Posts Tagged ‘charity’

My Christmas Project

December 20, 2013

One of my favourite Christmas movies growing up was “One Magic Christmas.” There is a scene in it where the mother and her two children secretly drop brand new bicycles off at a house where two needy children live. They drove away happy and excited, knowing the joy they would bring to those kids.

That movie came out in 1985 (side note: how in the world has that much time passed?!), so it was almost 30 years ago that a seed was planted in my young mind that I’d love to do something like that some day.

This is the day.

The last few years, I’ve participated in various charitable endeavours with the kids such as Toy Mountain, the Food Bank and Operation Christmas Child.  They are all fantastic organizations that do some really fabulous, much-needed work in our city and world.

I’ve wondered though, how much my own kids really understood.  Age-appropriate developmental limitations and their sheltered world aside, do they really get how fortunate they are? Do they really understand that there is a real little boy or girl waiting on the other side of their Toy Mountain donation?

I wanted to do something that would do good for the people of our city, but would also involve my children on a level that they had not experienced before.

I believe that people are inherently good. They want to do good. They want to help. Sometimes, all they need is an opportunity to do so.

With the help of a social worker friend, I was put in touch with 13 families who could use a little extra help this holiday season, and I paired them with 13 other families, who, regardless of how much or little that they had to share, volunteered to sponsor a family and essentially “provide Christmas.”

I called the deserving families, found out a little more about them and their needs, and (with permission) passed on that information to the lovely people who had volunteered to be their sponsor.

And the last piece of my vision? For the sponsors to deliver their packages to their sponsored family’s home, face to face. To create a human connection.

I didn’t know if that’s what people would want. Would the donors or receivers want to remain anonymous? Would the families want someone to knock on their doors? So I gave everyone, sponsors and families alike, two options. I could arrange anonymous delivery through the social worker, or the donors could bring the packages straight to the families doors. Every single family chose to have their donor come to their home. Every single one.

My hope is that the sponsors will get just as much, if not more, value out of this exercise than those who are at the receiving end. I hope that connections will be made. That we will all see how much we have to be grateful for. And that we c an all know, for sure, that hope and love and kindness still abound.

And guess what you guys?! It’s happening.

Donors are reaching out beyond some groceries and gifts.  They are using phrases like, “My heart is busting!” and “This made my Christmas!” They are taking names and resumes, arranging contacts for jobs. My heart is busting too.

Tomorrow my family will take our packages over to the home of another local family. My boys will hand over gifts  they hand-picked for other children, and they will say, “Merry Christmas!’

And THAT is what Christmas is all about.


We Run for Those Who Can’t

October 14, 2012

Back in the beginning of September, I received a shocking email from a neighbour. A little five year old girl from our community had been having severe abdominal pain one day so her parents took her in to CHEO. I’m sure no one could have prepared those loving parents for what they were about to hear. Their daughter was   unexpectedly and shockingly diagnosed with stage 4 kidney cancer.

Reading the email of this news, I sat at my kitchen table sobbing. Not understanding how the world could be so cruel. Imagining myself in that desperate situation.

Friends close the family were struggling to find some way to help, when someone came across the website for the Sears Great Canadian Run. The event is a 60 or 100 km relay from Ottawa to Montebello. Teams of up to 20 do everything they can to fundraise leading up to the event, with all money going towards children’s cancer research.

Not knowing the family at all, but incredibly moved by the story – having children of your own certainly makes these awful situations hit a little close to home- I was happy to sign up for the team.

The big day was this past weekend… and all I can say is WOW.

The event was incredible. A lot of fun and very well organized. And the most amazing part?  With just 32 teams in our little city, We raised around $250,000 towards research into curing children’s cancer! Just 32 teams! Imagine what we could do with an even bigger crowd!

My team, named Gabriella’s Groupies in honour of our little inspiration, completed 100 kms (with 8 run by yours truly). There were some stiff joints, sore muscles, and some chilly bodies. But mostly? Mostly there was a lot of fun and cheering and camraderie and support. Support for our fellow runners and support for the cause. Love for those who are fighting the “C” word right now, and love for those who have tragically lost their battles.

And you guys? There were some people RUNNING SOLO OR IN PAIRS. So yeah, do the math – that’s 50 or 1oo kms EACH! Talk about inspirational!

One of the 50km runners coming into an exchange point.

There was an awards ceremony at the end of the long day and I think it was said best by one of of the speakers. Sure, the runners may have been uncomfortable at times, pushing themselves through the kilometres. But compared to a young child dealing with cancer every. single. day…. well, a few kilometres is nothing.

Next year, I hope to see YOU out there too!

(oh – and p.s: Donations are still being accepted for this event until November 13. Donate here!)

The Spirit of Giving

December 8, 2011

My children lead blessed lives.

Just by the simple occurrence of being born in Canada, they are probably a kajillion times were more fortunate than most other children in the world.

Safety. Freedom. Health care. Education.

Add to that being born into a loving family with educated parents who are able to provide plentiful healthy food, toys, trips…. the list goes on.

They are fortunate little souls. We all are.

I want my boys to grow up thankful. To understand that while we have, there are many more others who have not. I want for  them to want to reach out and help others. To help the bullied child on the playground. To be a good friend. And to share some of what we have with some others who are not as fortunate.

At three and half, I feel like this Christmas Tristan is old enough to understand a little more about what it means to help others. In the Christmas spirit, and to hopefully light a spark of generosity and kindness, we’ve had a few little projects on the go.

Firstly, I took Tristan on a shopping spree to purchase toys for Operation Christmas Child. We easily (over!)filled two shoeboxes for little boys Tristan’s age with goodies they may not have received otherwise. I explained to Tristan that we would be going shopping and that we may find things that we would really like for ourselves… but that this shopping trip was not about us – we already have lots of toys at our house. I explained that the toys we bought would be for children who didn’t have many toys to play with.

I was a little nervous that he would go crazy when he saw things like his fave dino toys, or some really cool stickers, demanding that he just had to have them. But Tristan amazed me yet again. He happily filled our cart with toys for two unknown strangers, exclaiming, “Oh mom! The friends we don’t know are going to love these!”

Be still my heart.

Making wrapping paper for our gifts

We’ve also been talking about how some “friends” wake up in the morning and have nothing to eat for breakfast. When we get up, we go downstairs and make our toast and pour our cereal so that our tummies aren’t hungry. I explained that some children go to school with hungry tummies, because they just don’t have enough “snacks” (as Tristan refers to most food products!) at their house. We wanted to share some of our “snacks” with other children, and Tristan happily handed off a couple of grocery bags full to our local OC Transpo food drive.

I can only hope that I am instilling a sense of gratitude and lessons on giving that Tristan (and eventually Logan) will carry with them as they grow. I want them to understand that even the smallest of acts can make a difference in the lives of others.

There was a poem I heard as a child that communicates this same wisdom, and it still resonates with me today.

The Starfish Poem (From the works of Loren Eisly)

Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.

One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.

As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.

He came closer still and called out “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”

The young man paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”

“I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” asked the somewhat startled wise man.

To this, the young man replied, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”

Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, “But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!”

At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said, “I made a difference to that one!”