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Action For Healthy Kids

Rob Bisceglie CEO of Action for Healthy KidsI recently had the opportunity to interview Rob Bisceglie, the CEO of Action for Healthy Kids (AFHK).  This organization works to fight childhood obesity, undernourishment and physical inactivity by helping schools become healthier places so kids can live healthier lives.  They provide resources to volunteers in schools and school health leaders across the country to learn about physical activity and nutrition best practices in school, act through programs which promote healthy lifestyles and wellness policies in schools, and transform schools to provide healthier foods, physical education and comprehensive physical activity for all students.

Blogunteer: Rob, can you start by telling me how your organization began?

Rob Bisceglie:
We were formed in response to the December 2001 special report, The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent and Decrease Overweight and Obesity, issued by then U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher. That very sobering report examined the serious obesity problem impacting all segments of our communities and identified schools as a key setting for addressing childhood obesity.

It was such a startling call to action that in October 2002, nearly 500 experts in children’s health and education convened in Washington, D.C. at the first Healthy Schools Summit to address schools’ role in reducing childhood obesity. Out of that meeting, Action for Healthy Kids was launched with 51 State Teams (this includes Washington, D.C.) and 30 partner organizations. Dr. Satcher became the founding chair of our Board of Directors.

Since then, legions of truly dedicated AFHK volunteers – from within the ranks of our 50,000+ network – have worked diligently across the country to fight childhood obesity, undernourishment and physical inactivity by helping schools become healthier places so kids can be healthier. Through their efforts, we’re bringing fun physical activity and nutrition lessons and changes to classrooms, cafeterias and school playgrounds so kids can eat nutritiously and play actively every day that they attend school.
Action for Healthy Kids

Blogunteer: There are a lot of organizations working with kids, what makes Action for Healthy Kids unique? 

Rob Bisceglie:
We provide schools with everything they need – programs, grants, volunteer support and technical expertise – to create healthier environments so students can thrive.

Since our founding, Action for Healthy Kids and our 70+ partner organizations have turned the spotlight on the childhood obesity crisis so that it’s now widely acknowledged as a top priority by health and public health professionals, government leaders, school systems and the popular media.

Blogunteer: Do you have any facts you would like to share about your work?

Rob Bisceglie:
Our volunteer and constituent network has grown from fewer than 700 in 2002 to more than 50,000 (and still growing) in 2013.  Last year, our volunteers contributed more than $6 million of their time and resources to schools nationwide.  Last year, we reached more than 20,000 schools and 8 million kids through our volunteers and State Teams.

Although there are tens of thousands of volunteers and hundreds of fantastic non-profit and government organizations working every day to combat the obesity epidemic, the most recent projections around the epidemic state that by 2030, 50% of Americans may be overweight or obese, unless we reverse the trend.  So, there is still considerable work to be done.

Blogunteer: Sounds like there is still a lot of work to do!  What is a recent accomplishment of Action for Healthy Kids that you would like to share with my readers?

Rob Bisceglie:
Through our work to expand school breakfast programming this school year, we are supporting schools as they serve an additional 1 million breakfasts to hungry kids. I’m proud of that program given the importance of school breakfast on student health and academic achievement. We note in The Learning Connection: What You Need to Know to Ensure Your Kids are Healthy and Ready to Learn, for example, that on average students who eat school breakfast have been shown to attend 1.5 more days of school per year and score 17.5 percent higher on standardized math tests.
Blogunteer: Do you have any specific stories of how your organization has made a difference? 

Rob Bisceglie:
Yes, there quite a few. One of the things I’m proudest of is how truly committed our volunteers are to fighting childhood obesity and ensuring kids and their families understand the importance of physical activity and good nutrition.

Blogunteer:
Rob shared the story of Allison Stewart, a mom who sought out ways to make a difference when her daughter shared that she was rewarded with a cookie for doing her school work.  Allison found Action for Healthy Kids online and was impressed by the number of resources available to parents who want to make a difference in the area of school wellness.  Allison says her efforts are not just about combating childhood obesity, but also about teaching kids how to be healthy.  You can read more about Allison here.

Rob also shared the story of Linda Miller, another Colorado mom who made it her mission to get all the students at her son’s elementary school a free breakfast.  Linda did her research and shared the link between a healthy breakfast and academic success to encourage school leaders to serve breakfast to every student in school.  You can read more about Linda and other AFHK success stories here.

Blogunteer: How can others get involved in Action For Healthy Kids? 

Rob Bisceglie:
Our volunteers focus their efforts on increasing opportunities for kids to play actively and eat well. These are, after all, the two proven paths to ensuring kids are healthy and ready to learn. So, volunteers, for instance, might introduce students to “healthy” foods through tastes tests using our free program Game On! The Ultimate Wellness Challenge. They might participate in a Get in the Action event at a local school and install or refurbish playground equipment. Or, they might provide educational information to school superintendents, teachers and parents to organize statewide meetings on school health issues for legislators. Volunteer work really varies and is always based on the needs of the local schools, communities and, of course, the kids.

Here’s a sampling of how people can get involved as AFHK volunteers:

  • Help schools develop and put into place wellness policies or action plans
  • Serve on or advise school wellness councils
  • Help schools understand and bridge cultural differences
  • Offer expertise and coaching to help schools put in place Action for Healthy Kids’ programs, including Game On! The Ultimate Wellness Challenge and Students Taking Charge, that will bring their action plans to life

Anyone who is interested in volunteering with Action for Healthy Kids can do so  by clicking the “Volunteer” button right on our website.  And, starting next school year, Action for Healthy Kids will launch a new online Volunteer Center in which our volunteers will be matched to volunteer opportunities happening in their local schools.  We see this new technology as a game-changer for our field of school wellness.


Blogunteer: Any last comments you would like to share with my readers Rob?

Rob Biscegle:
Yes, please encourage your readers to visit our website, read The Learning Connection: What You Need to Know to Ensure Your Kids are Healthy and Ready to Learn and take the Every Kid Healthy Pledge. By doing so, they’ll become informed on the issues and learn how easily they can make the kinds of healthful changes that will benefit their children.

Blogunteer:
Thank you to Rob for taking the time to speak to me about Action for Healthy Kids.

If you would like to learn more, visit their website, ActionForHealthyKids.org.  You can also connect with them on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, and Flickr.

 

 
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Posted by on May 8, 2013 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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Artists for Trauma


Healing yourself is connected with healing others. 
~ Yoko Ono 

The founder of today’s organization healed herself and has since turned to heal many others.  In May of 2008, a helicopter crash on Catalina Island, just off the coast of Southern California, killed three people and injured the other three people on board.  Laura Sharpe was one of those three survivors.  She had 43 broken bones and burns on more than 40 percent of her body.  She spent four weeks in a coma and endured multiple skin grafts and the partial amputation of her foot.

Just three short years after her traumatic accident, she co-created The Laura Project, a collaboration with five artists in Southern California.  The project portrays the crash and her recovery in a variety of mediums including photographs, film, sculpture, paintings, dance, and music.

In an article on the project in the Ventura County Star, Laura said, “It was such a spiritual engagement and so helpful for my healing process.  It’s about how you can make art from tragedy, something beautiful and artistic from the negative occurrences of life.”

Artists for Trauma

After her experience of using art to assist in her healing and feeling compelled to help other trauma survivors through recovery, Laura founded Artists for Trauma.  The organization is dedicated to enriching the lives of both civilian and military trauma survivors by pairing recovering patients with established artists from various disciplines.  They aim to expedite recovery through artistic expression and human connection.  Artists for Trauma provides a creative portal to help patients process complex emotions, regain confidence and build self-acceptance after suffering a traumatic experience.

Watch Laura tell her own story in the video below.

How can you help?
Volunteers are needed throughout the United States.  

  • If you are a trauma survivor, you can sign up to become a student artist.  Learn more on their website.
  • If you are an artist, you can sign up to be a volunteer artist to assist trauma survivors.  Volunteers are needed all across the United States.  You can learn more and sign up here.
  • You can also make a financial donation on the organization’s website.  Donations fund the equipment, supplies, and community outreach among other things to support the work of the organization.
  • If you live in the Los Angeles area, you can help Artists for Trauma at a an event on Saturday, May 4th, from 11:00

    AM-1:00 PM in Los Angeles. There is always room for more volunteers

    so if you would like to join in and participate in this fun, creative day, you can email them at info@artistsfortrauma.org.

To learn more about Artists for Trauma visit their website, artistsfortrauma.org.  You can also connect with them on Facebook, YouTube, or their blog.

 
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Posted by on May 1, 2013 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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Smile Network

Smile Network

I recently saw a story about encore careers on the news.  According to Encore.org, encore careers combine personal fulfillment, social impact and continued income, enabling people to put their passion to work for the greater good.  Today’s organization was founded by someone seeking a change and an opportunity to do something more meaningful.

In May of 2003, Kim Valentini decided to leave the corporate world to make a difference.  In an interview in Minnesota Business, Kim said that she had a desire to do something more with her life.  She “wanted to be a voice for people who didn’t have one.  What we all have in common is a need to belong…when you’re a child born with a disfigurement, you don’t fit in.”

Kim Valentini with Farzhad

Kim Valentini with Farzhad

Kim started by committing five hours a week to a charitable cause with a goal of creating one mission site in Mexico and gifting 50 smiles per year.  However, those five hours quickly turned to 55 hours per week and Smile Network International was born.  Smile Network is based in Minneapolis, Minnesota and provides life-altering reconstructive surgeries to impoverished children and young adults around the world.

Since 2003, Smile Network has developed 24 surgical sites in Peru, Mexico, Guatemala, Kenya, Tanzania, Armenia, India, Ecuador, and Uganda.  They recently completed their 50th mission and have provided 2,500 new smiles through their free surgeries.

Eliseo

Eliseo

Each of these 2,500 surgeries have changed a life, here are just a few of their stories:

  • Eliseo was 72 years old and had never known what it was like to sit at a table and share a meal with family because food would come out his nose.  He was born with a cleft palate and abandoned at birth.  With tears in his eyes, he begged the Smile Network team to take a risk to operate on him stating that he would rather die than to continue living this way.  This simple request was hard to deny.
  • Rosealva was a little girl abandoned by her family and left to die under a blanket because of her cleft lip.  She was was given a new life after she was found by a local mission team and brought to the Smile Network mission site.
  • David’s mother was forced to walk to the end of her village and leave her infant son to die because they thought he would bring a curse to the village causing their crops and livestock to die.  Instead, she kept walking to a mission site where David received an operation.  She and David returned to village to be reunited with their family.

Same Child

You can watch a video of one of the Smile Network’s trips to Peru from an episode of On The Road with Jason Davis from KSTP TV to see some more moving stories of lives changed.

How can you help?

  • Smile Network’s Champions of Children program allows students and schools to raise money to fund surgeries.  You can learn more about his program and read stories of schools who have participated on the organization’s website.
  • Their Global Ventures program offers individuals and groups a chance to raise money to hike the Inca Trail or Mount Kilimanjaro to bring about change.  At the end of your hike, you participate in the screening process to identify the candidates for surgeries.  To learn more about this program and to hear from others who have participated, visit their website.
  • You can also volunteer for a surgical mission to help transform lives around the world.  You can find the mission schedule and more information on their website.
  • The easiest thing to do is to make a donation.  It takes just $500 to pay for an entire surgery.  A donation of $250 covers the surgical supplies for one child, $100 covers a child’s medication, and $50 covers the care kit given to each child.  You can make a donation directly on their website.

To learn more about the Smile Network, visit their website, smilenetwork.org.  You can follow them on Facebook or Twitter or contact them via phone at 612-377-1800.

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2013 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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Shot@Life

Shot@Life

Today’s post is about an initiative of the United Nations Foundation that is working to spread life-saving vaccines to kids around the world.  I encourage you to watch this short video from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to learn more about vaccines.

According to the United Nations Foundation, around the world, one child dies every 20 seconds from a disease that can be prevented by a vaccine.  The number of children dying each year from preventable diseases in developing countries is nearly equivalent to half the children entering kindergarten in the United States.

In September 2011, the United Nations Foundation unveiled their Shot@Life campaign to expand access to lifesaving vaccines for children in developing countries.  The campaign also serves to educate Americans about vaccines as one of the most cost-effective ways to save children’s lives around the world.

Over the past 20 years, new cases of polio have dropped 99 percent making the world is nearly polio-free. The Measles Initiative has vaccinated one billion children in 60 developing countries since 2001, decreasing world measles deaths by 78 percent.  Additional vaccines for pneumococcal disease and rotavirus are currently being introduced globally and, if distributed widely, have the potential to save millions more children.  Vaccines provide a lifetime of protection for children and at just $20 per child anyone can help make a difference.

Shot@Life builds on the United Nations Foundation’s 13-year commitment as a partner in the Measles Initiative and Global Polio Eradication Initiative and spreads newer vaccines developed to prevent pneumonia and diarrhea, the leading killers of children.  Shot@Life is supporting the work of its partners to expand access to existing vaccines for children in developing countries to protect them against four vaccine-preventable diseases, measles, polio, pneumonia, and diarrhea.

Shot at Life

How can you help?

  • You can start by visiting shotatlife.org to learn more about the initiative.  Their website offers several ways to advocate for childhood vaccines including writing a letter to your representatives in Congress and spreading the word about global vaccines.
  • You can also make a donation to help children around the world receive lifesaving vaccines.  Just $20 will vaccinate one child.
  • You can also help by spreading the word about Shot@Life by sharing this blog post on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media using the share options below.

You can learn more on the Shot@Life website, shotatlife.org.  You can also connect with them on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, and Pinterest.

 
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Posted by on January 10, 2013 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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Underwearness

Underwearness

Raise your hand if you have ever received underwear as a gift.  It may seem like an embarrassing gift for many of us, but imagine if you never had your own new underwear.  The Salvation Army states that underwear is the second most requested essential item after food and water, but it is the least donated item.  Today I write about an organization that is helping fill this underserved need.

Over a conversation with her brother-in-law, Koree Khongphand-Buckman was inspired.  He told her how his family grew up without much money and he would be so excited when they received barely used underwear as part of their donations rather than very used underwear.  She left that evening feeling sad to know that children grew up with used underwear or no underwear at all.  The next morning she shared the story with her co-workers and it tugged at their heartstrings too.  They formulated a plan to make a difference in children’s lives, one pair of underwear at a time.  Soon the UNDERWEARNESS organization was born.

UNDERWEARNESS is based in Thornton, Colorado and is on a mission to provide new underwear to children in need.  Underwear is kind of a taboo subject so it is rarely donated.  The organization may not be saving the world, but they are providing brand new packages of underwear to children so they can have underwear that is theirs and theirs alone.  UNDERWEARNESS serves a unique need by focusing on underwear.  They do not donate directly to individuals, they provide their new donations to children through other 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization that assists families and children in need.

Since 2009, they have donated over 61,000 pairs of underwear to locations all over the United States as well as the Dominican Republic, Africa, Haiti, and Mexico.  This has helped approximately 10,000 children.  They recently collected about 4,000 pairs of underwear to the Salvation Army in Staten Island, New York to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy.  What makes this accomplishment even more impressive is that they did this in just 3 days.  Earlier in 2012, their third annual Drop Your Drawers 5K event was held in Denver and collected over 4,000 pairs of underwear and $15,000.  The underwear was donated to the Salvation Army of Denver to go to the Colorado Wildfire Victims.

Like many other organizations, UNDERWEARNESS is run completely by volunteers so they have a variety of ways you can help.

  • You can make a monetary donation through the organization’s website.
  • You can also host an underwear drive in your own community and the organization will donate the underwear to the organization of your choice.  They have details on how to run a drive on their website.
  • If you are in the Denver, Colorado area, you can participate in or volunteer for their annual “Drop Your Drawers 5K” event.  You can find the details about the upcoming May 2013 event here.

You can learn more about the UNDERWEARNESS organization on their website, underwearness.org.  You can also connect with them on Facebook and Twitter.

 
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Posted by on January 3, 2013 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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TV Reporter Finds a New Mission

Kristi Piehl
Today I have a guest post from Kristi Piehl.  During her 12 year television career, Kristi worked as a reporter and anchor at 5 television stations. She won numerous awards for her work including two Emmy awards for stories she covered at KSTP in Minneapolis. Kristi has appeared on Good Morning America, CNN, Dateline NBC and several national radio shows.  Kristi prides herself on building the most effective media-focused public relations team in the area. In addition to having a team dominated by former TV news professionals and storytellers, Media Minefield also has a graphic designer, videographer and photographer on staff.  Kristi holds a BA in English from Bethel University. She studied Professional Writing and graduated with honors.

 

Knocking on the door of a homicide victim to ask the grieving mother for an interview.

Picking through remnants of a tornado-ravaged home for a prop.

Driving through a snow storm to tell the public that travel is not advised.

Yes, running towards the disasters that other people run away from is the reality of a TV reporter. For 12 years, it was my life. Thankfully there were some opportunities to tell positive stories. However, it always frustrated me when I’d try to do a positive story with a local non-profit, church or ministry and the administrators would decline. I couldn’t figure it out. A journalist teamed up with a talented videographer with the purpose of telling a non-profit’s story to a large audience is a powerful way to bring in donations and volunteers.

Don’t get me wrong, many non-profits make an attempt to grab headlines. Non-profits send press releases by the hundreds to newsrooms hoping for coverage of their gala or fundraising campaign. I’ve seen the pile of releases and I’ll be honest, it’s tough for small or medium sized non-profits to get noticed.

While media will ignore a run-of-the-mill news release, no self-respecting journalist will turn down a powerful story.

So in 2010, I found myself in a strange place – a storyteller detoxing from a career in television news with a heart for non-profits. The timing was perfect; my church was offering a class to teach people how to use the talents they have to help others.

Media Minefield was born.

The company is an intentionally different public relations and video production firm. At first, I had a hand-full of non-profit clients in the Twin Cities. Some wanted their stories transformed into short videos for special events or fundraising campaigns and others wanted their stories in the media.

Two years later, we have both for-profit and non-profit clients in Minnesota and around the country. Our office is in Minnetonka and there are eleven employees. The majority of the men and women on the Media Minefield team have a background in television news. In our front office, it says “your message is our mission” and that is what makes us unique. We work with every client to define and distill their message. That message then becomes the foundation of the kind of story that inspires others to take action.

I’ve heard more powerful stories in the past two years than in the previous twelve. The difference is that I, surrounded by some of the most talented former news minds in the Twin Cities, can now focus on maximizing and telling those positive stories.

We’ve produced videos for local and national non-profits and have watched how a media appearance can bolster a bottom line. After all, a powerful news story or video could be used on social media, at gala events and on websites. For our team, it’s so rewarding to see a non-profit empowered to do even more to help others.

What makes a good story? A main character, a clear purpose and a concise message. For television news, it’s critical to have compelling video to accompany the story. For newspaper, magazine, online and radio mediums, a main character with a powerful story who understands how to communicate with control and speak in sound bites is all it takes.

Tell your story. People want to hear it.

Kristi sent me just a few of the nonprofit stories Media Minefield has done.  I have included these below.

7 Year Old Using Music to Help Hungry Kids

Minnesota Man Skis Again after Being in a Coma

Dan’s Restart Story

Related Post: Storytellers for Good

 
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Posted by on December 3, 2012 in Guest Post

 

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Navigating for Non Profits

Navigating for Non Profits

I was recently at an event where someone asked the question “what is on your bucket list” as an icebreaker question.  Most questions around the table were travel related.  The founders of today’s organization found a way to put together travel and giving.

Maggie and Jenna served two terms with AmeriCorps National Civilian Community (NCCC) where they fell in love with giving back to communities and traveling.  In NCCC you travel with a team every two months supporting existing nonprofits.  This experience really made Maggie and Jenna understand how beautiful America is and gave them both a passion for seeing it all.  However, they were not ready to stop volunteering as their NCCC program came to a close, so they began Navigating for Non Profits.

After their NCCC experience, Jenna was planning to move to Tennessee, had a car, and wanted a road trip partner.  Maggie was planning to head to North Carolina and both of them were hoping to get involved with a nonprofit to begin their careers.  Their idea started as offering to volunteer in State and National Parks in exchange for a free campsite, but a light bulb moment turned it into something bigger.  They decided they could work for all kinds of nonprofits, picked the name Navigating for Nonprofits, and applied for and received their 501c3 status.

As they planned their itinerary they considered several factors: they wanted to see unique places, visit friends, have reasonable drive times, and work for a variety of nonprofits.  They took some suggestions from people about nonprofits and cities and then spent some time mapping out their trip.  At this point, their itinerary is locked down and their trip is underway, but they are still planning some of the volunteer events in the cities they are visiting.  Jenna told me that they left San Francisco “with a dream two and a half months ago and we are still living it.  We get excited every time someone comes out and volunteers for the first time…We have seen both coasts and the Great Lakes.  We have met truly inspiring people.  This road trip has been incredible.”

They are keeping a page of their achievements of their road trip.  At this point they have recruited over 140 volunteers and given over 600 hours to 34 nonprofits.

Their journey is scheduled to come to an end in mid-December and then a whole new journey will begin.  After this trip, they have plans to help others plan volunteering road trips.

How can you help?

  • If you see your city on their itinerary, you can volunteer with them or reach out to visit with them as they see the sights.
  • You can also donate to their trip on their website.  Donations help pay for gas and their $9 a day food budget.
  • You can also spread the word about their trip.  The more people that hear about their trip, the more people will come out and get involved in the communities they visit.
  • Maggie and Jenna also encourage everyone to volunteer.  Just search the Internet for volunteer opportunities, grab some friends, and make a difference in your community.

You can learn more and follow their adventure on their website, navigatingfornonprofits.org.  You can also connect with them on Facebook and Twitter.

Related Posts: Do Good Bus

 
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Posted by on November 29, 2012 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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