Day 21…Wings For Our Troops…

On December 1, 2010, Cpl. Chad S. Wade was killed in action in Afghanistan.  He was 22 at the time.  Right before he deployed, he got to go home and spend 11 days with his parents…and after he died they were so grateful for that time they got to spend together.  His parents wanted to do something to honor their son after his death…and that’s when Wings For Our Troops was born.

Before a deployment, military personnel are given some time off to spend with their families.  Most are away from home during that time and if they want to go home to spend time with loved ones, they have to travel.  All their travel related expenses are personal, out-of-pocket expenses that are not covered by the military.  As I’m sure you can imagine, on the modest paycheck of a soldier, these trips are often impossible.  That’s where Wings For Our Troops comes in.  They will purchase plane tickets for Marines (and eventually all branches of the military) to have that precious time with their families before heading into combat.  No one should have to miss out on that time because of a lack of money.

If you are a Daisy & Elm fan, you are probably already familiar with Wings For Our Troops because of D&E’s R.E.D. Friday campaign.  If you’ve ever bought a R.E.D. Friday item, a portion of your proceeds is already helping to fund a plane ticket.  If you haven’t, consider making a donation in appreciation for all that our military does for us.  Even a small donation will make a big difference.  Or do you have any frequent flier miles you aren’t going to use?  You can donate those too.

Our troops make huge sacrifices for us every single day.  They shouldn’t have to sacrifice seeing their families before they go off to war.  And if you know someone in need of help paying for a plane ticket home, contact Tami.  She’s waiting to help.

Day 20…Feeding America…

Well…I knew the day would come that I would totally blow this thing and I wouldn’t get a post written.  Today was that day.  Between getting home late last night and being completely slammed at work today, I didn’t have any time to get anything written.  But I’m here now and late is better than never.

I had a lunch meeting today where I had to do most of the talking.  I felt uncomfortable eating while people were listening to me speak, so I didn’t eat lunch.  All the way home I was starving, but I knew once I got there I would find a fully stocked refrigerator and I would have plenty to choose from for dinner.  But over 50 million people are going home tonight to an empty fridge with no idea where their next meal is coming from.  One out of five children in this country live in households without access to nutritious and adequate amounts of food.

Feeding America is trying to change that.   As the nation’s leading hunger-relief charity, their food bank network members supply food to more than 37 million Americans each year…including 14 million children.  They work to ensure that no child ever goes hungry and that their member food banks are always well stocked to help those in need.  They also help to educate families and make sure that children and adults are getting proper nutrition.

I could sit here all night giving you statistics and facts about hunger, but I could never do as good a job as the Feeding America website.  So go take their quiz to see how much you actually know about the hunger problems in this country.  Or read the statistics about hunger and poverty.  The amount of people in this country that go without food on a regular basis is staggering.

No one should have to go to bed hungry at night or wonder about where their child’s next meal is coming from.

Go read the website…than check out their gift catalog.  Through the catalog, you can make a donation in the name of someone on your gift list while you are providing the gift of healthy, nutritious food to families in need.  If you came home to a full fridge and plenty of options for dinner like I did, please consider those who didn’t and make a donation.

And I promise…tomorrow I will do a better job of getting the post up early!

 

Day 19…Canine Assistants…

When I’m sick or I’m sad, my dogs know it.  They will come over to me and give me a million kisses and then curl up next to me and cuddle.  I don’t know how…but they know when I need them most and they know just how to make me feel better.  That’s the most amazing thing about dogs.

It’s also why I love today’s organization.  Canine Assistants trains and provides service dogs to enhance the lives of adults and children with physical disabilities, seizure conditions and other special needs.  They have an 18 acre farm in Georgia where they breed and train the dogs.  They place between 75 and 100 dogs each year and they cover the cost of the training, food and medical care for the life of the dogs.  Recipients of the service dogs don’t have to pay a dime, so no one will ever be turned away for the inability to pay.

There are a lot of benefits to having a service dog.  They can do things like turn lights on and off, pick up dropped objects and pull a wheelchair.  But the most important benefit is that they eliminate fear, isolation and loneliness in their companions.  Those social benefits are what help the most in giving people a richer, fuller life.

Since the organization was founded in 1991, they have placed over 1,000 dogs, but they still have over 2,000 people on their waiting list.  It costs $22,000 to care for each dog.  That’s an awful lot of money and Canine Assistants relies solely on private donations and sponsorships to fund their work.  But I guess you can’t put a price tag on the love these dogs provide.

I actually chose this organization today for a special reason.  I chose it in honor of my Uncle Frank, who passed away over the weekend.  Uncle Frank loved dogs more than anyone I know.  No matter where we were or what we were doing, he always asked about our dogs.  Even while he was in the hospital and feeling terrible, he asked after my mom’s dog and my girlies.  I think he liked dogs more than he liked most people!    Whenever he would see a dog, his face would light up.  Dogs just made him so happy.

That’s the kind of happiness service dogs provide to their owners.  I know if my uncle was here, he would agree with me that this organization is doing good and important work.  And he would agree that everyone should be able to have the love of a dog in their lives.  So please…join me today in honoring my Uncle Frank and make a donation to this great organization.  I think he’d be really happy about that.

And if you happen to see a dog today, think of my uncle and give the dog a little love.

Day 18…The Petfinder Foundation…

Puppies are awesome.  They are cute and fluffy and warm.  They cuddle up with you at night and they do funny things to make you laugh and they love you.  They more than love you…they flat out adore you and worship the ground you walk on.  They are always excited to see you and they are loyal and they are fantastic companions.  My two dogs are amazing and my life is better for having them in it.

When you are trying to think of a good present for your spouse or your kids for Christmas, a puppy might seem like a good idea.  After all, you think, they are awesome…and cute.  And wouldn’t it be great to see the kids faces on Christmas morning when they come downstairs and find a puppy wearing a big red bow waiting for them?  It would be priceless!

A lot of people think that way at Christmas, but what they don’t consider is…puppies are a LOT of work.  They wake up in the middle of the night…just like a baby does.  And they can’t walk up and down the stairs, so they have to be carried up and down.  You have to walk them 100 times a day and no matter how many times you walk them, they will pee on the carpet…and on your bed.  They will chew up your favorite shoes.  They will eat too fast and throw up on the couch.  They will step in their own poop and need a bath at least once a week.  And they will never grow up and learn to talk…so they will never be able to tell you where it hurts or what they are afraid of.  Also…they are completely unfamiliar with the concept of sleeping in on a weekend.  They might sleep the other 23 hours of the day…but from 7 AM to 8 AM on Saturday is play time.

These are just some of the things that people don’t consider when they buy a puppy for Christmas.  They also don’t do research on breeds so they probably don’t know that the adorable dalmatian they are picking will be next to impossible to housetrain.  Or that the fluffy Newfoundland puppy with the tiny body and super-cute giant paws is eventually going to grow into those paws and one day will be larger than the couch.  Or that a bored lab will chew holes in the drywall if they are left alone too long with nothing to do.  (Personally, I learned this one the hard way!)

So people don’t really think about it and consider what they are getting into.  They just go to the pet store and buy a dog and when the excitement wears off and they are left with all the work, it starts to seem like a really bad idea.  Or they don’t consider just how expensive it is to properly care for a dog and they decide that they just can’t afford it.  A lot of these poor animals end up in shelters that are already overcrowded.

If I could, I would take them all home to live with me.  Sadly, I can’t…but I can still help and so can you.  The Petfinder Foundation provides grants to their member shelters and rescue groups to help these organization provide food, shelter and veterinary care to homeless animals while they wait for adoption.  By giving almost $20 million in grants since 2003, they have helped to ensure that no pet is euthanized for lack of a permanent home.  And through their partnership with Petfinder.com, they feature hundreds of thousands of adoptable pets each year.

Please…if you are considering getting a dog for Christmas, think twice.  Make sure you research the breeds you are considering and make sure you fully understand the committment you are taking on.  If you do decide to get a dog (or a cat) think about skipping the pet store and instead going to Petfinder.com and rescuing an animal from a shelter.  And please, consider making even a small donation to help find homes for the huge number of animals just waiting for someone to love them.

Day 17…The Breast Cancer Site…

A few months ago, a friend of mine was diagnosed with breast cancer.  She didn’t go to the doctor thinking anything was wrong.  She hadn’t felt a lump or noticed anything unusual.  She just went in for a routine mammogram…and they found cancer.  Luckily, it seems they caught it early and she’s had surgery to remove the cancer.  After some chemo, she should be fine.  Thank God she went for her mammogram when she did.  Early detection likely saved her life.

Here are some statistics for you…

Each year 211,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer and 43,000 die.  Breast cancer is the leading killer of women ages 40-55.  Early detection expands treatment options and increases the likelihood of survival and a mammogram is the best known method of early detection.  Yet…over 13 million women over the age of 40 have never had a mammogram.  Some are too scared or don’t think it’s necessary, but many just can’t afford it.

That is where The Breast Cancer Site comes in.  The Breast Cancer Site was founded to help fund mammograms for women in need for whom early detection would not otherwise be possible.  And they have made it super easy to help.  All you have to do is go to their website and click the pink button.  That’s it.  It’s completely free to the site’s visitors and it takes 5 seconds.  What could be easier?

So where does the money come from?  Sponsors.  After you click the button, you will be taken to a page of sponsor advertising (don’t worry…you aren’t obligated to click through the ads) and the sponsors pay per click.  100% of the sponsor money goes to programs that provide free mammograms to low-income and homeless women.  To help provide even more mammograms, do a little shopping in the site’s store…a portion of every purchase will be donated to fund more mammograms.

Last year, visitors’ clicks funded 1,299 mammograms and purchases made at The Breast Cancer Site Store funded an additional 4,163.  That’s a lot of women getting help.  But, as I’m sure you know, health care costs rise every day and the cost of mammograms is no exception.  So The Breast Cancer Site needs your help now more than ever.

So stop by and click the pink button every day.  Then tell all your friends to do the same.  It’s so easy to help save someone’s life.  And while you are at it…don’t forget to schedule your own mammogram.  It just might save your life!

Day 16…Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center…

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center is the world’s oldest and largest private cancer center.  For more than a century, they have been dedicated to providing exceptional patient care and doing innovative research in all types of cancer.  They have made very significant contributions to new and better therapies for cancer treatment.  They truly make a difference in the lives of their patients and their research will make a difference to the lives of their future patients as well.

I started supporting Sloan-Kettering after my grandmother died.  She had cancer and by the time the doctors found it, the cancer had spread everywhere.  They tried treatment, but the treatment didn’t work and she passed away.  Recently, another friend of mine was diagnosed with cancer.  He’s going through treatment now…he has two left and he’s dreading them because they are debilitating.  Some days he wonders if the treatments are worse than the disease.  And yet another friend was diagnosed with breast cancer recently and her treatment plan changes daily.  It almost seems like the doctors are guessing as to what will be effective.

I think there’s got to be a better way.  There has got to be a better way to treat cancer patients once they are diagnosed.  And there’s got to be a way to prevent cancer before it starts.  That is why I support Sloan…because I believe that someday they will find the better way.

My grandmother won’t dance at my wedding and she won’t see my children and I miss her every single day.  My hope is that Sloan will find the better way and when they do, no one else will have to lose their grandmother the way I did.

Go to the website to find out how you can help by making a donation or volunteering your time.

Day 14…Help A Mother Out…

It never occurred to me that there are babies in this country that go without clean diapers for extended periods of time.  I guess because we are lucky and we have a linen closet filled with all the things we need, we tend to take basic necessities like that for granted.  But the reality is that there are a growing number of families out there who do not have access to a reliable supply of clean diapers.  In fact, 1 in 3 families struggle to provide clean diapers to their kids.

Diapers are expensive.  They can run between $75 and $100 per month…and for a lot of people in this economy, that money is just not available.  And as Eminem once told me…food stamps and other types of assistance don’t cover the cost of diapers.  When a family can’t provide clean diapers, babies are forced to spend a longer time in soiled diapers.  Sometimes it’s so bad that soiled diapers have to be reused.  Babies without clean diapers are subject to diaper rash, urinary tract infections…even hepatitis A and bacterial meningitis.  And without a supply of clean diapers, kids can’t attend day care or early childhood education programs either…which causes more problems for parents who need to work.

Help A Mother Out

Luckily, there is Help A Mother Out, an organization that raises diapers and awareness and is dedicated to increasing access to diapers for families in need.  Since the organization was founded in 2009, they have collected and distributed over 1,000,000 diapers.  But they need your help to keep providing this very necessary service.

Click over to HAMO’s website and find out how you can help.  Just $10 provides a pack of diapers to a baby.  $20 provides a week’s worth of diapers.  You can also volunteer for one of the many positions available, start a fundraising campaign or run a diaper drive of your own.  If you are thinking even bigger, you can find out how to start a diaper bank in your own area.  Anything you can do will make a big difference in the life of a baby who doesn’t have clean diapers.

Day 13…Make-A-Wish Foundation…

Please forgive this half-assed post I’m about to write.  I was up until a thousand o’clock last night cleaning the house, organizing the Christmas presents that had taken over my dining room, trying to finish decorating…and watching the 12.12.12 concert, which was great, but seemed to go on forever.  I really hate not giving every charity the time and effort they all deserve…but a half-assed post is better than none at all!  So here goes…

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The very first charity I ever donated money to was the Make-A-Wish Foundation.  It was the December after I’d graduated college and started working full-time and writing that check made me feel very grown up.  I don’t remember when I first heard about the foundation or the amazing work they did, but I remember hearing news stories about them over the years.  They would grant a wish in spectacular style and it would make the news and I would think about how wonderful it was for the kids and their families to get such an opportunity.

Now that I am older, I’ve known some people with terminally ill children who have had their wishes granted and there is just no way for me to explain what these wishes mean to the kids and the families.  Having a sick child takes a major toll on the entire family and these wishes often give the family time together to just be a family and that time is priceless.

Since Make-A-Wish started in 1980, they have granted over 229,000 wishes.  That works out to one wish every 38 minutes…and a lot of very happy children.  And none of the families ever had to pay a dime for their wishes.  The foundation takes care of all the associated expenses…which average about $7,500 per wish.

There are so many ways to help.  You can make a financial contribution or you can contribute things like gift cards and shopping sprees, computer equipment, building supplies, limo rides and all kinds of other needed items.  (Click here to find out what is needed in your area.)  You can shop in the gift store and a portion of your purchase will be donated to wish granting activities.  You can give your extra frequent flier miles to help cover travel expenses.  You can donate your time and talents because the foundation always needs help.  You can even “adopt” a wish and underwrite the full cost of a wish.

Go to the website and check out the story of how the foundation began.  Read about some of the wishes that have been granted.  Find your local chapter and see what kind of wishes they are currently granting.  And read about all the different ways you can get involved.

Someday I would love to be a wish granter.  I would love to take all of my contacts and all of my experience and put it to use making a child’s dreams come true.  Someday I will be able to do that.  Until then, Make-A-Wish is still the first charity I donate to each year.  I hope you will consider doing the same.

Day 12…The Robin Hood Relief Fund…

I’ve talked about Hurricane Sandy a lot since it happened and when I decided to do this month of giving, I knew that Sandy relief had to be included on the list.  I just wasn’t really sure which organization I wanted to choose.  I wanted to make sure that any money donated would go to directly help the people who needed it most.  When I heard that Robin Hood had started a Sandy relief fund my choice became easy.

Robin Hood is a fantastic organization that was started by a hedge fund manager in 1988 with the goal of fighting poverty in New York City.  Through the use of grants, they fund about 200 of the most effective poverty fighting and relief programs in the city.  Since they were founded, they have handed out over $1.1 billion dollars in grant money.  Here’s the really great part…the board of directors funds all administrative and fund-raising efforts…and 100% of all other donations go directly to helping New Yorkers in need. (Check out the financials here.)  They also work with their partner programs to make them more efficient…which means your donated dollars will ultimately go farther.  It is truly a great organization.

After Hurricane Sandy, Robin Hood launched a large-scale relief effort.  Within hours, their partner organizations were bringing in generators, heaters, blankets, food and other supplies to the areas hardest hit by the storm.  Robin Hood provided over $14 million in grants to help solve the immediate needs of the storm victims.  They’ve helped a lot of people, but the need for continued, long-term help is still there…especially with housing and legal assistance to people fighting their insurance companies.

Tonight, Robin Hood is hosting The 12.12.12 Concert…a benefit concert with performances by Paul McCartney and Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel and The Rolling Stones among others.  The proceeds from every ticket sold will go directly to the relief fund.  The concert will also be available online and on TV…so even if you can’t be there, you can still enjoy the show.  And while you are enjoying the show…think of the people who are facing Christmas in a shelter, whose possessions have been destroyed, who have lost everything…and consider making a donation to help in their recovery.

If you’d like to see your dollars in action, visit the Robin Hood website to which programs they are funding.

I thank you on behalf of everyone I know who was affected by Sandy and everyone I know who will benefit from the work of the Robin Hood Relief Fund.

Oh…and enjoy the concert!

Day 11…Toys for Tots…

My mom has this picture of my brother from Christmas morning when he was five or six.  He was coming around the corner into the living room and seeing all the presents under the tree for the first time.  He still believed in Santa then and the look on his face is one of innocent surprise that Santa really came and pure, unadulterated joy.  I love that picture because I think it really captures the magic of Christmas.  My brother was just so happy that morning.  And I don’t have kids yet, but I imagine that seeing my brother’s face light up like that made my parents just as happy.

We were very lucky growing up.  There were some years that were tough for my parents…but no matter what their situation, they did Christmas big and we got to experience that magic over and over again.  I’m not sure how they pulled it off…but they did it every single year.

Unfortunately, there are some parents that just can’t.  The economy is bad…people are out of work…they are losing their houses.  Some parents need to focus all their energy on just putting food on the table and heating the house and paying the rent.  Christmas is just not on the list of priorities.  Some parents are sick or their children are sick and they spend every dime and ounce of energy they have on that situation…and again, Christmas falls down the list.  It’s not anyone’s fault.  Sometimes that’s just the way it is.

But every kid deserves that moment…that one moment where everything is magical and special and happy.  And every parent deserves to see their kid happy on Christmas.  Life is hard…but on Christmas, life should just be good.

And that is where Toys for Tots comes in.  Toys for Tots began in 1947 and I’m sure everyone has seen the collection bins around Christmas time every year.  For anyone who doesn’t know, Toys for Tots collects new, unwrapped toys and then sorts, wraps and distributes them to needy children.  Their objective is to help those children experience the joy and magic of Christmas…and to deliver a message of hope to the families.  In 1947, 5,000 toys were distributed.  In 2011, over 16,000,000 toys were given to over 7,000,000 children.  Yup…7,000,000 children and their families had a brighter happier Christmas thanks to Toys for Tots.

That is amazing.

But it’s not enough.  It won’t be enough until every single child gets to experience the magic.  So Toys for Tots needs your help.  Go out today, buy a toy and drop it off to one of the Toys for Tots collection centers in your area.  That’s it…it’s that simple.  You don’t have to spend a lot of money either…because sometimes an inexpensive doll or truck or stuffed animal is even better than a wii or an iPhone.

If you don’t have time to shop, go to the Toys for Tots website and make a monetary donation.  That money will help in getting toys wrapped and distributed and it will help Toys for Tots shop for the supplementary gifts that they don’t get many of…like things for older kids and teenagers.  After all…teenagers deserve Christmas magic too.

Toys for Tots is a US program…but there is a similar program in Canada called Santas Anonymous that is just as awesome.  Drop by Robyn’s blog and read about what they did for her mom years ago and why she always makes it a point to shop for toys at Christmas.

There is plenty of time for kids to learn about the hard and unfair things in life.  Let’s help to give them a little magic this Christmas season.