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Childrens’ Causes

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Charitable children, it’s never too late to start

I am always so amazed that is the same time each year that I find people asking me for suggestions for raising philanthropic children. As a result, I share this post once again as refresher for all, holidays or not.

When my sons were younger I wondered if they were really understanding what we were doing as a family for others. We wanted to raise compassionate and charitable children, good humans. While my sons are far from the poster children for philanthropy, they certainly do a lot to help others. I am proud that each of them has found different ways to give back and share the gifts that they have been given. My oldest has a passion for serving inner city children. His younger brother, has recently gotten behind Movember and men’s health through his fraternity. His house is one of the top Greek organizations in the country for fundraising this year. The youngest, at 16, has recently gotten involved with a nonprofit, Once Upon a Room, that does hospital room makeovers for very sick patients.

Each year at Thanksgiving, we sit down as a family and decide what our family will do this season to help others. We have adopted soldiers for a year, adopted families over the holidays that could not have Christmas, we have wrapped gifts at local Childrens’ Hospitals and voted on which non-profits we want to support. Each person trying to convince the others why their cause is most worthy.

The reality is that there is no simple answer to this question and that raising charitable children is an ongoing process. Families now have resources such as the nonprofit Project Giving Kids, which cultivates volunteer opportunities for young children and families. I read an article recently that said role modeling philanthropy is simply not enough. The article referenced a new study from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at Indiana University. The director, Debra Mesch, said “the research showed that talking to children about giving increased by 20 percent the likelihood that children would give.”

Here are a few tips to remember as we approach the season of giving:

Six Tips for Raising charitable children:

  1. Start early, as early as 4 or 5 years old. Giving becomes a habit.
  2. Talk to your children about what causes interest them and bring causes to their attention.
  3. Be intentional by involving your children in your own charity endeavors.
  4. Use online tools to research organizations to involve your children
  5. Be consistent. Make charity a part of your traditions, the holidays and birthdays.
  6. Emphasize the joy because giving feels great.

Benefits of raising charitable children:

  1. Opens children’s eyes to the fact that others are not as fortunate as they are
  2. Develops empathetic thinking
  3. Fosters an appreciation for what they have
  4. Enhances self-esteem
  5. Correlates to improved performance in school

While this topic is relevant for the holidays, it is important to remember that giving does not just happen once a year. Teaching the gifts you receive from giving should be a part of the year, not simply the season. Once your children feel how great it is to give, their lives will forever be altered in wonderful ways.

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.

 

A grateful heart: Alliance of Moms

As this week of gratitude begins, I am thankful for so many people, opportunities and moments that make my life and heart full. There is a saying, “it is not joy that makes us grateful but rather it is gratitude that makes us joyful.” In meeting and working with so many nonprofit founders over the years, I have discovered that people either start nonprofits because something happened to them that they want to prevent from happening to someone else or they begin their organization because of gratitude.

This weekend I spent time with the most amazing women, the founders of Alliance of Moms, who are just that….grateful. Women whose hearts are full with gratitude who  wanted to inspire and help other young mothers. You may remember the interview with Yasmine Delawari Johnson and Jules Leyser a few months back about their incredible organization whose mission is to break the inter-generational cycle of babies born to teens in foster care.

In 2012, Yasmine and Jules were both pregnant, along with three other girlfriends (Danika Charity, Emily Lynch and Kelly Zajfen) all at the same time. For some it was their first child, for others their second or third but the girlfriends all experienced  a profound change in becoming mothers. Together they were determined to use that shift in each of them to help other mothers, the most at risk, those in the foster care system.

Jules told me back in May,”My mother grew up in foster care and was a teen parent at 17. I understood the need to break the cycle, 66% of babies born into foster care become teen moms. I also understood that my child had won a lottery that he didn’t even knew he entered, just by luck. We needed to help support all mothers.” 

This past Saturday was the organizations fourth annual Raising Baby event where over 100 underserved youth in foster care and their children came for a day of fun and educational parenting workshopsThese young mothers in foster care engaged with parenting experts and learned practical tips about how to help develop their babies brains during the critical first three years of life. While the parents were learning, Alliance of Mom member volunteers provided childcare for their children.

Yasmine said,”While we set out to serve these young women in foster care, our members were also impacted by serving. The women we serve have changed all of our lives for the better because regardless of your circumstances, we all walk away stronger knowing that we all struggle as mothers.”

It was a day of fun, giving, education, and above all gratitude. These young mothers in foster care were grateful for the support, the education and the childcare. More than that, it was a day of women and community coming together to support one another. The full hearts and gratitude were abundant.

Charity Matters.

 

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.

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.

Something else to cheer for….

The difference between the impossible and the possible, lies in a person’s determination.”

Tommy Lasorda

So often when we are cheering on our hometown team in sports we forget the amazing philanthropic work that almost all sports organizations do for their communities. Since today is the first day of the World Series and being a LA girl, I thought it only fitting to see what those Dodgers are doing around town to make our city and world better.

While the Dodgers have been supporting the city and hundreds of causes since they first came to Los Angeles, in 1995 they created The Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation. Their goal, to focus on underserved youth and more specifically; sports, recreation, education, health and literacy.

Since 1995, the team and foundation have been busy supporting these incredible organizations:

photo via: LA Dodgers

Vision to learn                          Serves low-income youth with glasses and eye exams

SPARK LA                                  Serves at risk youth

Summer Night Lights              Provides community events to prevent gang violence and build community.

Jackie Robinson Foundation    Provides scholarship and literacy for low-income students

City Year LA                               Enriches education for high poverty areas of Los Angeles

LA Reads                                    Supports 13 organizations to encourage reading and literacy

If that wasn’t enough, the Dodgers have built over 47 baseball fields in Los Angeles spending over $7.3 million dollars. More than that, the Dodgers have provided over 7,800 children (that is a whole lot of kids…) aged 5-18 with baseball uniforms and equipment. So tonight when you turn on that game, regardless of your team, you have something really amazing to cheer for…a true home run!

Go Blue!

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.

 

 

Grades of Green

When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” 

John Muir

You may remember a few years back I interviewed the founders of Grades of Green, a nonprofit that was founded in 2008, by a few passionate mothers, who wanted to educate and inform children about their choices and the impact on their environment. After receiving an award from the EPA, the founders created a non-profit so that other schools would have free and easy access to the tools and information needed to empower and inspire students to care for the environment.

I recently had the opportunity to catch up with this incredible organization and chat with Emily Stewart, Program Coordinator for Grades of Green.

Charity Matters: What was the moment you knew you needed to act and participate in a non-profit?

I was raised with environmental values and completed a degree in environmental policy, so I always knew that I would be involved in the nonprofit world. When I found out about the work that Grades of Green was doing across the globe to inspire children to start their own grassroots sustainability movements, I knew that I needed to be part of it.

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

Grades of Green: Climate change poses very real threats to the future of our planet. I believe that if enough students become involved in the environmental movement, they can tip the scale and create a safer and more sustainable world.

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

Grades of Green: When students that you have mentored take the initiative to innovate their own solutions to environmental issues in their community, you know that you have made a lasting difference by encouraging the next generation to become environmental advocates. For example, a Grades of Green Youth Corps student named Antonio’s work to champion cleaner air through No Idle Zones inspired the passing of ACR 160, a statewide resolution in California.

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

Grades of Green is a very exciting and rewarding place to work because its impact in terms of benefits to the environment is measurable, and yet the environmental values and leadership skills that children gain from participating last a lifetime. 568 schools across 43 states and 17 countries are involved in our green programs, and the number of schools and students involved grows every week! Their actions to protect the environment translates to thousands of tons of waste diverted from landfills, gallons of water saved, tons of CO2 emissions reduced, and toxins removed from the environment.

Four moms set out to educate their children and others on how to care for our world and one another. Almost ten years later their message has spread across the country and the globe. To circle back week  with John Muir’s words,When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” 

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.

Katie’s Krops, a seed that grew

After the chaos of last week, I wanted to bring you the incredible story about an amazing young woman who is living a life that matters…….a life of purpose.

Working with students everyday, I truly believe that kids can do anything. Like a garden, they simply need the seed planted, cultivated, fertilized and time for it to grow. The story below is exactly that, about one 9-year-old girl who had an idea to end hunger.

Her name is Katie Stagliano and her story begins with a seed. In 2008, as a third grader Katie received a package of cabbage seeds. She went home excited to plant her seedlings and began taking daily care of her cabbage. Her hard work paid off and her cabbage ended up being over forty pounds! She knew her plant was special and needed to find a special home for it. Katie and her mother reached out to a local program, that served the homeless and hungry. She helped prepare her cabbage and served so many grateful people and now knew she needed to do more.

It was at that moment that Katie began to understand how many people in our country are hungry and she was determined to do more. She went to her school and asked if they could start a school garden and give the produce to the local soup kitchen, which they did. Still her dream expanded, Katie said,”If people (I hope lots of kids too) could grow even one vegetable plant and donate the harvest to a local soup kitchen we could make a huge difference in the fight against hunger.”

Katie is now 18 and this past month she headed off to College of Charleston as a freshman.

In under ten years Katie has created her nonprofit Katie’s Krops and established over 100 gardens in 33 states. She has summer camp where children learn about growing vegetable gardens and her team of young gardeners has grown thousands of pounds of produce, come together to cook and serve thousands meals since 2008…..all because of a seed, an idea and a boundless heart.

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.

The heart of football

Last friday was the first day of fall, and with the new season comes a host of familiar traditions. Football, of course, being at the top of the list for most. This year there is a new football tradition that is more than worth highlighting and one that began from one Iowa fan’s idea to help lift the spirits of all of  young patients at Iowa’s Stead Family Children’s Hospital.

What makes this children’s’ hospital so unique is that it is attached to the University of Iowa’s football stadium. Hawkeye fan, Krista Young, who works with young children for a living, had an idea to lift the spirits of these patients. She posted a comment on the Hawkeye Heaven Fans Facebook page that said, “I think with the new University of Iowa hospital addition open, Kinnick should hold a wave to the kids minute during every game. Can you imagine how neat it would be to have all those fans, players and coaching staff looking up at you sending a little extra inspiration?”

Krista’s idea was shared and shared and momentum began to build. Take a peak at what happens when 65,000 people come together to show their love.

We all make a choice each day with what to focus our energy and attention on. Krista Young’s loving heart and selfless idea, not only warmed patients and families hearts, but reminded each of us what is truly important.

The power of what happens, when we come together and show love for others in solidarity, with something as simple as a wave is truly healing.

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.

Hope and Comfort

In the recent weeks following Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma we have watched the citizens of Houston as they struggle with the most basic of needs, food, water, shelter but one thing we often forget about when discussing basic needs is toiletries. Something as simple as a toothbrush, deodorant or a bar of soap and more importantly the huge effect that not having these basic essentials has on our self-esteem and life.

I recently had a fantastic conversation with a remarkable man named Jeff Feingold, who identified this need in 2010. An unlikely nonprofit founder, with an MBA from Harvard business school and over 20 years working as a portfolio manager at Fidelity, yet his huge heart and overwhelming gratitude inspired the nonprofit, Hope and Comfort in 2010. Their mission is to improve the health and self-esteem of school age children and young adults in the Boston area. His story is one of gratitude, inspiration and hope….

Charity Matters:  What was the moment you knew you needed to start a nonprofit?

Jeff Feingold: It started in 2010 when my daughter was having a birthday party, and my wife and I decided she didn’t need anything but so many other children did. We asked people to bring items needed by a local nonprofit.  We were overwhelmed by the toys, toiletries and clothes that  friends brought to donate. In delivering these items, I met a social worker who shared with me a statistic that 58% of low-income families are unable to buy personal care items. She said, if you don’t have a bar soap it is hard to go forward.

We knew then that we needed to do more and began sourcing toiletries out of our garage. In 2011, we applied for our nonprofit status for Hope and Comfort.

Charity Matters: You have a full-time job and run a nonprofit what fuels you to keep doing this work?

Jeff Feingold: I think the realization that life is short and fragile and there is so much need. We have been blessed but there are so many kids who are not. Children who do not go to school because of their hygiene, that are afraid to smile because they haven’t brushed their teeth, students being bullied because their families can’t afford soap or shampoo, who are refusing to go to school.  Knowing that we are able to bring resources together to change this for so many kids is what keeps us going. That and the need seems to keep growing.

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

Jeff Feingold:  I know we have made a difference when we hear that children are going back to school, when they send us notes saying that they are smiling again. I know that we have been able to thrive in a crowded nonprofit landscape by partnering with food pantries, human services, children’s organizations and bringing everyone together in partnerships creating a distribution network to get these toiletries to those who need them.

We have made a difference in inspiring hundreds of volunteers, young families and young children, including our own on teaching them how to give and make a difference.

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

Jeff Feingold: In May 2010 we started with a donating a few items from our daughters birthday party and within the first year of working from our garage we distributed over 1,000 toiletries. By 2014 we partnered with the Boys and Girls Clubs and Mass General Hospital to provide products and hygiene lessons, distributing over 50,000 toiletries. Today, only seven years later we have distributed over 375,000 toiletries to close to twenty thousand children in need. 

As Jeff said, Hope and Comfort has gone from soap to hope…..a shinning example of what love and gratitude can do!

 

Charity Matters.

 

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What we can do….

This week was supposed to be about back to school, but somehow it just didn’t feel right when thousands of Texans are suffering from the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. So rather than talk about beginnings, it seems more appropriate to talk about what happens when people come together in times of crisis to help one another and what we can do to help the 6.8 million people affected by these storms.

Texas Monthly, provided this amazing list of ways we can help those in Houston and I thought it was worth sharing here, with a variety of ways to help children, families, the sick, disabled and animals.

The Texas Diaper Bank  Each year The Texas Diaper bank helps change the lives of 15,600 babies, seniors and the disabled. They distribute over 1.1 million diapers every year.

Driscoll Children’s Hospital  The hospital served over 171,000 children last year and is in need of blood donations as well as financial support during this challenging time as the staff works to serve these children and families.

Port Light This nonprofit is a grassroots organization that was established in 1997 to help those affected by disasters, specifically those with medical equipment needs and disabilities. Since that time, the organization has grown and in addition providing disaster emergency services, they spend much of their time educating others how to be prepared.

Direct Relief USA  This organization operates the largest charitable medical program in the United States serving more than 23 million Americans each year. 72% of those served live under the poverty level in the  United States. They are working to provide medicine and medical care to those people evacuated from their homes and in need.

Houston Food Bank In 2016-2017 The Houston food Bank distributed over 83 million meals! That was before Hurricane Harvey. With thousands and thousands of people living in shelters the Houston Food Bank is in desperate need of support to feed so many additional families.

Galveston County Food Bank  was founded in 2012 to provide meals to Houston’s surrounding area and helps to provide food and meals to over 53, 000 people each day who struggle to feed their families. They need your support to help so many more during this crisis.

Global Giving  is the largest global crowdfunding community connecting nonprofitsdonors, and companies in nearly every country. This organization helps nonprofits from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe (and hundreds of places in between) access the tools, training, and support they need to be more effective and make our world a better place. Their goal is to raise over 2 million dollars towards the Hurricane Harvey Relief effort.

SPCA of Texas is overwhelmed with need to rescue, care and support the thousands of animals effected by Hurricane Harvey. They annually help over 50,000 animals each year in addition to the seven thousand they spade/neuter and the other seven thousand animal cruelty investigations each year. The SPCA needs your support to rescue and care for the thousands of pets affected by the storm.

Aesop said, “In union there is strength.” This is the time we need to stop, click a link and help those who need it most, I just did……because together we can really do something.

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.

ME to WE

Summer’s end is bittersweet for me. It is not just the long days, the sun, and the inevitable back to school but it is saying goodbye to the remarkable students that we are privileged to work with all summer long through the youth leadership organization I work with. These students are beyond inspiring and we give them the skills to change the world and it is amazing to see what they can do.

The other day I was looking into other organizations that do similar work and I came across the most remarkable story about a young man named Craig Kielburger and his older brother Marc. Craig, at the age of 12 saw a news story about a young man his age, that changed his life, ignited a fire within and sparked a generation of youth to give back.

That moment was the beginning of the nonprofit Free the Children, whose mission was to free children and families of poverty and exploitation but that was simply the beginning of a remarkable journey and story. Free the Children grew and expanded into ME to WE, the WE Movement and a remarkable organization that empowers youth to change the world.

More than twenty years later, their vision and scope has expanded into empowering youth at home, connecting them with global and social causes, partnering with schools, service oriented travel programs for youth and families, along with a social enterprise that provides products that make an impact with their everyday consumer decisions.

These two brothers, used a spark to ignite a flame of service that has inspired hundreds of thousands of youth to be the change. In Craig’s words,” Over the years, we’ve discovered that it’s far more important to reach as many people as possible-especially our youth-empower them with the knowledge that it’s not up to anyone else, it’s up to them to make a difference.” 

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.

 

Guest blogger: Theresa Gartland

This past week I had a long over due catch up with my friend Theresa Gartland of Operation Progress. Theresa who is originally from the Washington DC area came to Los Angeles, more specifically Watts, right out of college. Watts is still considered one of the most dangerous places in Los Angeles, but Theresa fell in love with the children and families in Watts. In the past decade plus, she has worked for a few different organizations, all with the same mission of making Watts a place for children and families to thrive.

Today, I am handing the handing Charity Matters over to Theresa to share her remarkable story of service…she is a true inspiration to us all.

As I am embarking on my 15th year of working in Watts and serving the youth of the community, I cannot help but reflect on what keeps me energized and going, of course two words…the kids! Everyday, I’m so grateful that I get to fulfill my life purpose by provide the most incredible, life-changing opportunity for some of the most deserving youth.

Attending Holy Child High School in Potomac, Md, I was taught the values of giving back through action not words. This rang true for me during my high school service trips to an afterschool program in Southeast DC. During my service, I would play with the children, help them with their homework, and spend time getting to know they. I quickly learned that they only difference between them and me was our neighborhood, and they were just as deserving as all the opportunities I was given. It was my actions that were making an impact. Through service and volunteering I had found my voice, it sparked my passion but I no idea it would ignite my career.

One of the biggest lessons that I have learned through my work is that each child deserves to feel safe, validated and know that someone is proud of them. This has become my mission, to make sure every student feels apart of something bigger than themselves, to feel validated, nurtured, and empowered.

My biggest success thus far, has been watching two girls that I have known since they were in 2nd grade, now sophomores at an all girls catholic high school, flourishing and succeeding. To be apart of their journey and see how OP has literally changed their life trajectory has been of the biggest rewards of my career.

It’s truly been a joy, honor and privilege to work at amazing schools and organizations in the Watts community that are so committed to inspiring, fostering and developing the youth. Being able to be there for a children, to motivate, challenge, and encourage them is no short of a miracle.

Thank you Theresa for reminding us what it means to serve, you are an amazing example to all.

Charity Matters.

 

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.

 

The Clarity Project

 

On the heels of last week’s post about Once Upon a Room, a friend and follower of Charity Matters reached out to share this amazing story with me about a Southern California girl named Claire Wineland. Claire was born with Cystic Fibrosis, a disease that creates an overabundance of mucus and ultimately results in respiratory failure. She grew up knowing that she is terminally ill and what we would think of as tragic, she simply uses as fuel. Her message and life are truly remarkable.

Claire has endured over 30 surgeries in her short 20 years and has spent an incredible amount of time in the hospital. About six years ago, after being in a coma for over 20 days, flat-lining twice and being given a less than 1% of survival, Claire survived. She came out of the experience determined to help others with Cystic Fibrosis. From that near death experience began the creation of the Claire’s Place Foundation,whose mission is to relieve families financially with CF, to help with their rent, mortgage, car payments, etc.

 

 

The foundation became a way to celebrate Claire’s life. She recently said,”It is important for people who are sick to feel empowered. It gives them a reason to take care of themselves.” And if that wasn’t enough, Claire decided shortly after in high school to begin a YouTube series called The Clarity Project, where she talks about topics such as how to talk to a sick person or even what it is like to live like you are dying.

 

 

Claire recently moved out on her own, decided not to go to college because she is not sure she will live long enough to graduate. She is spending her time sharing her inspirational message doing Ted talks, running her foundation and recently partnered with Zappos to take on project similar to Once Upon a Room with children’s hospitals in Las Vegas.

 

 

I do know how precious and unexpected life can be but Claire’s message is a reminder to us all. If you give yourself one gift today, listen to Claire’s talk (above) at a recent Zappos event. She is a reminder to each of us how precious life is, how blessed we are to have our health and regardless of our circumstances, that someone always has less than we do. Claire’s life is an example to each of us, that we not only have the power to help…. but more than that….. to live our lives fully.

 

Charity Matters.

 

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Once Upon a Room

Like all good fairy tales, it begins with once upon a time…there was a beautiful woman named Jennifer Hull and her heart was so huge that she not only adopted one child but created a non-profit to help hundreds more sick children at children’s hospitals around Los Angeles. Jennifer and I have known each other for a number of years, and last week we not only sat down together to catch up, but my son and I were invited to help Jennifer, her daughter Josie, and best friend Sienna, with their incredible cause called Once Upon a Room. A non-profit organization that decorates rooms for children who have long stays in the hospital.

Rather than me continuing this fairy tale, I think the conversation tells this story the best.

Charity Matters:  Give us a little back round on you and Josie?

Jennifer Hull:

A little history about Josie and I…I am the very proud, adoptive mother of Josie. Josie and her sister, Teresa, were born in Guatemala and were conjoined at the head. They came to the US at 9 months old. At 1 years old they underwent surgery done by a 50 person medical team to separate them. After 23 hours in the operating room our two beautiful girls were rolled out in 2 separate beds.

We were granted a miracle that day and have spent everyday since trying to do everything in our power to better the girls’ lives and those around us. As one can imagine our medical journey did not end at separation surgery. There have been countless hospital stays with over 30 surgeries combined and hours upon hours of physical therapy. 

We know from first hand experience when you are in an environment that makes you happy and calm healing is easier to achieve. It was important to Josie and I to help others in medical situations feel better. The main portion of our program is to decorate hospital rooms for pediatric patients going through active medical treatment.

 

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

Jennifer Hull:  Once Upon a Room has a tag line…Every child has a story. My sweet daughter, Josie spends so much time in the hospital. Every time we are inpatient, I noticed her spirits were lifted when we would bring in items that were ours and set up a mini “house” like atmosphere. We have had the pleasure of meeting other patients and families over the years and when we would visit them we would bring something to brighten their room we could see the joyous effect it had.

We wanted to expand our reach and really transform the hospital setting into a personalized, happy environment. Josie and I got excited about the possibility of spreading joy to others in the hospital. We knew we needed to do this. We wanted to serve others and this was such a perfect fit for us.

Sienna, Josie and Ford

Charity Matters: Who along the way has helped you make this journey happen?

Jennifer Hull: Siena Dancsecs is a huge contributor to our success and is one of Josie’s best friends and has been through so many ups and downs with Josie medically. Siena’s passion to help others started to light on fire. At 11 years old she called to tell me that we the organization should be named Once Upon a Room. She said that our mission should be to serve pediatric patients in and out of the hospital that were in active medical treatment. 

Siena says, “Through my friendship with Josie I wanted to do more. We do what we do because we can see the long-term impact it makes. I remember getting asked to go to the hospital for the first time. I honestly had no idea what to expect, what I would see or what I would hear. Normally when I think about a hospital I think about all of the needles, medicine and doctors. We get to see a different side of it. When we walk into those rooms we get to brighten this patient’s room with what they like. It becomes all about them in a different way. It’s not all about their disease or injury; it’s about them as a person. That’s what makes it so special. Getting to make these patient’s days just a little bit brighter. And truly it affects not only their environment but also everyone around them. It brings this glow to their surroundings, helping them start fighting a little harder.”

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

Jennifer Hull: This is an easy question…making other people happy!! As Josie says, “We do this to make other kids happy. I know how hard it is to be in the hospital so I want to help them too.”

We can’t change the medical outcome but we can change how they feel when they are going through this journey. You can’t believe how rewarding it feels to know that you put your heart and soul into doing something for someone else that hopefully makes a difference in his or her life. Every room we do we put ourselves into their shoes for a moment. We do our best to anticipate what they would want or what would bring joy to them.

When we get the theme of the room we try to do the best we can to make it perfect for them. You would think after doing over 500 plus rooms it would be redundant but instead we try to make each room better and more personalized. Making someone else happy fuels us. Hopefully that person is the patient, but also the family. Being in the hospital is so stressful for the whole family.

We are one of the few people who walk into the room and can concentrate on the person not the medical diagnosis. We get to recognize them and their interests. The family gets to be reminded of the person not the condition.

The other part that fuels us is the excitement that it brings to the medical staff. You almost see them invigorated. It is so much fun to watch them and their reactions when they are watching a room reveal for one of their patients that they clearly have compassion for. It is a gift to us to make to make others feel special.

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

Jennifer Hull: There is an interesting thing that happens in our group. It isn’t only the patients and families that we affect. Many times it is the volunteers or vendors that we see affected by our work. It is so much fun to go into Target and the cashiers are all excited to see what rooms we are shopping for. It is so rewarding to see the change in our volunteers when they come to help. 

Witnessing the love and compassion that kids and teens give to patients is one of the best gifts in my life.  We don’t give them enough freedom or opportunities to give to others in a meaningful way. Giving them a positive experience serving others at young age while hopefully help them remember that feeling when they are adults and they will find a cause that they can make an impact giving to as adults.

 

Charity Matters: Last question before we end this fairy tale, tell us what success you have had?

Jennifer Hull: Our success isn’t measurable. Success for us is determined by the about of love and compassion we are able to spread to our patients, families, staff, volunteers and vendors. It is the ability to spread hope and happiness. Our success is based on helping and serving others.

 

Now that is happily ever after….if ever I have heard one.

 

Charity Matters.

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.

A significant life

“Striving to be of service is not only a noble thing to do, it’s the best way to lead a truly fulfilling and significant life.”

 Michael Josephson

The other day, a friend of mine who started a non-profit called Once Upon A Room.Org and I met for a quick catch up. I told her that I really wanted to interview her for Charity Matters and she said, “Don’t interview me, come and join me….and bring your son.” 

I came home, thrilled about the invitation, my 16-year-old son….well, not so much. I heard a variety of excuses, his summer job, things he needed to do, etc….however, I persisted. Without having a full spoiler alert (the story is coming next week) he relented, as you can see from the photo above.

He was late for his job, his first job ever, and very stressed when he left our work at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Our service had made him much later than I had told him. I love serving others and this experience was magical and yet, I felt guilty that he was late for work and thought that perhaps….maybe…just maybe, service isn’t for everyone and had I pushed too hard?

It was about an hour into his job, that I received a text. It said, “Thank you Mom. Today was so much more than I expected. Even though I was late for work, it was worth it. I had fun and thank you for bringing me with you.”

His text said it all. Leading a significant life is not about looking at the mirror, it is about turning the gaze in another direction. Service heals us all, only if we let it.

Charity Matters.

 

 

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.