Day 31…The Trevor Project…

Wow…31 days.  I wasn’t sure I was going to make it and this past week, with work and the holidays, it’s been very difficult to get a post written every day.  But I did it.  I got them all done and I hope that we managed to make a difference to some of these great charities.

It took me a long time to decide what charity to end with.  Since it is the last one, I imagine it will stick with people, so I wanted to make sure that it was a really good one.  I think I found the right one with The Trevor Project.

I consider myself to be very lucky.  I have a family that is open-minded.  I have friends that are not judgemental.  And I live in a place that is very liberal and accepting of everyone.  Sometimes I forget that it’s not like that for everyone.  Sometimes I don’t realize just how much hate and intolerance is out there…but it is out there and sometimes the target of that hate is a kid.  Or a teenager.

Gay, lesbian and bisexual kids have to deal with the same issues the rest of us have to deal with as kids…but sometimes they also have to deal with hate and intolerance.  That intolerance can be in school or in their communities or even in their own houses.  Often, these kids have no where to turn.  They become overwhelmed and they think their only way out is suicide.  But because of The Trevor Project, there is a place for them to turn.

The Trevor Project was founded in 1998 by James Lecesne, Peggy Rajski and Randy Stone, the creators of the Academy Award®-winning short film TREVOR. TREVOR is the story of a 13-year-old boy who has a crush on the most popular boy in his school.  When his classmates discover his feelings, they tease him and mock him.  Eventually, Trevor can’t take it anymore and tries to kill himself.  He is unsuccessful and by the end of the movie he develops a sense of who he is and an enthusiasm for life.

When the movie was scheduled to air on HBO, the filmmakers wanted to broadcast a lifeline phone number with it so that young viewers who might be having the same experience as Trevor would have somewhere to turn.  But they couldn’t find one.  No such organization or number existed.  So on August 8, 1998 James Lecesne, Peggy Rajski and Randy Stone opened the Trevor Lifeline. Since that time, The Trevor Project has become a national leader providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ youth.

Since then, The Trevor Project has expanded.  It now offers things like TrevorChat, which is suicide counseling through instant messages.  They also run a service called TrevorSpace, which is the largest social network specifically for young LGBTQ people.  The now have over 800 volunteers and counselors and they have handled over 200,000 phone calls since their inception.  Their vision is for a future where the possibilities, opportunities and dreams are the same for all youth, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.  Hopefully, someday we will be there.

Please consider helping this fantastic organization by making a donation or finding out how to become a volunteer.  They are doing good and important work.  Let’s help them keep it going.

I want to thank everyone who has helped me with this project.  Thank you so much for every dollar you donated, for every encouraging comment you sent, for every re-tweet and Facebook share.  I wouldn’t have been able to do this without your support!

Happy New Year everyone!

Day 30…WUFPAC…

Today I’m going talk about politics.  I don’t do that often here, but I think this is really important, so I’ve made an exception to my “no politics” rule.

Earlier today, J and I were watching Fox News (I know! It was under protest on my part) and they were talking about the fiscal cliff.  The fiscal cliff makes me crazy…because I don’t understand how Congress and the president have let this come down to the last minute…again.  They still haven’t learned to work together or compromise…they just get on TV and finger point and name call and refuse to take any responsibility for anything.  They are worse than six-year-olds.

There are a lot of problems with our political system…far too many for me to list here.  But, in my opinion, one of those problems is the underrepresentation of women.  Now, I don’t think that electing more women to office is going to magically fix the country…but women under 40 are nearly absent from elected office.  These women are working professionals, mothers and caretakers.  They can offer a different perspective that is important to the political conversation.

Luckily, there is an organization that promotes women in office.  The Women Under Forty Political Action Committee or WUFPAC was created to help elect young women to office so they get an equal voice in shaping public policy and also to help those women build seniority.  WUFPAC is also bipartisan and they support women of varying political backgrounds.

Consider making a donation to support more women in elected office.  And if you are feeling really ambitious, find out how you can get WUFPAC to support your run for office.

 

**Note that this is a political action committee and donations to this organization are not tax-deductible.

Day 29…The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence…

Since the Sandy Hook shooting there have been a lot of conversations about gun control and how to get gun violence in this country under control.  People have been calling for less guns while others are calling for more guns.  I personally don’t know what the right answer is, but I know that we have to do something to control the violence.

That is why I support The Brady Center.  They aren’t against guns in general, but they work to reform the gun industry by enacting and enforcing sensible regulations to reduce gun violence.  They also work to educate the public about gun violence and gun safety.  My hope is that someday this country will be free from gun violence and that is also the goal of The Brady Center…to create a country where we are all safe at home, at school, at work and in our communities.

Visit The Brady Center’s website to learn more about guns in this country and what you can do to help reduce the violence.

Day 28…Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep…

I’m always inspired by stories of people taking the very worst situations and turning them into something good.  That is the case with today’s organization.

In 2005, Cheryl Haggard gave birth to her son Maddux, who had a condition called myotubular myopathy.  He wasn’t able to breathe, swallow or move on his own and after six days, Cheryl and her husband made the impossible decision to take him off life support.  Before he was taken off the machines that sustained his life, the Haggards called in photographer Sandy Puc to take some photos.  Sandy took photos of the couple with their son while he was on life support and after he had all the tubes and wires removed.

The Haggards cherished those photos as a reminder, not of their tragic loss, but of the time they got to spend with their beautiful son.  That is when Cheryl and Sandy decided to establish a non-profit organization that could provide the same service to other families dealing with infant loss.  They called their organization Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep, after the children’s bedtime prayer.

This cause hits me particularly close to home because my best friend suffered the loss of her first son when she went into labor prematurely.  She went through hours of labor and delivery and only got to spend precious little time with him.  I didn’t know her then and I didn’t go through that experience with her, but we have talked about it a lot and not a day goes by that I don’t think of her son.  He is a part of her family even though he’s not here with us now and I’m so sad that I will never get to know him.

My friend has no pictures of her son.  She didn’t want them and I can understand that.  But I can also understand people who do want them.  I can understand how seeing those pictures could help you heal from a loss so horrible that I can’t even imagine it.  And that is why I think NILMDTS is so great.

All the photography services are provided to the families free of charge.  Your donation to this organization allows them to continue to provide this invaluable service to people who might not be able to afford it otherwise.  It also helps them get information about their services to hospitals and medical staff who can then pass it along to families in need.  Please consider making a donation today to help continue this great work.  And if you are a photographer and are willing to donate our time to this excellent cause, please visit the website to find out how you can help.

I wish no family ever needed this service, but I think it’s wonderful that it is there for those who do.

 

 

 

Day 27…Stand For The Silent…

Bullying was something that happened when I was in school.  I went to a small, private school and we were very clique-ish…and sometimes, we were very mean to each other.  We talked shit behind each others’ backs and we called each other names and we spread rumors and gossip like crazy.  We were typical mean girls.  We didn’t call it bullying then, but that’s exactly what it was.  And while I’d like to say that I stayed out of it and I was only a victim…that’s simply not true.  I got bullied, sure, but I bullied other girls, too.  It’s not something I’m proud of and I only hope that I never truly hurt anyone else with my nasty words.

Clearly, bullying is not new…but it certainly has changed.  We didn’t have the internet and Facebook and Twitter didn’t exist.  Sure…we spread rumors like it was our job, but our worlds were relatively small and even the most vicious piece of gossip reached only a handful of people.  But now…with the push of a button, information can be shared with thousands of people.  Everyone that reads it can share it again and again.  Things can go viral and then the whole world hears about it.  As an adult, the thought of that is overwhelming.  I can’t even imagine how overwhelming it would be to a teenager.

I think it’s good that people are becoming more aware of what a huge problem bullying is, but I don’t think enough is being done to prevent it.  Most schools don’t have room in the budget for anti-bullying campaigns and many administrators are already overwhelmed with other problems in their schools.  And that is why Stand For The Silent exists.

Ty Smalley was just 11 years old when he died.  He’d been bullied in school for two years and one day he’d had enough.  He retaliated against his bully and he was suspended from school for his actions.  He was so distraught that he went home and killed himself.  And Ty is just one of the many kids who have killed themselves because they were being bullied.  Ty’s parents decided to make his tragic death mean something and they, along with students from Oklahoma State  University – Oklahoma City Upward Bound Chapter, started Stand For The Silent.  The Smalleys now travel around the country, telling their story to students and demonstrating for these kids the real…and sometimes deadly…consequences of bullying.  Their hope is that they can teach bullies that what they are doing causes real harm, teach kids to stand up for those who are being bullied and teach the victims of bullying that they do matter…that they are somebody.

As you can imagine, all that traveling can be expensive and most schools can’t afford to pay for the presentation.  But it’s such an important message to get out.  So visit their website today.  Make a one time donation or become a Stand For The Silent partner with a monthly donation.  Or buy some of the things from their store and help spread their message every time you wear it.

If you are being bullied, there is help.  Click here to reach out to someone who can help you.  And remember…you are somebody.  Don’t ever let a bully tell you otherwise.

Day 26…Give An Hour…

The Sandy Hook shooting brought up many conversations about gun control, but it also got people talking about mental health care…or that lack of it…in this country.  I’m not sure that people realize just how bad it is and my hope is that people finally take a serious look at the state of mental health care and start to do something to improve it.

That is why I love Give An Hour.  They are working to develop a national network of mental health professions who volunteer an hour (or more) of their time to offer counseling services to those in need.  Currently, they are dedicating their resources to assisting members of the military and their families. They offer treatment for anxiety, depression, substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injuries, sexual health and intimacy concerns, and loss and grieving.  For members of the military, many of whom have been deployed to a war zone more than once, these services are very necessary.  And because the organization is entirely separate from the military, those seeking treatment need not worry about the stigma that can be associated with mental health issues.

The other great thing about Give An Hour is that they offer those who receive help an opportunity to give back to their communities.  Through their network, they can match recipients with other organizations in their communities that need help and the recipients can then donate their time back to these organizations…kind of like paying it forward.  It allows those who do not like to accept charity the opportunity to “pay” for the services they receive, again making them more likely to see treatment.

It’s a really great organization and with our help, maybe they can someday expand their services to everyone who needs it.  If you are a mental health provider with time to donate, please click here to find out how to get involved.  If you are a member of the military who needs counseling services, click here to find out how to get started.  And if you have a few dollars to spare, click here to make a donation.

We have to address the mental health care in this country and this organization is off to a great start.

Day 25…Project Linus…

Normally, Christmas for me is a marathon of shopping and spending money.  The month between Thanksgiving and Christmas ends up being a huge blur and before I know it, Christmas is over and I haven’t actually gotten to enjoy anything.  I was determined to make it different this year.

Instead of racing through the malls, buying things none of us need, my mom and I decided to set a spending limit.  We only spent $50 on each person…which forced us to really think and buy things that were actually meaningful.  For J, instead of buying him some stupid tool that will sit in the garage collecting dust, I got him a bunch of smaller presents that can actually be used and enjoyed.  And while I was out shopping, I took my time and I sang along to Christmas carols and I made sure to wish each person who helped me a Merry Christmas.  I even had a good time grocery shopping…although I did give one woman the finger in the parking lot of Stew Leonard’s.  Hey…no one is perfect all the time.  (Also…she was nasty and she totally deserved it!)

Our Christmas Eve was perfect.  I actually got to sit down and eat, as opposed to scarfing down food while trying to prepare the next course.  We had fun sitting together in the living room, opening presents and listening to Christmas carols.  We enjoyed the yule log on TV while we ate dinner.  We overindulged in dessert.  And we even got a little snow to give us a bit of a magical white Christmas.  It was fantastic…and I’m looking forward to another great day today.

So when it came time to pick a charity for today, I knew I didn’t want to just write a check.  I wanted to actually do something meaningful.  So I chose Project Linus.

Project Linus provides new, handmade blankets and afghans to children who are seriously ill, traumatized or otherwise in need.  A few weeks ago, they committed to sending 750 blankets to Sandy Hook.  It’s a really great organization and they make donating blankets super easy.  They have tons of patterns on their site, so whether you knit, crochet, quilt or you have no crafting skills whatsoever, you can find a project and make a blanket.

I crochet, but in the interest of time, I’ve decided to make some no-sew fleece blankets.  I went to the craft store and bought pre-measured fleece panels.  Now I just have to follow the super simple instructions and put them together.  And on Friday, I’m meeting the president of my local chapter to give her seven new blankets for kids who need them.

The other thing I love about Project Linus is that every single person who works for the organization is a volunteer working out of their home.  That’s true dedication.

So please consider making a blanket and donating it to this great cause.  And I hope you all have an amazing, magical and very merry Christmas.

Day 24…Team Rubicon…

Merry Christmas Eve!  When I started this project, I thought a lot about which organizations to feature when.  Obviously, thing like Toys for Tots had to be early in the month so they could meet their donation deadlines.  But I wasn’t sure what to talk about on significant days, like today.  I wanted to make sure it was an organization that was doing incredible work…but I also wanted it to be one that people might not have heard of before.  I think I found that with Team Rubicon.

I had never heard of Team Rubicon until Hurricane Sandy.  They were the first ones to show up in The Rockaways after the rain stopped and they were the first ones to start helping the people there who had lost everything.  So I looked them up to find out what they do.  As it turns out…they do an awful lot.

Team Rubicon’s slogan is “Bridge The Gap”…their mission is to provide disaster relief from the moment the disaster happens until the conventional aid organizations (like The Red Cross) take over.  They provide necessary services like  search and rescue, medical care , debris removal, command and control support with other agencies, logistical assistance, home repair and other tasks as needed.

But they do more than just disaster relief.  The majority of their volunteers are US military veterans…many of whom are returning home from war.  At a time when veterans can feel out of place and have trouble getting back to their normal lives, Team Rubicon gives them a mission, a renewed sense of purpose and a place to use the skills they gained while at war.  It really is such a great organization.

Go to their website and read all about them and their missions, both domestic and international.  Then stop by their donation page and help them to continue to do their fantastic work.  Check out their wish list and purchase some of their desperately needed equipment.  Or get involved and become a fundraiser for the organization.  Even if you just share this link and spread the work, you will be helping out so much.

And while you are celebrating tonight with your families, take a moment and give thanks once again for the amazing men and women of our miliary, whose service doesn’t stop when they retire.

Day 23…Project Smile…

A few years ago, Project Smile founder Catherine Pisacane read an article about three brothers in NJ who had been starved by their adoptive parents.  When the police were taking the kids out of the house, an officer handed one of the boys a stuffed animal he happened to have in his cruiser.  The boy hugged the toy tightly throughout the day and refused to let it go.  That story gave Catherine an idea.  What if every police officer, firefighter and paramedic had something they could give to a hurting child to help that child feel a little less scared?  And Project Smile was born.

Project Smile also recently expanded their program to include Operation Elder Care…which provides stuffed animals to elderly people making the transition to living in a nursing home.  They currently operate in Massachusetts, but hope to eventually take their mission nationwide.  With our help, they can.

Go to the Project Smile website now and make a donation.  You can choose what you’d like to donate from their catalog.  For as little as $1.99, you can give a stuffed animal to a police officer to make a traumatic event a little less scary for a child.  It’s a really great organization doing really wonderful work.  Please consider making a donation today.

Day 22…Snowflakes for Sandy Hook…

Today is my birthday and my birthday wish is that everyone who reads this post today participates in today’s project.  So I chose something super easy today that you can do for the cost of a stamp, an envelope and a few sheets of paper.

After Christmas, the kids from Sandy Hook Elementary are going back to school in a new building.  Volunteers and school employees have been going to great lengths to make sure that everything is as normal as possible for the kids to help ease their transition.  They even went so far as to take pictures of the old classrooms so they could be sure they were putting things exactly right into the new rooms.  They are working so hard that when they made a request of the public, there was no way I could ever say no.

The Sandy Hook PTA would like to create a winter wonderland for the kids to come back to.  They want to decorate the entire school with paper snowflakes and they need help from us.  They are asking that everyone make a few paper snowflakes and send them to the school.  Paper snowflakes are a piece of cake.  I made these in about 15 minutes…

 

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This is something so simple, but it can have such a huge impact.  If everyone makes just one snowflake, the kids are going to be able to walk into a huge outpouring of love and support.  They will know that everyone in the country is thinking of them and maybe that will make them feel a little safer.

So grab some paper and a pair of scissors and get to work.  Send your finished flakes to:

Connecticut PTSA
60 Connolly Parkway
Building 12, Suite 103
Hamden, Ct. 06514

The school needs them before January 12th…so get to work!  Let’s all pitch in to give Sandy Hook a great present.