable work.

For more philanthropy ideas and the philosophy behind them – check out this article published by the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies.