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Making Waves

As the summer days pass by faster and faster we all crave a little bit more sand and surf, especially here in California. The past few years my summers have been spent running a nonprofit leadership program where I have the privilege of working with  extraordinary high school and college age students. Five years ago when I showed up, I met a fantastic family of four girls ( The McDermott sisters) who had all been a part of our organization, each was at a different phase of their leadership journey.

We challenge all our students to find their magis, the Latin word for more, to search for their meaning and purpose and to share it with others.  We also teach our students that you cannot lead unless you serve. I am so proud of these amazing young women, identifying their gifts and finding a way to give back to others. Take at peek at their MORE and our fun conversation about their inspiring work mentoring young girls through their organization Making Waves.

Charity Matters: What was the moment you knew you needed to act and start Making Waves?

Micaela McDermott: Our goal was to provide a positive and supportive community of ladies that will always welcome and embrace one another. When I was working as a surf instructor, I realized the need for a strong female community in and around surfing. There are plenty of young girls that want to learn how to surf, but not very many ladies in the lineup. Entering into this sport can be intimidating when you don’t have a supportive community or role models to help guide you through it. Coming from a family of 4 girls, we all experienced some of the social challenges that girls go through during middle school. Our hope when creating the Making Waves community was to bridge both these experiences and provide young girls with a safe and welcoming group on and off the water.

charity matters: So tell us what is making waves mission and your hope for Making Waves?

Cameron McDermott: The mission of Making Waves is to promote a love of sun, surf, and good vibrations among all women. The sun represents promoting a conscious mindset of our impact on the Earth. Making Waves has been involved in multiple beach cleanups and discussions involving our environmental impact on the planet. Instead of leaving carbon footprints, we focus on our footprints in the sand. Surf stand for of course, surfing, but also all around staying active and taking care of our bodies. And finally, good vibrations refers to carrying ourselves in a positive light and passing that light on to others, like a vibration.  

Our hope in starting Making Waves was to provide mentorship for middle school girls through the sport of surfing. We want these girls to then take their passion, whatever it is, and make their own wave.  It is an amazing feeling when you know you are impacting the world.

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

Cameron McDermott: The best feeling in the world is seeing somebody catch their first wave! They are so stoked when they are able to finally stand up after falling a few times. Seeing the joy and excitement that the girls experience while surfing and learning together makes every moment worth it.

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

Micaela McDermott: When you see that big bright smile on someone’s face, you know you have made a positive impact. If each girl leaves feeling stoked and motivated to “make their wave,” then it was a successful day

Charity Matters: Tell us what success you have had? What has your impact been?

Delaney McDermott: One of the achievements of Making Waves is receiving a  grant from The Pollination Project in 2017. We have also been invited to speak at several conferences for The Association of Catholic Student Councils, sharing out story with over 500 middle school students in Southern California. Among our events and meet-ups, we have had over 100 participants over the last 4 years.

Charity Matters: What life lessons have you learned from this experience? How has this journey changed you?

Micaela, Cameron & Delaney McDermott: Throughout the life of Making Waves, we have had the opportunity to learn some amazing life lessons from the experience and from the ladies involved. We have learned to stay persistent and steadfast on goals, but also to enjoy the ride. We have learned the importance of a supportive and positive community, and the inspiration and motivation that this community provides to people. Most of all, we have learned how to be better friends, supporters, mentors, and sisters because of this experience.

Regardless of age, everyone has the ability to find their “more.” The McDermott sisters are an incredible example of sharing their passion through Making Waves with others!

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Learning Lab Ventures

Last December, I was at a friend’s holiday party and sat next to this amazing woman and we started to chat about philanthropy. The holiday celebration ended and we vowed to continue the lively conversation another time. So, two weeks ago we reconnected to continue the conversation, six months later.  The young woman I met was named Rochelle Gore Fredston and her philanthropic journey was and is inspiring. The last time we met, Rochelle was the mother of two little girls and when we sat down two weeks ago she beamed as we discussed the pending new addition her family.

Rochelle and I discussed how she got into the nonprofit world and the journey she has been on with her incredible work to break the cycle of generational poverty. She is the founder of  the Philanthropic Society of Los Angeles (PSLA) and more recently has taken over Learning Lab Ventures, a nonprofit that is an intensive after school and educational enrichment program that turns underserved students into college graduates. I have to say after our conversation it is official…. Rochelle is truly beautiful inside and out and her passion for making a difference is an inspiration to us all. I hope you enjoy our conversation as much as I did!

charity matters: Tell us a little about your back round and your journey into the nonprofit world?

Rochelle Gores Fredston: My dad came to the United States with very little and worked extremely hard. He taught us that we had to work hard and do better, not just for ourselves but for others. Some my earliest memories were feeding the homeless, as young children in Michigan, where we grew up. My brother has Cerebral Palsy and we were all raised to be involved and supportive of one another and our community.

charity matters: how did you begin the Philanthropic society of los angeles?

Rochelle Gore Fredston: After college, I was moving to Los Angeles and I reached out to a family friend and said that I wanted to get involved in something philanthropic in LA.  Our friend connected me with the Children’s Institute, which is a great organization that provides mental health training and head start programs to over 20,000 children in Los Angeles. At the time I was in my twenties and the group at Children’s Institute was mainly people in their forties and fifties,  so I wanted to get some of my friends involved.

I owned a boutique and have always loved fashion, so I thought it would be fun to have a fantastic fashion show and involve a big group of millineals. I realized that my friends really wanted to do something but didn’t know how to start. So we created a group called PSLA to raise funds and support Children’s Institute. For eight years we very successfully raised funds with our events and each year our PSLA group of about seventy-five was giving their funding to educational projects for the Children’s Institute. We even created a family fund to help families with specific needs.

charity matters: so how did you get from the PSLA to Learning Lab Ventures?

Rochelle Gore Fredston: After eight amazing years with great success, our group at PSLrealized that they still wanted to do more to support education, especially for at risk youth. So we began to explore the idea of funding another organization that was in need but also that had a great success rate. So as fate would have it, in 2017 we connected with Hathaway-Sycamores who were running an after school educational program and they asked if we wanted to take over? That program was Learning Lab and now Learning Lab Ventures.

Charity Matters: tell us about learning lab ventures?

Rochelle Gore Fredston: Learning Lab was founded in 1982 by an amazing man named Simon Gee whose passion is tutoring and mentoring students. Today we still follow the incredible work that our founder began and have built upon his foundation. Our mission is to disrupt generational poverty via an intensive after schools education and enrichment program. We aim to enable underrepresented students to graduate from top colleges equipped with a college degree, skills and experience they need to excel in the workforce and beyond.

charity matters: Tell us about some of your success at learning lab ventures?

Rochelle Gore Fredston: At LLV we take students from age three all the way until their first job out of college. We have 100% high school graduation rate and 95% of our students go to a four year college with scholarships. We have students at Harvard, Ivy League’s and incredible four year colleges. We provide our students with mentors and our hope is to eliminate all the red tape to get them through school and into their first job.

We have focused on our core, education, which is what we do well.  With LLV we have taken an old nonprofit and made it better with great partnerships and resources.

charity matters: How has this journey in philanthropy changed you and what have you learned about yourself from your work in serving others?
Rochelle Gore Fredston: When I began this journey, I was newly married and getting involved in Los Angeles. Over the past decade I have committed myself to helping the most at risk youth in LA, and during this time I also had two beautiful girls. Having children of my own has made this a very personal mission for me and I am grateful that I am able to give back in a meaningful way.
charity matters:

Thank you Rochelle for  your extraordinary commitment to breaking the generational cycle of poverty through education. You told us,”I grew up to do better. Education is how we can do better and it is my job to help them do better.”  Thank you for inspiring us all to do better and be better!

 

charity matters
YOUR REFERRAL IS THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT,  IF YOU ARE SO MOVED OR INSPIRED, WE WOULD LOVE YOU TO SHARE AND INSPIRE ANOTHER.

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Eric’s Kids

The beauty of Charity Matters is that my friends love to connect me to their inspiring friends and then I turn get to share them with you. A few weeks ago, I had a girlfriend connect me an amazing woman named Jennifer Caspar, the founder of Eric’s Kids. Jennifer has had a remarkable life for someone as young as she is and is the perfect example of someone who has used all of their challenges and gifts to make others lives better. I hope you enjoy our conversation as much as I did.

charity matters: Give us a little insight to your backround before starting Eric’s Kids?

Jennifer Caspar: When my husband Eric and I moved to LA from the East Coast  for his work, it was such an exciting time. I worked in the nonprofit space in affordable housing, loved my career where I could use my entrepreneurial skills, creative abilities and problem solving skills to help support the homeless. We had two young daughters and in January 2009, I left my job. At the same time, my husband Eric decided to follow his passion of education and make a career change. So, for the first time we were both at home together and working on separate projects. It was a very special time for both of us.

charity matters: what was the moment you knew you wanted to start a nonprofit?

Jennifer Caspar: When Eric died unexpectedly on September 1st, 2009 I knew that we needed to do something in his memory. Our girls were ten and thirteen at the time and I knew that somehow we needed to help children who had lost a parent and knew that we needed to do something to honor Eric’s passion for education. We were fortunate that we had life insurance and some financial resources and knew we somehow had to help those that did not.

I reached out to my old boss and asked for her guidance and she pointed me to the California Community Foundation that partners donors and nonprofits. They explained that we could create a donor advised fund under their 501c3 and they could manage all of the administrative work that can be overwhelming for many nonprofit organizations. I was overwhelmed enough and knew this was the right step. Talking this all through we came up with the perfect way to honor Eric, to help grieving children and to support Eric’s legacy with education.

Charity matters: Tell us what ERic’s kids does?

Jennifer Caspar: Eric’s Kids is a nonprofit that provides scholarships, mentoring and grief support to at risk children who have lost a parent and are in financial need. We ensure that underserved kids affected by loss are provided with a quality education and grief support so they will have an equal opportunity to succeed. The fund works to provide financial support and services to children who would otherwise be unable to attend high quality, safe nurturing schools in their central Los Angeles neighborhoods.

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

Jennifer Caspar: Different things at different times. All of the people who support our work and cause continue to inspire me and knowing that I am not alone in this work really helps.

charity matters: when do you know that you have made a difference?

Jennifer Caspar: When I receive letters from the students we support. When families reach out to me to say how grateful they are that their child can stay in the same school regardless of the loss of a parent. Parents knowing that despite their grief and loss that somehow they are going to be ok gives me great comfort.

charity matters: tell us about your success?

Jennifer Caspar: We work to constantly fund as many students as we can. In eight years we have had seven fundraising events, supported over thirty plus students and funded over 100 years of school.

charity matters: what life lessons have you learned from this experience and how has this journey changed you?

Jennifer Caspar: This journey has changed me in many ways. I’ve learned about leadership and getting other people involved. I’ve learned how to inspire and motivate people in positive ways . The life lessons learned from this journey are all about gratitude and paying it forward. People want to help and be a part of doing something good for the world.

charity matters: what do think Eric would think of your work?

Jennifer Caspar: Eric helped me become myself in our 18 years of marriage. He was always my cheer squad. I think this would make Eric happy. I think he would be proud of how we (myself and the girls) have spent our time and focused our energy these past eight years. This is part of our life. Knowing that Eric was always moved by children who had a hard upbringing and that his legacy now gives kids an opportunity to go to bat would inspire him.

Charity Matters: Thank you Jennifer for inspiring us all. Despite loss, grief and challenges you found a way to honor Eric’s memory and change the lives of so many children and families through your work. You are an inspiration and we are sure that Eric is beyond proud.

charity matters.

 

 

YOUR REFERRAL IS THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT,  IF YOU ARE SO MOVED OR INSPIRED, WE WOULD LOVE YOU TO SHARE AND 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.

 

 

 

I Am Waters Foundation

You never know what a lunch invitation is going to lead too…..A few weeks ago a friend of mine reached out and invited a handful of girlfriends to connect with a remarkable woman named Elena Davis for lunch. She was coming into town from Houston and had started a nonprofit organization there serving the homeless in 2009. I of course could not wait until lunch to meet and connected with Elena last week via phone to chat and ask about her journey in beginning I Am Waters Foundation.

I have to say, it was one of the most remarkable stories and amazing conversations.  Elena is truly an inspiration and  I am sure you will feel the same way…

what is the i am waters foundation’s mission?

Elena Davis: I Am Water’s mission is to do one perfect and complete thing: to deliver water. Clean drinking water in a bottle with a message of hope, love and faith to remind the person holding and drinking from the bottle that something important lies beyond physical sight.

charity matters:  there is usually a connection between nonprofit founders and their causes, what is yours?

Elena Davis: My life as it stands now is far from where I started. As one of four kids raised by a single mother on less than three thousand dollars a year and food stamps, my life was lived in extreme need and on the margins of society, with struggle as a constant companion. At the age of fourteen, after having attended over a dozen schools, I started dreaming of a better life than the one into which I was born.  I was introduced to a photographer who took the first shots of me and I began to realize my dream of becoming a fashion model. At the age of 16, having signed with the renowned Ford Agency, I set off to Paris to begin what was to become a lucrative and successful career as a print and fashion model.

 After 15 years of hard work and a successful career as a model, I was able to contribute to alleviating my family’s financial woes . In 1994, I married into one of the country’s more prominent families. Twelve years of marriage and 3 kids later, I had all that I had dreamed of. Or so I thought.   In 2009, while going to pick my kids up from school a homeless woman knocked on my car window. I reached for money and she shoved it back to me and said, “Please, I am so thirsty can I please have your water?” As I handed her the water and felt a jolt, like an electric current. She said, “Thank you and God Bless you.” And she disappeared.

Charity matters: what was the moment you knew you needed to start your nonprofit?

Elena Davis: After meeting that woman, I couldn’t get her out of my mind and I knew that I was being called to do something. I just wasn’t sure what. Then a series of things happened that kept pointing to water and homelessness. I knew I needed to revisit my past and I was scared to face the deeply buried part of myself, my childhood, that I had kept a secret from my friends and the people I knew. Yet, I knew that if we could heal one crucial aspect of the intense need that a person without a home has to deal with daily, by providing water, we could make an impact and so in 2009 we began the I am Waters Foundation.

charity matters: homelessness has so many layers where do you start?

Elena Davis: Did you know the average age of homeless person is 9 years old? We have more than 3.5 million people that are homeless in this country every night and of the 31 million people living in poverty more than 12 million of them are children. We start by providing the most basic human need, water.

charity matters: what keeps you doing this work when The job is never ending and the need is enormous?

Elena Davis: The work is hard but I really believe that I was called to do this. The short answer is God. What are the chances that I was born into poverty and married into a great family? I think I am a bridge between two worlds and this was God’s way of saving me.  Also, my husband has been incredibly supportive through this entire journey.

charity matters: when do you know you have made a difference?

Elena Davis: On a micro level I think we have been able to track people and follow our progress. On a macro level we have worked tirelessly to help change the systems by working with cities, calling out injustices and simply by not giving up. We are excited to be launching a new program I Am Jobs to continue our mission to serve this underserved  population.

charity matters: Tell us the success you have had and your impact?

Elena Davis: We have distributed over 4.1 million bottles of water to the homeless in six states.  We have partnered with countless homeless agencies and 45 shelter partners that we research. We are now working with cities to begin an I Am Jobs program in addition to supplying water and hope to the population we serve. The water continues to be the tool we use to reach people and connect. Each bottle has a phone number that connects us to the individual in need. We have partnered with incredible organizations to help the next steps in the job process. It all starts with the individual person who is asking for help.

charity matters: What life lessons have you learned from this experience and how has this journey changed you?

Elena Davis: Growing up transient I kept to myself. My heart was buried and this journey has cleansed me, given me gratitude and perspective. I have learned that our gifts are tied to our wounds. You need to go down to the core of who we are and face that to move forward to help others.

charity Matters: Thank you for sharing your remarkable story, You truly are an inspiration and more than a super model but a super role model for us all.

 

charity matters

 

YOUR REFERRAL IS THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT,  IF YOU ARE SO MOVED OR INSPIRED, WE WOULD LOVE YOU TO SHARE AND 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.

The Foundation for Living Beauty

Have you ever seen someone walk into a room that radiates a bright light? That is exactly the impact that Amie Satchu has when she enters the room. It isn’t her physical beauty (which she has) but something bigger within that catches you immediately. When we met through a mutual friend recently at a lunch, I was not surprised to discover that she had founded a nonprofit, most appropriately called The Foundation for Living Beauty.

Amie and I had a chance to catch up earlier this week to discuss her inspirational journey and mission to provide women with cancer emotional, physical and spiritual support throughout their cancer treatment. The Foundation for Living Beauty uses a holistic approach to educate, uplift and empower women dealing with cancer whether newly diagnosed, in mid treatment or beyond.

Charity Matters: What was the moment you knew you needed to act and start your non-profit?

Amie Satchu: In my early 20’s I started  a hair care line that specialized in wigs and hair extensions, that quickly gained notoriety in the ethnic hair care market. With that came hundreds of letters from women telling us that we had transformed their beauty by transforming their hair, many of whom had cancer. So, as a result of those letters I decided to start a nonprofit in 2005 to serve  these women.

The week after we received our 501c3 nonprofit status, my mother was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, a terminal cancer and given less than two years to live. I crawled into my mom’s hospital bed and told her we were going to get through this together. The Foundation for Living Beauty truly came out of providing her with a quality of life and each program was built out of her experience.

A few weeks later my mom (who was a social worker) and her two best friends were also diagnosed with cancer. The connection between these three women, the sisterhood and coming together truly formed the inspiration for the women we serve to find a place where they can thrive and heal.

charity Matters: Tell us a little about your work?

Amie Satchu: The Foundation for Living Beauty does over 30 events a year all 100% free to support women with cancer. We do wellness workshops, yoga for cancer patients and sisterhood support events. All of the support services we currently offer, address the complex needs my mother faces along her cancer journey and help women understand that the lifestyle choices they make can help them feel and live better.

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

Amie Satchu: My mother died four years ago and she lived eight amazing years after her diagnosis. I saw her emotional wellness after our events, seeing the impact of our work first hand. My mom is still the guiding light even though she is no longer physically with us. I see the impact from the women we serve, in their renewed sense of hope and well being, and that in turn supports their families through this journey. 

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

Amie Satchu: There are so many moments and people that remind me of the difference we have made in hundreds of peoples’ lives. One person that stands out to me is Sandra Yates Thompson (who is in the video below), we were not only able to help her through her battle but to support her and her family in ways that shifted her and all of us. Her heart was so beautiful and it is people like Sandra that inspire us to keep going.

Each life we touch reminds me of the importance of our work. We had a client named Cassandra who was a single mother, and an attorney who was such an inspiration that we had a donor create a Cassandra fund to help single mother’s with cancer.

Charity Matters: Tell us what success you have had? What has your impact been? Number  of people impacted, funds raised?

Amie Satchu: Our success is truly about each life we touch, whether the woman with cancer or her family. We currently serve 650 Living Beauties that are a part of our program. These women can attend over 30 events for free that focus on increasing their physical wellness and emotional stability while coping with cancer. 97% of our participants gain a new understanding of their body and immune system and 92% of the women we serve agree that they have more tools to strengthen and heal their body because of our program.

Amie with Olivia Fox, who was diagnosed with cancer in her early 20s
charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?  What life lessons have you learned from this experience?

Amie Satchu: This journey has changed me in so many ways. The exchange between the women we serve reminds me to live only in the present. Bringing hope into others lives, learning to be open and to make everyday count are invaluable experiences that have changed me. When I do those things I feel my mother’s presence and know this is where I want to be.

The life lesson I have taken from this journey is that what really matters in this lifetime are the connections you have with other souls. The positive things you do in this life are the only things you take with you and the only things that are truly important. Being with my mom at the end of her life for her last breath is a daily reminder that love is all that we have and all that matters.

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.

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.

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.”

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Teaching service and leadership

As many of you know I run a youth leadership nonprofit organization as my daytime job. Teaching over 3,000 students each year how to be leaders. This time of year at work we are doing leadership days, so think about a school field trip where a few hundred middle school students are going to a local high school to be taught leadership by high school students.

All year the college alumni of our program teach the high school students leadership skills and then like a waterfall, the high school students turn and teach the middle school students, which is how we run an organization that serves 3,000 students with only two employees. More than any of that, what constantly inspires me is seeing the power of peers. It doesn’t matter if you are 50 and looking up to those a few years older or 12 and looking up to a 15 year old, that peer relationship is so powerful and never really goes away.

We spend so much time in our schools talking about bullying and negative things that are happening with our youth and so little talking about the good, which is why I needed to  share this. I have been working with hundreds of these inspiring teenagers as they teach these middle school students. I watch as they take, shy, sometimes awkward, sometimes overly confident middle schoolers and they validate them, accept them, include them and as a result empower them. These small gestures of kindness are transformative.

I watch these young adults transform others lives through their service and transform their own by recognizing their own power and the power of kindness. I continue to be in awe of watching these students transform themselves, their schools and communities through their service and leadership.

This isn’t a post about school violence, politics or bullying but rather a place to point out that these teenagers can fix almost anything. If our youth continue to come together to reach out to an alienated or lonely child, include someone who feels isolated, help another who is feeling left out…. those simple gestures can have the most powerful results. We don’t need marches on Washington, we simply need kindness, compassion, inclusion and acceptance that is how we are going to take back our schools, society and safety.

Charity Matters.

 

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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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Pablove

The world is full of amazing and inspiring humans, they are all around us. When you have a moment to learn someone’s life story, it is a privilege to share it.  Last week, I had the most fun and fantastic conversation with Jo Ann Thrailkill, the founder of Pablove.org, a nonprofit whose mission is to invest in underfunded cutting edge pediatric cancer research and improve the lives of children living with cancer through the arts.  I know she will warm your heart  and inspire you as much as she did me. Here is our conversation:

Charity Matters: What was your background before starting Pablove.org?

JoAnn Thrailkill: In my 20s through my 40s I was a music video producer. I absolutely loved my job and was living a dream. I was a single mother with a fantastic life and career. When I met my husband Jeff, who is also in the music business, and we had our son Pablo, I decided to slow my career down a bit and focus on my family and time with my two sons.

When Pablo was diagnosed with a rare pediatric cancer in May of 2008 everything changed. I went from producing music videos to trying to Executive Produce Pablo’s treatment and care. While Pablo was sick we had so many people who wanted to help, bring food, do something. A co-worker of my husbands, started a PayPal account just so people could do something. We were so involved with Pablo we weren’t really aware of how many people were supporting us through this. 

Charity Matters: When did you realize you were going to start a nonprofit?

Jo Ann ThrailkillWhen Pablo died six days after his 6th birthday we were devastated,bereft and overcome by grief. We were also overcome by people’s kindness and generosity. People really wanted to help us in so many ways, it was overwhelming. When we went to gather pictures for his memorial service, we found so many photos that Pablo had taken with all of our devices. They were everywhere and we had no idea he was such a photographer.

A few months after his death, my husband decided to ride his bike across the country, to deal with his grief and process all that had happened. When he came back, his co-worker asked, “What do you want to do with this PayPal account and the funds?” To be honest we had forgotten about the account and didn’t think it could have had more than a couple thousand dollars. To our total surprise there was over $250,000 and in that moment we felt an overwhelming responsibility to all of these people who had supported us and Pablo.

When my husband said, “You need to executive produce this,” meaning the beginning of Pablove.org, that was the moment.

Charity Matters: Where did you start?

Jo Ann Thrailkill: I went to see Pablo’s doctor, to get a direction and he asked me, ” What would you have wanted that you didn’t have when Pablo was sick?” And my answer was a cure. So I knew we were going to need to invest in research since pediatric cancer research is so underfunded, only 4% of cancer research funding goes towards childhood cancer.

He then asked me what Pablo would have wanted and I knew it was something in the arts and Pablo loved photography. I knew that Pablo just wanted to feel like a kid when he was sick and that his photography had been a form of self-expression. So that is how we began the Shutterbugs program which teaches children and teens with cancer the art of photography.

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

Jo Ann Thrailkill: When the kids tell us that working with a camera and photography has been a life changing experience for them. That is when you don’t want to stop and know you need to keep going. In addition, to know that we have created an organization that is filled with optimism, joy and laughter. 

Charity Matters: Tell us the success you have had?

Jo Ann Thralkill: Our very first year in 2010, my husband did a bike ride across the country again but this time to raise funds for The Pablove Foundation and we raised over $500,000. The momentum continued and we were able to fund a grant our first year. Today, almost ten years later we have thousands of Shutterbugs in 16 cities across the country and have provided seed funding for pediatric cancer.

Since 2010, we have awarded more than two million dollars in Childhood Cancer Research Grants to over twenty institutions worldwide.

Charity Matters: What life lessons have you learned from this journey and how has it changed you?

Jo Ann Thrailkill:  This entire experience has been completely life-altering for me. I think one of the major things I took away from my own family’s cancer experience was that just when you think the world is filled with darkness and hate, you discover that it is actually filled with love.

Things don’t always end up how you hope or plan that they will, but when we were in the trenches of treatment with Pablo we discovered the most amazing support from our community and everyone around us. This gave us not only the financial support but the emotional strength that we needed to start the Pablove Foundation. The experience of starting Pablove has allowed me to always see the light. I am now reminded daily of the love that surrounded me during one of the most difficult times in my life.

charity Matters

 

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AnnieCannons

Have you ever heard of Annie Cannon? She was a pioneer, who worked at the Harvard Observatory in the early 20th century. Annie Cannon and a group of women discovered the very categories that stars fall into. If ever there was a more perfect name for an organization about two stars who are truly pioneers, it is Laura Hackney and Jessica Hubley’s nonprofit organization Annie Cannons.

Truly one of the most innovate organizations tackling one of the most horrific problems, human trafficking or slavery. The International Labour Organization estimates that there are 20.9 million victims of human trafficking globally. Sixty-eight percent are trapped in forced labor, twenty-six percent are children and over fifty percent are women and girls. According to the nonprofit organization Polaris there were over 8,000 reported cases in the United States in 2016. I truly had no idea and was shocked by these statistics.

What was even more stunning was two Stanford graduates (one a Masters from Stanford and the other Stanford Law) who were determined to find a solution to empower these victims by teaching them skills, earning income and building solutions to empower them to break the cycle. Last week I had one of the most incredible conversations, I have ever had…. with Co-Founder Jessica Hubley.

Charity Matters: What is the back story to Annie Cannons, your nonprofit is pretty unique?

Jessica Hubley: Laura was the manager of the Program on Human Rights on Stanford and had worked as a Senior Research Associate for Stanford’s Anti-Trafficking Project. I was an attorney, we had both gone to Stanford and in September 2013, I was writing a nonfiction book about human trafficking. Laura was going to Myanmar for work and asked if I wanted to come along. We met and interviewed nine people who were victims of human trafficking and they all said the same thing. That they were desperate for work, they were poor, vulnerable and trusted someone.

This was shocking to me, but not to Laura who had been in this space for much longer. I asked Laura, “What if we got these people a job?” The answer wasn’t as simple, but we knew that if we could find away to address the financial piece we might be able to impact change.

When we came home, I was a successful attorney working with digital media companies in the technology industry. I was seeing so many people in software development making $400 an hour writing code and couldn’t help but wonder what if we taught these women victims of human trafficking how to do this?

Charity Matters: What did you do then? 

Jessica Hubley: First we spent an enormous amount of time talking to people who ran nonprofits, shelters here in the Bay Area that housed women who were victims of human trafficking, we spoke to Fortune 500 companies and gathered a lot of information.

 We are self-proclaimed huge geeks. That being said, we taught ourselves to write code. Laura taught herself, then she taught me, we began essentially putting a school together for these women and kept refining our curriculum. We knew the market and need for coders and believed that these women who had escaped unimaginable past had what it took. They were good problem solvers, they were survivors, hard workers and they had grit. It turns out that is exactly what it takes to  be a perfect coder.

Charity Matters: What fuels you to keep doing this work? You are running a nonprofit and a school, essentially and then you are  helping these women get jobs writing code? It is an enormous undertaking, how do you do it?

Jessica Hubley: I think there are three things. One, I still feel I have something to prove to the world. Two, we built the kind of work place that we both always dreamed of that is supportive and collaborative, where we all learn from one another. Lastly, Laura understands and having a partner to lift me up ….and we keep each other going.

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

Jessica Hubley: When I see one of our students thriving and being successful. When I receive a card or note saying you changed my life and my children’s’ lives. When our customers love their apps and websites and when we have found hidden figures in the world that no one is looking at and have given them the economic power to break the cycle of human trafficking. We have helped people build solutions.

Charity Matters: What have you learned from this experience?

Jessica Hubley: I have learned that most people are good but more than that, I have learned that what really matters is the mark we leave on the world.

Charity Matters.

 

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Celebrating our Veterans and Wellness works

Over the years I have interviewed and profiled a number of amazing organizations that serve our troops and veterans, Hugs for Heroes, Operation Gratitude, Veterans Career Exchange, and the list goes on. All fantastic organizations that have served our men and women abroad or helped returning Veterans get jobs once they were out of the military. However in all my interviews, I have yet to meet an organization that’s main focus is  to restore hope and a sense of wholeness of body and soul turning their post traumatic stress into post traumatic growth, until now. The place is Wellness Works, a home for healing  and hope.

Last week, I sat down with the Co-Founder, Mary Lu Coughlin, of the non-profit Wellness Works to learn more about the journey our Veterans go through and the story of this amazing non-profit that continues healing our Veterans. Today we celebrate Veterans Day and all those who gave so bravely for our freedom. It is the perfect time to share about the remarkable work that is being done to support the Veteran community and their families. This video (that sadly isn’t embedding but you can old school click the link) gives you a deeper dive into Wellness Works impact on Veterans.

 

Charity Matters: What was the moment you knew you needed to start Wellness Works?

Mary Lu Coughlin: Beginning in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, my Co-Founder Nancy was teaching wellness education workshops and holistic healing therapies to nurses mainly to help healing with the large AIDS/HIV population at the time. Our goal was always to he a source of healing and service to the community.  As medications became available for AIDS patients our client focus began to shift, September 11th happened, the war began and then in 2005  when we read Dr. Ed Tick’s book War and The Soul about healing Veterans from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, also known as PTSD. We knew that we had a healing skills that could help our Veterans and their families.

Soldiers began coming home in 2006 and we knew our healing community needed to support and love these Veterans and give them a place that felt like home. 

Charity Matters: What fuels you to keep doing this work in serving our Veterans?

Mary Lu Coughlin: Twenty-two veterans a day take their own lives. I know that when we (Wellness Works) have a tangible felt experience and love can come thru us to our Veterans that we are an instrument of healing.

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

Mary Lu Coughlin: When veterans come through our door they feel welcome, they feel at home, they know their invisible wounds are seen and they are not judged. When I over hear one veteran telling another,” I am finally home thanks to Wellness Works.” 

Another veteran, who now serves on our board, said on his second visit to Wellness Works that, “his life’s purpose had been restored. He now had a community with which he could once again strive to serve the greater good.”

Charity Matters:What do want people to think about this Veteran’s Day?

Mary Lou Coughlin: This Veterans Day gives us as a caring community and society, the opportunity to acknowledge the service of the many men and women who have served us so well.

Charity Matters.

 

 

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Hand to hold

A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.”

Joseph Campbell

I like to say that I have a front row seat to humanity. I am privileged to meet and share the stories of the most remarkable people and this week’s conversation with Kelli Kelly was so inspiring that I can’t wait to share. Kelli is a real life hero, a woman who went through enormous pain and suffering when her son Jackson was born 16 weeks premature in 2000, weighing a little over a pound. What she did with that experience is a lesson for us all.

Kelli said, “There are defining moments in our lives. Some bring great joy-others sorrow and pain. If we embrace these moments, they can mold us into new and improved versions of ourselves-one that allows us to ignite change, instill hope and find a purpose for our lives we never thought possible.”

In 2000, after the weeks in the NICU (Neo-Natal ICU) Kelli was sad, stressed, traumatized, depressed and emotionally drained not knowing the fate of her newborn son. She said, “The guilt, grief, anguish and pain was overwhelming. Now 17 years later, I can still relate to that defining moment.”  Here are the highlights from our inspiring conversation:

Charity Matters: What was the moment you knew you needed to act and start Hand to Hold?

Kelli Kelly: “When I realized that 1 out of 8 babies born in the United States is pre-term. We started as a March of Dimes Ambassador family but I realized early on that there were  many organizations to support premature babies but nothing to support the families. I was looking for an organization to help me meet other families going through this same stress, isolation and anxiety and there wasn’t one to help us.

So, at first I gathered some families together at our local hospital and created a program, connecting NICU families but it wasn’t enough. In 2008, we began Hand to Hold to provide families a  peer-to-peer support network for seasoned families of premature babies. We knew we needed to give families ways to survive and navigate their time at the NICU and beyond.”

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

Kelli Kelly: First and foremost it is remembering what it felt like to be a parent of a child in the NICU and the impact, trauma, ptsd and stress that causes in all areas of your life. Secondly, it is the cards, the emails from the people we touch. We just started a podcast and are now hearing from families all over the world who are grateful we are sharing with them. Most of all, it is a strong faith in those difficult moments that keeps me moving forward.”

Charity Matters: When do you know that your work has made a difference?

I know we are making a difference when organizations like the Preemie Parent Alliance, realize that parents voices need to be a part of this conversation. When we were the keynote speaker at the National Neonatal Nurses Convention or when I’m speaking to national pharmaceutical companies and their employees about what is happening in this space.

We are truly trying to make foundational changes to help families to be better parents and to not only survive but thrive after this experience.

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about your impact and where you are headed next with Hand to Hold?

Kelli Kelly: We know that our impact and reach continues to expand through our national database that connects these families, through our expanding list of health care partners and because we continue to help break down the barriers to reach families going through this experience.

We started a podcast last February and have had over 13,000 downloads in 42 countries. So we know there is a need and that we continue to reach these families. That was the goal to find, connect and support as many families as we can. Our next steps are to begin our work with “Beyond the NICU” with a book and an App to help families navigate the invisible diagnosis that is a factor with preemies. We will be developing a care map to help navigate families through the process of  first all the way through their child’s education.

To end where we began with Kelli’s inspiring words, “There are defining moments in our lives. Some bring great joy-others sorrow and pain. If we embrace these moments, they can mold us into new and improved versions of ourselves-one that allows us to ignite change, instill hope and find a purpose for our lives we never thought possible.”

Kelli is an inspiration to all with her purpose driven life in service of others.

Charity Matters.

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Copyright © 2017 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.