Making A Difference®: The World of Giving – Remembering our military on Memorial Day

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Memorial Day.  What does it bring to mind?  Summer’s arrival?  Some people, including myself, believe that many have forgotten the meaning of this holiday.


Memorial Day is an important day on which to remember what has been done by so many to protect this country and others around the world.  Memorial Day started in the aftermath of the Civil War as a way to honor those who had died.  Over the years it expanded to include the remembrance of all those from all wars where Americans fought.  Originally known as Decoration Day, this day is truly a time to remember those men and women who died while in military service.

Some might be exasperated at that thought of being challenged to “do something” to honor this day after all it is a three day weekend and the start of summer, right?


I would counter that there are things, many of which are easy, you can do to appreciate the men and women who have lost their lives while serving our country and to help those who are still serving.


First, participate in the National Moment of Remembrance.  It is one minute of silence that occurs at 3:00 p.m. local time on Memorial Day in honor of those who have lost their lives in service to the Unites States of America.  This is a way to put the “memory” back into Memorial Day.  To remember it, try setting the alarm on your phone as a reminder to take a minute to remember those who have given their lives to fight for this country.


Another idea is to gather your family and friends to watch TV!  Annually, in Washington DC, the national concert to honor the military takes place on the evening before Memorial Day.  It is hosted by actors Joe Mantegna and Gary Sinise.  Both of these men have committed their time year after year on this holiday to giving back via hosting this concert in our nation’s capital.  Check it out as well as the Memorial Day Concert broadcasted on PBS.  The concert will occur from 8:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. edt.  Tune in to learn about those who have made sacrifice for this country a way of life.


It should be noted that both hosts have also committed personally to giving back and helping those involved with the military.  Joe is the national spokesperson for the National Museum of the United States Army and its campaign to raise $200 million to honor and showcase the 30 million women and men who have worn the uniform since 1775.  He also supports the Act Today for Military Families which focuses on helping military families who have children affected by autism.


Gary has started a charitable foundation to raise awareness and money to honor those who have served our country and are in need.  As his website says, “While we can never do enough to show our gratitude to our nation’s defenders, we can always do a little more.”  Think about following the examples of Joe and Gary.


Memorial Day is an opportunity to make a difference to those who have served our country or to remember those who have given the ultimate sacrifice – their lives. Here are five (5) recommendations and tips on easy ways to Make A Difference® (M.A.D.):


  1. Fly the American flag at half-staff until noon in honor of those who have lost their lives while serving for the United States; then again raising it high once again. 
  2. Visit a VA Hospital or senior center where they are veterans; listen to their stories
  3. Visit a cemetery and read the headstones of those who have died for our freedom; think about what their sacrifice means to you!
  4. Attend the Memorial Day activities in your community.  Go to your hometown’s website to learn about any activities that may be going on.  Most have a parade or some sort of commemoration; take the young people in your life with you to begin passing on the importance of this holiday.     
  5. Make a charitable donation to a nonprofit doing work with veterans.  I strongly recommend the Wounded Warrior Project, Operation Homefront.

Bonus Tip #1: Take time to write a letter or send a package to someone who is serving or take a veteran with you to the activities you attend on Memorial Day, such as a parade or picnic.


Bonus Tip #2: Are you considering taking one of the days to do spring cleaning?  If so, and you find old cell phones that are not being used in drawers and boxes, consider donating them to Cell Phones for Soldiers; for each cell phone donated, this organization sends calling cards to soldiers stationed throughout the world so they can call home.  


Serving in our military is a great honor but comes with much sacrifice for both the soldier and the family.  Freedom is a hard fought battle that occurs on daily basis.  Pay tribute to our military men and women, as well as their families by honoring and remembering those who have served and continue to serve.


Let’s make this Memorial Day 2014 a time to remember the more than 2 million men and women serving daily.  By taking action on any of the recommendations in this blog, you will join Joe Mantegna, Gary Sinise and thousands of others who definitely want to be M.A.D. (Making A Difference) for those who have done so much for our country!  Are you M.A.D. today?


Happy Memorial Day!


Halloween and Trick or Treat for UNICEF

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Halloween is known for candy, costumes, magic and fun – but giving? Since 1950, “Trick or Treat for UNICEF” has raised more than $170 million to help children around the world.  For over 60 years, this program has been helping kids help kids in small easy ways that make a large global impact.

UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund, was created to work with others to overcome the obstacles that poverty, violence, disease and discrimination place in a child’s path. The guiding vision of UNICEF is that everyone can, together, advance the cause of humanity.  Some examples of this global organization’s achievements include cutting child deaths by 40% since 1990 and distributing 25 million anti-malarial mosquito nets each year.

“Trick or Treat for UNICEF” connects this global vision with local community activity, and encompasses far more than just Trick Or Treating on Halloween night.  Everything from pumpkin-carving contests to college campus activities can turn fall-themed fun into fundraisers and Making a Difference ®!

To find out how you can start Making a Difference ® this Halloween season, visit http://www.trickortreatforunicef.org/participate to learn more.  Share your story on Twitter by using #TOT4UNICEF!

Making A Difference® for Breast Cancer Awareness Month

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October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which is an annual campaign to increase awareness of the disease. Many people call it “Go Pink for October”, supporting those affected by the breast cancer by wearing pink, donating money, getting involved to start or join a fundraising event, or volunteer to help educate women about breast cancer. Even though most people are aware of breast cancer, many forget to take the steps to have a plan to detect the disease in its early stages as well as encourage others to do the same.

During this month, it is important to remain dedicated to educating and empowering women to take charge of their own breast health, and to remember that it is never too late to start doing so. About 1 in 8 women born today in the United States will get breast cancer at some point during their lifetime. It is the most common kind of cancer in women after skin cancer. Fortunately, if the cancer is found and treated at an early stage, many women can survive. Mammograms are the easiest way and quickest way to detect breast cancer and can help find it early. Therefore it is important to encourage communities, families, organizations, and individuals to spread the word about mammograms, especially in women over 40. Nonprofits like A Silver Lining Foundation offer free mammograms for women who don’t have access to it.

Hopefully, greater knowledge about breast cancer will lead to earlier detection of it, leading to higher long term survival rates. Money raised for breast cancer awareness will produce a reliable cure, and wearing pink and getting involved in fundraising will provide emotional support for those who are battling breast cancer, as well as cherish the memories of those who lost the battle. Visit the National Breast Cancer Foundation website for more information on what you can do to help this month and for a variety of resources for breast cancer prevention.


Making A Difference® During Fruits and Veggies More Matters Month

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The last week of September marks the end of Fruit & Veggies—More Matters Month. It’s a time to think about what you have been eating and consider whether you’re getting enough fruit and vegetables on a daily basis. More importantly, pay attention to what your children are eating. The childhood obesity rate in America has tripled in the last 30 years, so this awareness month make a pledge to make sure your kids are eating healthy and staying healthy.

More than 90 percent of adults and children do not eat the proper amount of fruits and vegetables according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and MyPlate, which replaced the Food Guide Pyramid in 2005.  Most people forget that fruit and veggies come in all forms and count towards your daily intake. This includes fresh, frozen, canned, dried and 100 percent juice.

Fruit and Veggies More Matters provides a list of reasons to eat more fruits and vegetables, including that they are low in calories, may reduce risk of disease and they are rich in vitamins and minerals. Nutrition experts suggest eating a “rainbow” of fruits and vegetables because each contains different vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

Visit the Fruit and Veggies More Matters website for a list of suggested serving sizes for meals every day. September is a time to think about what you’re eating, but you have the rest of the year to change your eating habits. There is no rule on how much of any category in MyPlate you’re supposed to eat on a daily basis, but remember to balance your meals. Choose several food items from all categories for colorful meals every day!

Making A Difference® During National Suicide Prevention Week

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This year marks the 39th Annual National Suicide Prevention Week, from September 8-14th.  It is a week to reflect and to reach out to people close to you that are going through a rough time in their life.  People suffering from mental anguish that can lead to suicide may avoid speaking about their pain or seeking treatment.  It’s important to know it’s never too late to reach out to someone in need.

Suicide rates have risen in the United States over the past decade.  A study, published this spring, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed an increase in suicide among middle-age Americans, with the rate rising by almost 30 percent for people ages 35 to 64 between 1999 and 2010.  CDC researchers stated that many societal factors, including the long-term economic downturn and the greater access to opioid drugs, can explain the increase of suicide rates.

These seven days serve as a remembrance and a reminder of the lives we have tragically lost to suicide.  If you are interested in taking part of National Suicide Prevention Week, contact your statewide suicide prevention coalition or your local health provider and see their volunteering opportunities or visit http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/.

Making A Difference® During National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month

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The purpose of Childhood Obesity Awareness Month is to raise awareness of the obesity epidemic that has swept our country.  According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, one in three children in the U.S. is overweight or obese, a statistic that is hard to believe.  The potential health repercussions are serious, such as diabetes, heart disease, and early obesity can cause children to experience these adult afflictions in an untimely manner.

The aim of Childhood Obesity Month is to raise awareness about obesity in our country and then encourage people to take action and make changes that will result in healthier life styles.  Improved diet and increased exercise are important influences in this quest, but healthy habits are not always easy to adopt.

However, since obesity is a multi-faceted problem, there are many things you can do to start making a difference and help the children in your life take charge of their health early on.  Here are a few ideas:

  • Prepare a healthy snack or meal with a child.  Working together in the kitchen is fun and they will appreciate your time and attention.
  • Take a child to a water park, roller rink or on another entertaining, but active, outing.  They’ll have such a great time, they won’t realize it’s exercise (and neither will you!).
  • Girl Scouts has partnered with First Lady Obama’s “Let’s Move!” Initiative , which builds on the Girl Scouts’ tradition of more than a century of promoting healthy living.
  • Help an older child get their bike and helmet tuned up and ready to roll.  Biking to school can be faster and more enjoyable than walking or getting dropped off by parents.

These small things will add up to healthier routines and can get the children in your life up off the couch and in charge of their health.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ website has even more tips at: http://healthfinder.gov/nho/SeptemberToolkit.aspx

Making A Difference® on Senior Citizens Day

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Today we celebrate Senior Citizens Day and a heartfelt thank you goes out to all of the older adults who have shared their love, wisdom and guidance with each person they meet. President Ronald Reagan proclaimed August 21 as a day to recognize America’s older population saying, “For all they have achieved throughout life and for all they continue to accomplish, we owe older citizens our thanks and a heartfelt salute. We can best demonstrate our gratitude and esteem by making sure that our communities are good places in which to mature and grow older.”

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, over 40 million adults are classified as senior citizens (over the age of 65). So today, there are over 40 million reasons to celebrate! How can you celebrate the older citizens in your life and your community on this day?

The most obvious, but oftentimes the most forgotten, way to celebrate is to spend time with the older adults in your life – grandparents, great grandparents, great aunts and uncles. Here are some ideas to consider in order to Make A Difference® in their lives:

  • Place a call: We pick up the phone every day to tend to work and personal matters, but it is often easy to forget calling your relatives, especially the older adults that we can feel disconnected from. Take five minutes to call your grandparents, great grandparents, great aunts and uncles, etc., just to say, “Hello!” and see how they are doing! These five minutes will bring a smile to their faces that will last hours beyond the end of the conversation.
  • Make a visit: If you have the luxury of living near your relatives, stop by to visit with them. Share and engage with them as these are treasured moments that will not last forever.
  • Plan an activity: Age should not be a deterrent to being active. Invite your relatives for a walk or to accompany you to something as simple as grocery shopping. A stroll around the park or the grocery aisles will keep them engaged and active.
  • Say “Thank you”: A simple thank you speaks volumes! Show your appreciation for the role they have played in your life and your loved ones.

Don’t forget seniors who live in assisted living, long-term care or nursing home facilities! Consider spending a few hours of your day visiting seniors in these facilities or collecting donations to support their needs.

The greatest thing about celebrating this day is that you are not only making a difference in the lives of older adults, but also in your own. Take advantage of the wisdom and experience they can provide to better yourself. Thank you to all the older adults who have done so much for our communities!

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