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Monthly Archives: November 2010

Kids Are Heroes

Sometimes I hear stories about today’s youth that make me wonder how the world will survive when that generation grows up.  But more often lately I have been hearing stories that make me realize that those are just bad eggs and the majority of youth today are good.  What is even better is that many kids today have a great heart and a giving spirit!  For example, remember our recent profile of Nicole who started Neighbors-4-Neighbors to collect food for food pantries across the country?  Or  Simone who started St Louis Volunteen to share and promote volunteer opportunities for young people?  Or Maria who started the Read Indeed book drive to collect a million books for kids in need?     

One organization working to showcase kids who do amazing things for other people is Kids Are Heroes.  This organization promotes the act of giving back to our youth.  The heroes profiled on the organization’s website serve as an inspiration to other kids to make a difference, not by telling them what to do, but by helping them find their passion and supporting them along the way. 

According to a post that co-founder Gabe O’Neill wrote on his blog about the beginning of Kids Are Heroes, “The concept is that parents lead their children to the site and the kids form their own ideas on how they can get involved.  Once they see what other kids are doing and how easy it is, they also become inspired to help.  Case in point: one of our neighbors (his name is John and he is 8 years old) who saw the site told his mom that he wants to do something too.  He is a real animal lover but he inherently knew that lots of people are already helping animals.  There aren’t many kids helping families with premature babies (John was premature himself).  So that is his cause – he has started an aluminum can drive to buy gift bags for families at hospitals who have ‘preemies’.  He is going to solicit Boyd’s Bears for clothing and ask people to knit little hats.  This is exactly what the website was designed to do.”

Since the website began in 2008, they have profiled over 150 children from four different countries!  Some of the projects include collecting items, such as cell phones, food, or blankets; campaigns to stop using plastic bags; garage sale fundraisers; and many more!  In addition to the profiles, the organization also hosts an annual Kids Are Heroes Day.  To read about Kids Are Heroes Day 2010, check out this post on O’Neill’s blog.

You can help Kids Are Heroes by sharing their website with others – especially those who work with children or have children.  You can also support the causes of the heroes profiled on their site or nominate a hero yourself!

You can find the Kids Are Heroes website at www.kidsareheroes.org.  You can also follow them on Twitter, Facebook or You Tube

Watch for more of the Kids Are Heroes kids to be profiled on the Blogunteer in the future!

 
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Posted by on November 30, 2010 in Nonprofit Organization, Volunteer Profile

 

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Hats for Happiness

In 2005, my mom was diagnosed with cancer.  She went through surgery and then moved on to chemotherapy treatments.  She knew she would probably lose her hair so she ordered a wig.  I never saw her wear the wig…instead she opted to wear scarves instead because she felt that the wig wasn’t really her.  My mom is now cancer free, but my passion about raising money for cancer research and organizations that help people going through treatment hasn’t ended.

I recently stumbled across an organization called Hats for Happiness.  A woman who goes by the name “Cancer Girl” started Hats for Happiness with the mission to provide “Cancer Super Heroes” going through chemotherapy with Hats and other head coverings.  Cancer Girl describes an additional mission of the organization as “being a community where volunteers and Cancer Super Heroes who have fought and who are still fighting can come together.”

Cancer Girl describes the beginning of this organization as an accident.  “I got cancer and began a blog “The Adventures of CancerGIrl and SuperDog’ at http://itscancergirl.blogspot.com.  The blog is an account of my experience with having cancer, being a college student, going to school during treatment, and trying to run a household.” 

During that time she lost her hair due to chemotherapy treatments.  About 1 ½ hours from her home, they have what are called “wig parties” once a month.  However, she lost her hair soon after beginning chemo and it just so happened that it was weeks before the next wig party.  Many people gave her hats and she heard from others that they had “about 5 or 6 hats around some place” with an offer to give them to her.  It occurred to her that if the handful of people she knew with several hats each, there must be a lot more people who have hats that they have never worn.

Cancer Girl continues, “I further began to think about how much more convenient it would be if the Oncologist office had a display that had a number of hats on it that people who have lost their hair can choose a hat from the display when they go to their oncologist, which is someplace that Cancer Super Heroes go on a regular basis.”

The name Hats for Happiness came from Cancer Girl’s tradition of watching stand-up comedy, sitcoms, and funny movies during her chemo treatments.  While the shows didn’t take away the side effects of the medications, “they did make me laugh for a few minutes and I would feel a little bit better.”  She took on a “fake it till you make it” mentality and found that it worked, that she truly was happy.  She also spoke to other cancer patients through being “Cancer Girl” she was able to spread the positivity of being happy.

How can you help Cancer Girl and Hats for Happiness?

  • Individuals or groups can help by collecting hats and sending them to any of the addresses listed on the organization’s website
  • Financial donations are also accepted to cover the cost of shipping hats to those who request them.  You can send a check to Hats for Happiness, P.O. Box 144 Morriston FL 32668 or make a donation through PayPal using the link on the website.
  • The organization is also planning a number of fundraisers and hat drives across the nation. 
  • If you work in the Oncology field, you can help by hosting a distribution display in your office.  The office would not have to be responsible for anything but allowing the organization to have a small area in the waiting room for a display where patients can choose a hat or leave hats for donation.
  • Business owners can also help by hosting a Donation Box.  A volunteer go and collect the hats and any checks that are left and replenish the supply of available hats.  Their displays are colorful and brighten up any office or business!
  • Groups could also hold a hat drive and fundraisers to benefit Hats for Happiness.  Some suggestions include community yard sales, bake sales, bike rides where there is a fee for riding in the ride that is waived with the donation of a hat. 

In addition to providing hats, Cancer Girl spends much of her time speaking with Cancer Patients, Caregivers, and parents of children with Cancer.   The organization’s mission is much more than hats, it is about the community, the sharing, and the friendship that is fostered through bringing together Cancer Patients with those who care about and for them.  This also gives Cancer Super Heroes who have won their battle a way to continue to feel like they are involved with the community.  Cancer Girl describes that “many times after treatment people have so much support during that once they are in remission that support tends to wane.  It isn’t an intentional thing on the part of family and friends, they may feel like the battle is won, and they want to move on, for the person who has just gone through treatment though, it is sometimes very hard to ‘get on with things’ when they have spent so much of their time focused on Cancer during treatment, it is hard to transition back into life.  By providing a community of people who have been at all the stages of treatment, and life after, it helps people going through this horrible illness feel like they aren’t alone.”

Hats for Happiness recently began a program where cancer patients can sign up to be put on a list of  “Cancer Super Heroes” and other volunteers are signing up to be “Super Cheerleaders”.  The cheerleaders can post words of encouragement on the hero’s Facebook wall or connect through email.

Cancer Girl describes her personal experience with cheerleader type support: “One of the greatest motivations and sources of strength for me was to have others posting on my wall, many times people I did not know well or personally, just people who cared in general, who wrote things like ‘You can do this’ and ‘We know you are a strong and you can beat this’, people who are happy with them when they want to be happy and who can also be there for them when the not so good times come.  Through this lifelong friendships are formed, and everyone benefits, after all, who couldn’t use a few more Friends and people caring about them?”

You can learn more about Hats for Happiness at their website, www.HatsForHappiness.org, via e-mail, on Facebook or Twitter.  You can also follow Cancer Girl’s Blog at http://itscancergirl.blogspot.com.

 
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Posted by on November 23, 2010 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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Neighbors-4-Neighbors

Quite frequently someone sees or reads something that triggers their desire to help.  Less frequently, that person decides to start an organization to meet a need because of that desire to help.  Neighbors-4-Neighbors is an example of one of those organizations.

Neighbors-4-Neighbors is a project started by a 16 year old Virginian high school junior named Nicole.  She read in her local paper that donations to the food bank in her town were down due to the poor economy while simultaneously the need for food bank services was increasing.  Nicole began simply by one act of kindness, deciding to collect food donations from her sub-division of 12.  When she delivered her 220 pounds of food to the local food bank, she was told the donation would help feed 178 hungry neighbors.  She could have said that she did her good deed and stopped there, but she didn’t. 

Instead, she set a goal of a ton of collected food in the name of a new organization named Neighbors-4-Neighbors.  By the end of 2009 (just four months after starting), she had secured more than 5 tons (10,000 pounds) of food,  including donations from as far away as Hawaii and from the Governor of Alaska’s office.  By the end of 2010 she set a goal to have involvement from all 50 states – and has already met that goal. 

When asked about her most memorable volunteer experience, Nicole describes, “while dropping off collected donations, someone at the food bank who was utilizing their services said, with tears in her eyes, God Bless You.”   Nicole also enjoys how she has inspired a now 8 year old who last year at 7 read her an article about Nicole’s project and decided that she HAD to help.  Nicole’s youngest volunteer, Ryleigh, now 8, has collected over a ton of food as part of Neighbors-4-Neighbors between her two food drives.

Nicole also serves as one of only four student leaders who will be running a national food drive campaign in schools across the United States in March 2011 as part of Schools Serve, an organization based out of Massachusetts.  (Schools Serve was also recently profiled by The Blogunteer).

Individuals, groups, businesses, offices, schools, or anyone can organize a food drive as part of Neighbors-4-Neighbors.  Nicole has a template for fliers that can be sent to people who might want to do an office or a neighborhood food drive.  She also has notices that can be included in food donations to alert the food bank that donations are being provided as part of her national initiative.  People, then, email her the amount of donations they have made so that she can register it on a national tally that she meticulously maintains to verify all donations made as part of Neighbors-4-Neighbors.

Update: As of October 2012, people have donated more than 372,000 pounds of food as part of Neighbors-4-Neighbors.  Nicole has set a goal of collecting a 1/2 million pounds of food by the end of 2012.  Each October she runs a nation-wide food drive and in March she continues to work with Schools Fight Hunger for school food drives.  In November of 2011, Nicole was honored by Glamour magazine as one of their Amazing Young Women

You can follow Neighbors-4-Neighbors on Facebook or contact Nicole via e-mail

The mission of The Blogunteer is to inspire volunteerism, Nicole has a very inspiring quote in a recent newspaper article, “There is no better feeling than to go to bed knowing that an action and a simple one at that has made life better for someone else.  Everyone should try volunteering.  You won’t be able to stop.”  Nicole shows people across our country the difference that a single individual can make by simply taking action and instead of closing eyes to a social problem, becoming part of the solution to it.

 
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Posted by on November 18, 2010 in Nonprofit Organization, Volunteer Profile

 

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Project Night Night

As a mom to two young children, I have a hard time imagining what it might be like if I couldn’t put a roof over their head and a warm bed to for them to sleep in.  In this economy more and more families wonder where they will sleep the next night. The stress of living in shelters, sleeping in cars, or staying with friends negatively influence a child’s early experiences and often lead to an increase in mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, poor sleep habits, and behavioral issues.

In 2005, Kendra Stitt Robins began the Project Night Night nonprofit organization with the belief that every child deserves a good night’s sleep.  Robins, a former attorney and mother of one, founded the organization after working through the bedtime trials of her two year old son.  She realized how critical a good night’s rest is for the healthy development of children and became concerned for the many thousands of children living in shelters who lack the basic bedtime comforts.  She began an effort to collect security blankets, books and stuffed animals for these sheltered children to help ease their bedtime anxieties while in a new and unfamiliar place.  Robins felt that if children sleep well at night, they will not suffer the ill effects of inadequate sleep such as decreases in performance, concentration, learning, and health.

The mission of Project Night Night is to provide “Night Night Packages”, free of charge, to homeless children from birth to pre-teen who need childhood essentials to feel secure, cozy, ready to learn, and significant.  Each Night Night Package contains a new security blanket, an age-appropriate children’s book, and a stuffed animal — all nestled inside of a new canvas tote bag.  In addition, Project Night Night establishes a foundation for lasting change through the hands-on volunteer opportunities that they provide to tens of thousands of individuals each year.    

According to Robins, “We are very proud of distributing 25,000 Night Night Packages in 2009 and on track for at least that in 2010.” 

How can you help?

  • The most popular opportunity is the “Adopt a Night Night Package Program.”  Robins describes the program as providing, “the means, the opportunity, and the structure for community-minded individuals and corporations to make an ongoing and lasting impact on their communities.”  Groups collect items for the Night Night Packages, then assemble and deliver them to a local shelter.  All the details can be found on their website
  • Monetary donations are also accepted online
  • You can also donate items at certain locations or by mail.  Click here for details.
  • Their website also lists many additional volunteer opportunities such as graphic design or public relations assistance, one time projects and internships.  Click here for a current listing. 

Learn more about Project Night Night on their website or by following them on Facebook or Twitter.

Click here to tweet this post about Project Night Night!

 
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Posted by on November 16, 2010 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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Cure to the Kids

Every year around this time many of us schedule a family portrait session or sift through photos from the past year to find the one to send out for our holiday card.  Then if you are like me, you go from one photo website to another trying to find a design you like then finally order your cards.  Since this is already something you are going to do…why not pick a card that makes a difference!

Recently an organization called Cure to the Kids was founded to sell holiday photo cards with the proceeds going to The Neuroblastoma and Medulloblastoma Translational Research Consortium (NMTRC).  This new organization, named Cure to the Kids was formed when a parent of a young cancer patient expressed a desire to sell a line of holiday cards to raise money for pediatric cancer research but didn’t have the time to work on it.  Cure to the Kids founder Rebecca Herbert describes the start of the organization… “I volunteered to look into creating a line of holiday cards. I did a lot of research, made phone calls, sent emails, and the project quickly came together.”

Cure to the Kids is affiliated with the BeatNB/Friends of Will charity, which was started by Patrick Lacey, of Braintree, Massachusetts.  He is the father of Will, a 6 year old boy who has been battling Neuroblastoma since the age of 7 months.  That all volunteer charity’s sole mission is to raise money to help create treatment options for children with Relapsed Neuroblastoma. 

Neuroblastoma is a common pediatric cancer that is extraordinarily deadly.  After enduring the most intense chemotherapy regimen given to any human being, these children end up relapsing more often than not.  Once this disease comes back there is currently no cure.  The treatment options available to these children after relapse is often much too toxic for their ravaged bodies to handle after what they had to endure during their initial therapy.  As a result they spend more time trying to simply recover from these therapies so they can receive even more treatment than they spend actually LIVING life.  Currently these children cannot be saved – not because it is impossible – but because there is NO focused effort on this patient population.  Friends of Will and Cure to the Kids aim to achieve their mission through raising money and funding relevant research and clinical trials with doctors and scientists who have the same beliefs.  Their work supports the Neuroblastoma Alliance and the trials they fund via the Neuroblastoma and Medulloblastoma Translational Research Consortium.  The spirit of collaboration shown by these dedicated researchers, scientists, doctors, families, and foundations has proven that change is just around the corner. 

Cure to the Kids seeks to help raise awareness about pediatric cancer, as well as raise much needed funding, through the sale of holiday cards.  The artwork featured on Cure to the Kids holiday photo cards has been created by pediatric cancer patients, by artists, and by siblings of pediatric cancer patients who are greatly impacted by the disease.

According to founder Rebecca Herbert, “Our goal is to raise money to support relevant research and clinical trials with physicians and researchers who can help make a difference in survival today. We believe the NMTRC, a national consortium of hospitals and researchers is leading the way to make this aspiration a reality.  This consortium shares our belief that while these children have been incurable historically, they do not have to be incurable forever.”

Cure to the Kids has many opportunities for you to help them support their mission!  First, go check out their cards and consider ordering your holiday cards from them.  Then, share this story and their mission on Facebook and Twitter to help raise awareness.  Click here to tweet this post!

They are also looking for some talented people willing to lend a hand with any of the following:

  • Web design and development.
  • Graphic artists willing to donate their time to work on cards or promotional flyers.
  • Companies with high quality products that could be sold with a portion of the proceeds going to pediatric cancer research.  For example, they would like to offer an ornament or two with a pediatric cancer theme.
  • A greeting card company who offers traditional cards that would partner with them on greeting cards using the art of the pediatric cancer patients.
  • Corporate partners willing to sponsor various projects, purchase cards, or help promote the cards.
  • Or groups that would work with pediatric cancer patients to help gather more art since they are looking to expand our card line in the coming years.

Learn more about Cure to the Kids at their website, curetothekids.org.  You can also follow them on Facebook or Twitter.  In addition, you can learn more about the Friends of Will organization at www.beatnb.org or the Neuroblastoma and Medulloblastoma Translational Research Consortium at www.nmtrc.org.

Without groups like Cure to the Kids working to fund a cure, these children would have no hope for life. Funding a cure for pediatric cancer requires not more than what most people already do: sending a holiday photo greeting card!

 
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Posted by on November 11, 2010 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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St Louis Volunteen

Some kids are amazing!  I recently came across a website called Kids Are Heroes that profiles kids who have made a difference in their community.  Today’s profile is about one of those kids…Simone.

Simone started St Louis Volunteen with her brother Jake when they were finding it hard to find volunteer opportunities that would welcome youth without their guardian or parent on site.  They took the initiative to create a website for area youth and local nonprofits. No previous website or resource existed.  The success of the website inspired them to also organize the first St Louis Youth and Family Volunteer Fair on April 11, 2010.

St Louis Volunteen’s mission is to spread the spirit of youth volunteerism in the St Louis Metropolitan community by offering a comprehensive website for youth ages 10-17 and families to easily find volunteer opportunities in the St. Louis and surrounding communities.  St Louis Volunteen provides a vehicle for non-profit organizations to promote their cause with an annual Youth and Family Volunteer Fair.  Over 1200 youth have found volunteer opportunities through the site and fair. The website is also listed as a resource link on several area school district websites.

A recent accomplishment of St Louis Volunteen was their Youth and Family Volunteer Fair.  It brought over 25 family and youth volunteer friendly organizations to share their mission with over 550 guests. The local Children’s Museum hosted the event and plan to make it an annual event.  The entry fee for this year’s fair was a can a food.  Over 550 young people attended the event donating over 850 pounds of food to a local food bank.  The 2nd Youth and Family Volunteer Fair is scheduled for April 10, 2011.

When asked why she volunteers, Simone says, “My parents really encouraged community service. My dad is on the local school board and is in the Navy. My mom volunteers in the elementary school. When my dad was deployed, the community jumped in to help out my family. It meant the world to my mom that our community was there to help if we needed something. I was very touched by the kindness and outpouring of support we received. I wanted to volunteer at the local VA to show my appreciation for those that serve and served our country. I also wanted to volunteer to understand the problems that exist in our community. I am fortunate that I have a roof over my head, food on the table and an opportunity for an education. Not everyone is as fortunate. I wanted to step away from my neighborhood and see if I could try making an impact in the community.”  Simone goes on to describe her most memorable volunteer experience, “I also volunteer at a crisis nursery that is open 24/7 for children in need. I was truly inspired when I was able to comfort a child and help them adjust to their temporary situation. I realized that one person can make a difference.”

In addition to volunteering, Simone also encourages non-profit organizations to accept youth volunteers.  She is also currently working on creating a national database and encourages youth and non-profits to promote Youth and Family Volunteer Fairs throughout the nation.

St Louis Volunteen maintains a website to promote youth volunteer opportunities.  They also post many short term and one time opportunities via Twitter.

Update: In March 2012, St Louis Volunteen went national!  You can find their national organization at volunteennation.org.

 
 

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Bears on Patrol



 

When I read news stories where kids are involved, such as a domestic dispute, I wonder how the kids are impacted.  Recently I read about an organization that is trying to make a difference to kids in those situations.  Bears on Patrol is an organization that helps police officers distract and comfort children in traumatic situations by providing free teddy bears for police departments.

 

Bears on Patrol is located in Carrollton, Georgia but they work with police departments across the country.  According to Executive Director Blake Raab, “We currently work with 11 departments in 7 states, including two tribal police departments, but we are growing rapidly.  We have shipped just over 300 bears to date, but currently have departments requesting bears.” 

 

A recent blog post on the Bears on Patrol website gives a great illustration of the difference these bears make, “We were dispatched late at night for a domestic dispute and verbal argument over child custody. Turns out a husband and wife were on the front lawn screaming at each other about their children (who were left in the car in the driveway by themselves, crying) within earshot of mom and dad. Upon arrival, we separated them and sorted everything out. In between the chaos, I was able to get two bears that I had stashed in my patrol car to give to the 3 and 5 year old that were still crying in the car. As soon as they saw the bears, and I mean LITERALLY as soon as they saw the bears, they both smiled and put their hands out and immediately stopped crying and squirming in the back seat. It was actually almost comical how fast their emotions changed and their minds focused on something entirely different. While we snuck daddy around back in handcuffs to my car, the kids had a short discussion about who got the red one and who got the orange one and what their names would be.  We were able to avoid having the kids see their dad in handcuffs, make them smile while their parents were freaking out, and got their minds completely off of the current situation.  Absolutely invaluable…I am 100% certain it changed the outcome of their night.”

 

Bears on Patrol recently worked with another organization called Kids Are Heroes to hold an event at Boyd’s Bear Country.  The event resulted in a donation of over 30 bears to the Philadelphia Police Department.  Two of those bears were immediately given to children who were family members of a homicide victim.

 

There are many ways you can help this growing organization:

·         Contact Bears on Patrol if you would like to approach your local police department about receiving bears. 

·         The organization will also work individually with people and groups to provide what they need to raise money or hold a drive to collect teddy bears.

·         They also accept donations of stuffed animals, if they are new, or in very good condition.  They should be 6-15 inches.

·         Of course, you can also make a monetary donation on their website.

 

Learn more about Bears on Patrol by visiting their website, contacting them via e-mail, becoming a fan on Facebook, or following them on Twitter. 

 

 
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Posted by on November 4, 2010 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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