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One year wiser?

“aging is an extraordinary process where you become the person you always  should have been”

David Bowie

Even though it’s only been a week since we were last together, another year has officially passed and I’m hoping that means that more wisdom, not wrinkles! While I am past the mid part of life, the fact is we never really know where our mid-part is. My mom died at 60, each day our time is ticking and for me it feels like a race. Somedays I run too fast to notice what is around me…..and yet I race to use my time, each precious drop for the greatest purpose….whatever that may be….a walk with a friend, time with my children, service to my family and others.

The process of aging is an adventure for sure and like every growth process there are spits and spurts. We spend the first quarter of our life physically growing. The second quarter trying to figure out who we are. The third quarter coming into our stride and knowing our strengths and weaknesses. Hopefully in Q3 we find how to give those gifts away or our purpose.

I’m not sure if we have one purpose but would like to believe we have many. What I do know is that every one of us is here to love and be loved, to use our gifts to their greatest good and that life is so much more than about yourself, it is about being of service to others. I’m grateful everyday to be alive, for my health, to celebrate another year and looking forward to Q3 and becoming the person I always should have been.

charity matters

 

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Alzheimers

There is nothing I enjoy more than connecting friends and colleagues, especially when there is a good cause involved. So a few weeks ago when I connected two remarkable women, one a fundraiser for USC and the other a well known wealth strategist for Northern Trust, I was thrilled when I received the invitation for an event on Alzheimers the two partnered to put together.

It was a fantastic morning conversation with  Dr. Helena Chang-Chui, a world renown researcher and a top Alzheimer specialist. She is the chair of the Keck School of Medicine of USC’s Department of Neurology and has authored over 182 publications on the topic and was fascinating to learn from, which is why I wanted to share.

Every 66 seconds, someone in the United States is diagnosed with Alzheimers and chances are each of us knows someone who has been affected by this devastating disease. We learned that Alzheimers disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States and according to the Alzheimer’s Association there are currently about 5.5 million people currently living with the disease. Without successful treatments that number is projected to rise to about 13.5 million by 2050! The longer people live, the more Alzheimer’s disease there will be.

So that’s the bad news. Here is the good news:

The National Institute of Health recently allocated $1.3 billion to Alzheimer’s disease research which was $884 million more than ever before! Now the top researchers in the country Harvard, the Mayo Clinic and USC Alzheimer’s Therapeutic Research Institute will be working together with some of this funding to find a cure. In the meantime, Dr. Chui shared with us a few things we can all do to protect our mental health.

  1. Diet– A Mediterranean diet based on nuts, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, olive oil, coffee and coconut oil has all proven to activate the brain’s metabolic function and may prevent or slow the onset of Alzheimers disease.
  2. Exercise– The brain’s processing speed can begin to slow down as early as 25 but exercise bulks up existing neurons and improves communication between brain cells. The Doctor said it is like a bank account where what you do now strengthens cognitive resilience later.
  3. Quality Sleep- Six to eight hours of sleep for adults is critical so that toxic proteins that are implicated in Alzheimers disease are flushed out during sleep. It is the bodies time of rebooting and sleep gives the body time to restore.
  4. Connect with Others-Relationships are good for the brain and the heart and current research suggest that there is a connection between social interaction and brain health. Being social connects neurons and activities with friends can give the brain added benefits.
  5. Managing Stress-High stress encourages behaviors such as poor eating habits, isolation, or decreased exercise all which increase the risk of dementia which could lead to changes in the brain.

The take away from this fantastic conversation with Dr. Chang-Chui was that we all need to proactive with our health and that includes our mental health as well. We can all take steps today to make tomorrow better for ourselves and our loved ones.

charity matters.

 

 

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Copyright © 2018 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

Saving Innocence

“i raise up my voice-not so i can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard….we cannot succeed when half of us are held back.”

Malala Yousafzai

There are so many things that make us uncomfortable. ….driving past the homeless and seeing the ravages of war on the nightly news but this topic is beyond being uncomfortable, it is down right unimaginable. The topic is human trafficking or modern day slavery. It is something that we want to believe only happens in other countries but the harsh reality is that it happens here in the United States of America to over 300, 000 children a year. Children who are sold and enslaved into prostitution, like a product or good sold….but these are our children.

Last week, I was invited to a friend’s home for a Friends With Causes dinner. Her guest was the nonprofit Saving Innocence and the speakers were the Executive Director and a young girl who was sold here in LA at the age of 11. We will call her O and her story was truly unbelievable and haunting.

This inspirational twenty-two year old girl told us her unimaginable story. Raised by  a loving single mom who worked two jobs to support them in house full of love and extended family. O accidentally discovered at the age of 11 that she was adopted and the news sent her reeling. She was confused, angry, sad and upset. At the same time, her mother had just broken up with her boyfriend. The boyfriend came to O’s school to ask how she was doing and offered her a ride home. That moment changed everything because he kidnapped her and sold into sex trafficking at age 11, right here in LA.

Founded in 2012 by actress, Kim Biddle, Saving Innocence are the first responders when trafficked children are identified by the police or other authorities.

The nonprofit arrives within 90 minutes with a Child Welfare and Probation officer. They take the child to the hospital, provide, food, clothing, emotional support and a safety plan and housing for the child. The child is given up to nine months of time, support, love, counseling. Saving Innocence works with the child to see the perpetrator through the justice system and then continues empowerment programs with these young children.

This incredible nonprofit has contracts with the probation offices, judges and prosecutors to help these children through the system and have shown the courts that children who have been commercially sexually exploited need intensive aftercare.

Today, O is working for Saving Innocence and helping the girls get through their ordeal of being held as part of a human trafficking ring. She mentors young girls, works with the police, social workers and empowers these children to become survivors, just as she has done, because of this remarkable organization. As I hugged 22 year old O and told her what an incredible inspiration and leader she is, she cried and said, “No one has ever called me a leader.”  When I told her that a leader is someone who uses their gifts and experience in the service of others, she smiled, hugged me again and said,”Then I guess I am a leader.”

charity matters.

 

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Copyright © 2018 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

Lessons learned from graduation

“you build a legacy not by one thing but by everything, your legacy is every life you touch.”

Maya Angelou

As many of you know, there many things in this world that make me happy, giddy and joyful. Last week at my alma matter more than a few of them came together. Talking, giving speeches, college graduations, USC Annenberg and Oprah….like a perfect storm they became one. While I was supposed to attend the graduation for one of our volunteers, I sadly couldn’t get there in time.

However, through the power of media I was able to watch Oprah’s speech. She has such wonderful lessons that I wanted to give you some of the highlights here. Oprah knew the first rule that they teach you at Annenberg and that is to know your audience. She certainly knew hers, future journalist, broadcasters and the messengers of the future. Oprah asked those messengers to give voice to the people who need a voice. She said,”Use your gifts to illuminate the darkness in the world.”  She asked the students to, “Be the truth” and asked,”what are you willing to stand for?”

Oprah quoted her friend Maya Angelou’s words saying, “You build a legacy not from one thing but from everything. Your legacy is every life you touch.”  Words that resonate.  As she wrapped up her speech with practical advise about making your bed, being kind, and investing in a good mattress, she pivoted and said,” Join forces in service of something greater than ourselves. Pick a problem, any problem and do something about it.”

These are not just words for USC Annenberg alumns or words for Oprah fans but rather words for all of us to process, think about and decide how we are going to act.

charity matters.

 

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Copyright © 2018 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

The Barron Prize for Young Heroes

 

A few weeks ago, a young lady that has helped start and run a local nonprofit asked me to write her a recommendation for The Barron Prize for Young Heroes, which I happily did. This high school girl is extraordinary and I was thrilled to help.  More than that I was  excited to learn about this incredible award and nonprofit that inspires and encourages students between the ages of 8 and 18 to use heroic qualities like courage, compassion and perseverance to make a positive and significant impact on the world.

The prize was started by New York Times best selling Children’s author, T.A. Barron seventeen years ago and named after the author’s mother. His hope was to inspire children that could make a significant difference in the world. The founder’s fear was that  perhaps, they wouldn’t be able to find these children. However,it was just the opposite, hundreds and hundreds of applications would begin to come in.

Seventeen years later, the Barron Prize for Young Heroes has honored over 417 young heroes who have  all done remarkable things. One prize winner is Alexa, who created a nonprofit called Bags of Books, which she started at age 10. Her organization distributes gently used and new children’s books in free pop-up stores in underserved communities. She has donated more than 120,000 books and inspired hundreds of volunteers to distribute books in homeless shelters, children’s hospitals and after school programs.

One  young prize winner founded NY is a great place to Bee! to educate the public about bees about the importance of healthy bee populations. She built a team of volunteers and they have educated over 14,000 students about ways to protect bees through her advocacy.

Another inspiring change maker,  Jahkil, founded Project I Am to help the homeless in Chicago. In one year Jahkil and his team distributed more than 3,000 Blessing Bags filled with toiletry items, towels, socks and snacks through his drop off sites and bag stuffing parties all at the age of nine!

While I could go on with hundreds more of these incredible young nonprofit founders and budding philanthropist, these 417 Barron Prize for Young Heroes winners have combined raised over 19 million dollars for their causes in the past seventeen years. The real winners of this prestigious award are the incredible communities served by these extraordinary young leaders and their enormous compassion to serve. Each of them give us hope for a brighter future of kindness, caring and service.

 

charity matters.

 

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Copyright © 2018 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

A love letter

 

All have you have been on this crazy journey called life with me. Many days the journey involves nonprofits, the incredible people I am privileged to meet, to serve and whose stories I tell. Other days the journey has been personal, I have shared my joy, my sorrow, loss, love and everything in between here on this platform, so it seems only fitting that this large milestone is shared with you as well. Our oldest son is graduating from college this weekend and I am just trying to process it all.

Almost seven years ago when I started Charity Matters, our sons were 16, 14 and 10 and I did everything not to mention them, embarrass them or shine any light in their direction from the blog. Today, however, our oldest has no choice because this love letter is for him.

My dear H-,

Twenty-three years ago you entered this world and made us parents. You taught us what love really means and how to live without sleep. Every new parent writes a secret script for their child. They hold their newborn and envision their first step, teaching to ride them a bike, baseball games, proms, high school graduations, college, first love, first heart breaks and everything in between. We don’t tell anyone our secret parental script but we all have it, the way we think you are supposed to be and who we dream of you becoming.

You taught us to throw away the script early on. You refused to be defined by our expectations or anyone else’s. You arrived on this planet knowing who you were and spent the last twenty-three years informing us. You didn’t want to play with firetrucks but rather vacuums and irons. You didn’t want to play baseball but study how old cars can run on recycled kitchen grease as fuel. You did play sports but only on your terms and more than anything you loved cars, photography, beautiful things, and spending over a thousand hours volunteering to serve the neediest children in South Central Los Angeles. You showed us just how huge your heart is and that you could write a way better script than we ever could.

So this weekend as you graduate from college, you need to know that we have never been more proud to be your parents. You are the most remarkable, honest, real, loving human being and more than that, the world is a better place because you are in it. I know you will continue to surprise us with the script you write and I can hardly wait to read the next chapter. Just know that our hearts are overflowing with love and pride, not because of what you have accomplished in your short life but because of who you are.

Now go into the world and do well but more importantly, do good. We love you!

charity matters.

 

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Copyright © 2018 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

Let love be the last word

L-O-V-E. Four simple letters that change everything. Love, a word that should always be the first thing said and the last. Anyone who has ever lost someone suddenly knows this. Love and saying, “I love you,“are words to live by.  You hear it, you may think it, but do you actually say it? Life is so short and changes in the blink of an eye and last week we blinked and it changed.

First, was a call that a friend had died unexpectedly. We had seen him two weeks before, told him what he meant to us but had no idea it would be our last hug and in a blink he was gone. Two days later, another 49 year old friend shared that he has 3 months to live and is dying from cancer. The reaction was swift and immediate, hugs, tears and I love yous.  The words didn’t take the pain away and the blows felt like a one two punch, almost too much to process within such a short period of time.  The reality of how fragile our lives truly are came crashing down in a way that just makes everything else seem trivial and irrelevant.

As I watched the evening news that night, still trying to process our loss and find something better to focus on, I saw that a Southwest Jet lost an engine. What struck me wasn’t the pending panic or fear but rather all passengers scrambling to connect with loved ones to make sure they said I love you one last time. Had they started their day with it? Did they say I love you before they got on that flight? Did everyone they care about know how they felt? My sense was no because each of them appeared to try and say it, just one last time.

Fifteen years ago, when I discovered that my mom had died tragically and unexpectedly, one of my first thoughts was,”Did I remember to tell her I loved her before she left for her trip? Was I love you my last word?” I replayed the tape of our last time together over and over until my godmother confirmed that, yes, I had said it. I had a witness and somehow, the pain subsided.

Since that moment, our family doesn’t end a call or leave the house, no matter the rush…without saying , I love you. Angry, late, grumpy we say it. It is a gift and one that I have only recently realized, in light of last week.  Life is precious. It is short. We have so little time and yet somehow, we miss the important stuff. If I died tomorrow, everyone in my life knows that I love them because love is always the last word.

L-O-V-E. Four simple letters that change everything.

 

charity Matters.

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Copyright © 2018 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

Earth Day

“It seems to me that the natural world is the greatest source of excitement; the greatest source of visual beauty; the greatest source of intellectual interest. It is the greatest source of so much in life that makes life worth living.” David Attenborough

I think I have shared with you before that my Dad was in the recycling business, long before it was hip. He started recycling in the mid 1960s and spent his entire career recycling. This week my husband started a new job and will also be in the recycling business, in a different way, but his new business is truly based on protecting our earth. Since this Sunday is Earth Day, I have been thinking a lot more about our environment lately.

We were raised to recycle, not pollute and to respect our planet. That being said, we grew up at time in LA with smog alerts and our lungs hurting after swimming outside on summer afternoons from the pollution. While smog has improved in LA in the past few decades, pollution and litter seems to be at an all time high. Scientist are saying that by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in our oceans. How devastating is that?  It is statistics like these that really make you think more about our planet and what we can do to protect it and why this year’s theme is End Plastic Pollution.

What began in 1970 by one man, John McConnell, has gone global in the best possible way.  On the first Earth Day, 20 million Americans came out to peacefully to demonstrate about environmental reform. This year over 192 countries and close to a billion people will celebrate Earth Day, making it the largest secular holiday in the world. We have come along way in these past few decades but still have much work to do.

My pledge to Earth Day is that I am going to start using my reusable metal water bottle and cut back on bottled water. A small step but if we all just make one tiny adjustment then our united impact can be significant. We all love this beautiful planet we call home.  Now, its time to take care of Mother earth. Happy Earth Day!

charity matters.

 

Copyright © 2018 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

Random Acts of Flowers

“where flowers bloom, so does hope.”

Lady Bird Johnson

As we enter the month of April, we think of flowers and springtime, both bring smiles to our faces and lift our spirits, which is why this seemed like the perfect way to kick us into spring. The story of Random Acts of Flowers and founder Larsen Jay is as uplifting as a spring bouquet.

You never know what is going to inspire someone to make a difference. In Larsen’s case, it was an almost fatal fall from a ladder in July of 2007. While he was in the hospital for his long recovery, he received so many beautiful flower arrangements that truly lifted his spirits. Once Larsen was well enough to leave his room he saw so many other patients who didn’t have any flowers, so decided to repurpose his and give them to others, which was just the beginning of a beautiful idea. The memories of that gesture inspired him to start  Random Acts of Flowers in 2008.

One year later, Larsen delivered his first bouquet from Random Acts of Flowers to the patient in his old hospital room, bringing the moment full circle and a renewed commitment to brighten the lives of others with this beautiful gesture and simple kindness. By 2011, the organization had delivered over 10,000 bouquets and by 2013 had begun to expand in other cities.

Photo by Jean Marc Giboux

Today, a decade later Random Acts of Flowers is located in four major metropolitan cities; Knoxville, Chicago, Tampa and Indianapolis and shows no sign of slowing down. They are delivering smiles to over 9,000 people in hospitals, senior living centers and organizations in need  every month. As of today, they have delivered over 310,801 bouquets and smiles. As Lady Bird Johnson said, “Where flowers bloom, so does hope.”

charity matters.

 

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Copyright © 2018 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

Dollies Making a Difference

Do you remember that childhood toy that you treasured and cherished? A stuffed animal or doll that you carried everywhere, that made you feel safe and loved? I think most of us can conjure up an image of that one special toy we loved as a child and more importantly how it made us feel. So, a few weeks ago when a mutual friend told me about the work that Dollies Making A Difference was doing, I knew I needed to find out more about the inspiration behind this amazing and very special organization.

Earlier this week I had a fantastic call with Co-Founder, Cindy Simon, who told me the heart warming story of this amazing organization that simply believes that to give is to receive.

Charity Matters: When and how did you start Dollies Making a Difference?

Cindy Simon: In 2010, I was back east and had just read an article about a group of women who had gotten together to sew some dolls for the children suffering from the earthquake in Haiti. These east coast women were inspired by Dianne Sawyer’s coverage of the earthquake and knew the moment  they saw Dianne Sawyer pull a doll from a pile of rubble and say, “Look some little girl has lost her dollie.” that they needed to act.

The article about these women inspired me to act. I called them up, went over to see what they were doing, learned their process and said I wanted to help. When I got back home to Los Angeles, I called some friends to ask them to help me make 500 dolls for the children of Haiti. My dear friend, and non-profit co-founder, Dorothy Miyake, was the first to help. She had a large group of friends that were crafty and we decided to meet every Wednesday in my dinning room to make these dolls.

Charity Matters: What was your goal when you started Dollies Making a Difference?

Cindy Simon: The mission was simply to help the boys and girls in Haiti by providing homemade dolls and teddy bears but we quickly learned that what we were doing was not about a doll and was so much more. Our mission is that to give is to receive and we quickly learned that with the Three Cs:

Community, the group of women who sit around my dinning room table every Wednesday for over a decade sharing, caring for one another. We have gone thru  health issues, death, birth and life together. We are a community.

Connection, we don’t send our dolls and teddy bears through huge organizations. We find Ambassadors that can be people we know or small nonprofit or church organizations. We request that each of our handmade toys is delivered by hand from an Ambassador to a child and that the human connection is what makes the experience special for both the child and the person delivering the dolls.

Comfort, is what the child receives from having and holding their own doll or teddy bear.

Charity Matters: When do you know you have made a difference?

Cindy Simon: We know we have made a difference when we make a child smile, when the person who delivers the doll is moved and this had made a difference for all of us making these dolls.

Charity Matters: What fuels you to keep doing this work 10 years later?

Cindy Simon: This work has given me a passion, a purpose, I feel worthy and relevant. It is fun to be connected to wide variety of people and organizations around the world. More than that it renews my faith that there are a lot of good people in our world who are helping people they will never know.

Charity Matters: Tell us about your success and impact?

Cindy Simon: What started out as a small project has turned into over 13,000 hand-made dolls and teddy bears being hand delivered to over 300 organizations around the globe. In addition, we have given over $107,000 away to other nonprofits in grants with the funds we raise. 

Charity Matters: What life lessons have you learned from this experience?

Cindy Simon: Everyday I am reminded of how many good people and organizations are out there in the world. I think I underestimated the power of community and what goes on with the connection and community we have in making the dolls, it is the sharing that just happens.

This journey has made me more compassionate to all the needs out there. I have learned that we can all be of help to others and especially to those who we will never meet.

charity Matters.

 

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Copyright © 2018 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

A little help goes along way

Yesterday, I was at a work event with someone who also raises money for a living. This counterpart said to me, “What is your strategy?”  I looked at him a little bewildered by the question. Strategy and making a difference in the life of students doesn’t always align in my mind.  My bewilderment wasn’t because  I didn’t have a fund-raising plan, but rather because my fundraising plan is more philosophy, than plan. I looked at my counterpart and said, “My “strategy” is simply to help everyone. My competitors, anyone who ask, simply everyone…because the more people who I genuinely help the more people help me.”  The gentleman looked at me as if I were insane. I shrugged and said, “We all have our own philosophies but this is mine and I think we are all here to work together to help one another, it’s pretty simple.”

Don’t get me wrong, I completely admire people with strategic minds, but I do not really have one. I run more on heart, instinct, intuition and what feels right in my gut. So far, helping people has never let me down, in fact is just the opposite. Last night at dinner, I was sharing the story of my day with my family, the evening news came on, as I shared about my day, this was the story that aired…

The story of 18 year old Evoni Williams from La Marque, Texas who was working as a waitress when an older gentleman asked her for help. It seemed that his hands were not working so well and he needed help to cut his meat. Without missing a beat, Evoni just helped. What makes this story unique is not that she helped but rather that someone snapped a picture of her helping that went viral.

The result of Evoni’s helping hand was not only a news piece, thousands of Facebook shares but even more was a college scholarship, simply for helping someone. Helping isn’t strategic and Evoni’s innate kindness is a perfect example. Helping is simply what we are here to do, to help one another. We all need it and we all are capable of giving it. It is just that simple.

charity Matters.

 

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Copyright © 2018 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

Sit With Us

In light of last weeks events in Florida and the continued devastation of these schools shootings, my heart is heavy. These tragic events make me think there must be a way that we can come together to work towards a solution. Charity Matters is not a place for politics or debate but rather a community where people have gone through tragedy and turned their pain into  positive solutions, so the next person doesn’t have to suffer, as they did.

People that are hurting always hurt. A wounded animal will snap at you because they do not know what to do with their pain, other than to inflict onto the next. At the core of these shootings is a child isolated, rejected and in pain. So what can we do as a society to include these children before their pain grows and they become ticking time bombs?

One of the things that is different is that when we were growing up bullies didn’t follow you home, they didn’t taunt you on social media and the pain of not being accepted usually lasted as long as a school day. One brave young girl might just have the peer-to-peer solution to this bigger problem that stems from bullying and the isolation that goes with it. Her name is Natalie Hampton and she is the creator of the App Sit With Us.

Natalie was bullied just like an estimated 20% of American teenagers. She decided to change all of that by using technology not to be a victim but to empower and unite isolated teenagers. Her app allows students to find others who do not have a group to sit with at lunch and bring them together so that they are not alone.

The nonprofit that I run works with thirty-one high schools and we tried to partner with Natalie earlier this year on a project to create Sit With Us clubs, which is how I learned about her amazing work. While the project may have to wait until next year with all Natalie has going on. These days Natalie isn’t worried about being alone, but rather just the opposite. She has taken her pain to use it as fuel to bring others together. As Natalie said, “I am using my story to unite others.” 

Charity Matters.

 

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Copyright © 2018 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

A camp with heart

While I know it is February and summer and camp seem to feel like a million years from now, I had an incredible conversation last week with an amazing human named Lisa Knight, who runs a camp (Camp del Corozon) for children who are living with heart disease. Since February is National Heart month this seemed like the perfect time to discuss our mutual challenges of running nonprofit camps but more specifically Lisa’s incredible work as a registered nurse and nonprofit founder, serving children with heart disease. I hope you enjoy our conversation half as much as I did.

Charity Matters: What was the moment you knew you needed to start Camp Del Corozon?

Lisa Knight: In 1995, I was working with Dr. Kevin Shannon with pediatric heart patients and we had a mother who came in to see us. Her son had multiple heart surgeries and was depressed. He didn’t want to go to sleepover or PE class because he was embarrassed about all of his scars and he didn’t feel like a “normal kid.” I suggested to Dr. Shannon that maybe we should try to send him to camp and began to look for a camp that could manage his health challenges or that would take him. There was only one, it was very far away and very expensive. So I suggested that we try to create our own.

Dr. Shannon loved the idea. I reached out to my friends in Catalina that had a camp and asked if we could come for a week with some heart patients, they agreed. We asked all our doctor and nurse friends to volunteer and within two months we had 49 heart patients and 100 volunteers coming to camp for free.

Charity Matters: What challenges did you have?

Lisa Knight: We had NO money, We maxed out credit cards, were not totally sure what we were doing but we were sure we should be doing this. Then we had a surgeon named Jerry Bucklin, who gave us $5000 to make it happen and we did.

Charity Matters: What fuels you to keep doing this work?

Lisa Knight: I get so filled up by it all.  These kids have survived death, there are not camps for these types of kids due to their medical conditions. It transforms them. You see them show each other their scars. The most rewarding thing is when you hear children call you by your camp name, when you see them years later not at camp.  This year our first camper is coming back as a counselor, so to see not only these children grow up and give back but to watch my own 29-year-old daughter getting even more involved as she takes on more responsibility with her role at Camp del Corozon, is so rewarding. 

Charity Matters: Tell us about your successes at Camp del Corozon?

Lisa Knight: I think our successes is that thousands of children have been able to come to camp, to make friends, become more confident and just feel like regular kids.I think back to when we began and am so proud that it is continuing and going on. I get joy out of all our success, each child, each camp. This summer we will have close to 400 campers who will come to camp for free. Twenty-three years later that feels pretty amazing.

Charity Matters: What life lesson have you learned from this experience? 

Lisa Knight: I’ve learned so much, how to dream dreams, connect the dots and make things happen. I have learned gratitude after having so many struggles and I have learned that there is nothing better in life than service, you simply cannot be happy without it.

Charity Matters: How has this changed you?

Lisa Knight: I feel that Camp del Corozon was just supposed to be. This is my whole life. I feel that I am on a chess board and God just pushes me in the direction I am supposed to go.”

Charity Matters.

 

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Copyright © 2018 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

The Happiness Projects

A few years back there was a book called The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin that spent over two years on the New York Times bestseller list. The author had an epiphany that she wasn’t happy and didn’t spend enough time doing things that brought her joy. The result was a year long journey exploring her happiness and a bestselling book on the topic.

I have been following an amazing group on Instagram called by the same name but in no relation to the book. A few times a week I come across beautiful images of happy people doing service projects from feeding the homeless on skid row in Los Angeles, bringing brown bag lunches, visiting senior homes with flowers repurposed from other events (even plucked from Rose Parade floats) and the list goes on. So finally, my curiosity got the best of me and I reached out to find out who was behind The Happiness Projects?

The answer, a joy filled young woman named Ivy Luong, whose passion is to bring happiness to others. An event planner by day and philanthropist in every spare moment in between. I talked to Ivy earlier this week about what inspires someone with a full-time job, a full life and tons of friends to create a group that serves others? I think you will find her answers as inspiring as I did.

Charity Matters: What inspired you to start The Happiness Projects?

Ivy Luong: I have always felt grateful for all that I have. I am a first generation American and have watched my parents work so hard for our family. I know that there are so many people in need. Last January, I reached out to a bunch of my friends to see if they wanted to volunteer. I made it easy, fun and we called it The Happiness Project. I never thought a year later what we would accomplish.

Charity Matters: So what has your impact been in just 365 days?

Ivy Luong: We didn’t set out with a goal, we simply wanted to show people (the homeless, the elderly) that someone cares. We just wanted to help empower as many people as possible. I reached out to a few friends and a few nonprofits that I cared about and before I knew it there were more friends and more causes. Last year we completed 18 projects, had over 115 volunteers and delivered happiness to 1, 666 people.

Charity Matters: What fuels you to keep doing this work and when do you know you have made a difference?

Ivy Luong: All the people I meet. Bringing strangers together to do good. The interaction from the people we serve. Our lunch bag project on Skid Row, for example, when you feed someone who hasn’t eaten in days and they smile at you when you give them food. It not only makes you realize that their hurdles in life are bigger than your own but more than that it compels you to move forward to the next project.

Knowing that if I can help just one person, that’s when I know I have made a difference.

Charity Matters: What life lesson have you learned from The Happiness Projects? And how has this year of service changed you?

Ivy Luong: I have learned big lessons. First, is that you never know what someone is going through . More than that, give back whenever you can. Connecting people, opportunities and causes  has been one of the greatest experiences, not only for me but for everyone involved.  Just knowing you have helped one person let alone hundreds is what The Happiness Projects is all about.

Charity Matters.

 

Sharing is caring, if you are so moved or inspired, we would love you to share this to inspire another.

Copyright © 2018 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.