Making A Difference® for Healthier Children Everywhere During National Immunization Month

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Vaccinations continue to be a ‘hot’ topic in politics and even popular culture. Debate over the risks, side effects, and the number of compulsory vaccines given to children has put this public health issues on the forefront of the minds of parents and politicians alike.

August is National Immunization Month, and as children return to school, it is important to remember that immunization campaigns have helped eliminate some of the deadliest epidemics, as children born in the US do not have to worry about polio, Hepatitis, and rotavirus. And since the 1970s, investments in public health programs helped to eliminate smallpox from the globe.
Unfortunately, we seem to forget just how important immunization is for a healthy community, until we realize that worldwide many childhood diseases can be prevented.

Polio, which decimated a generation of American children in the middle of the 20th Century, is still a crippling disease in Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan. While this is a preventable ailment, health structures in developing countries often are not able to provide the necessary sources to all. This makes it even more difficult to produce a successful, healthy and prosperous next generation.

Luckily, there are several national and international organizations dedicated to giving each person the ability to achieve the healthiest life possible. Since its founding in 1905 by Chicago’s Paul P. Harris, Rotary International has been committed to eliminating diseases and raising awareness for immunization campaigns across the country.

In addition, The UN Foundation’s Shot@Life Program is working to save children around the world from deadly but preventable diseases. By supporting these types of programs, you will be making A Difference® and working towards a healthier future for all!


Making A Difference® During National Water Quality Month!

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August is National Water Quality Month! While we enjoy the wonderful weather by rivers, lakes and oceans, it is important to consider how we can be Making A Difference® in the quality of our water.

There are many ways that you can make an impact on water quality. Some tactics start right at home! Water quality can be protected by limiting water use. Consider taking shorter showers and not over-watering your lawn. Conserving water limits the amount of water that we divert from our ecosystems. We should strive to achieve a healthy balance of water use!

Moreover, pollution is a huge problem with achieving a high level of water quality. You have plenty of ways to reduce your personal water pollution impact. Be cognizant of the items that you pour into the sink. Protect ground water by disposing of motor fluids and oil properly. Hence, we can reduce the amount of contamination to the aquatic ecosystem!

Unfortunately, poor drinking water quality can have negative health impacts, particularly in developing countries.  That is why organizations like www.charitywater.org and www.water.org are working tirelessly to make clean water a daily reality for all!

It is our responsibility to keep our water clean and fresh, both for our health and the health of the ecosystems around us. Celebrate National Water Quality Month by keeping our water quality high.

Happy National Water Quality Month!


Making A Difference® While Giving Back To Musicians

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In the age of the internet, it’s almost impossible to protect anything.   Music, art and literature often can be easily duplicated without cost (and of course, without profit to the artist).    In some cases, it may even seem better just to make art free.   But if you do that, what’s left – relying on charity?  As it turns out, that idea may not be as risky as some seem to think.

Amanda Palmer is the first “big” artist to try this.  After an ‘unsuccessful’ release of her first CD, Palmer began her grand campaign online.  Instead of charging people for her music, she asked people to pay what she thought her money was worth.  It sounds crazy, but considering online piracy, and the massive amounts of money that record companies take from artists, she taught is was worth considering.

The music industry is all about connecting with the audience, and for Amanda, that means crowdsourcing (staying in homes instead of hotels, and inviting musicians to play with her when she needs a band) in order to build greater contact with her fans.

And how does she fund this?  She relies completely on charity.  Yes, although a musician is not someone we might normally consider for a charitable donation, the simple act of paying for the experience you received sure seems like giving back.   In Amanda’s case, nobody is making you pay, so by simply giving to fund the experience is an act of charity within itself.

But such acts are not confined to just musicians. Look at Aaron’s Last Wish.  It started when Aaron Collins, dies three weeks before his 30th birthday.  He believed that generosity and kindness were the ways that a person’s life left a mark on the world.  Moved by his generous spirit, his brother tips waiters and waitresses across the country $500 in an attempt to spread this kindness.  These tips, a single act of charity, have had a remarkable impact on the people they were given to.  One waitress was a twenty-one year old student, working three jobs to make ends meet.  Another was struggling to pay rent after a car accident kept her out of work for a week, yet a single tip (albeit a big one), had the power to change that.  It’s so hard to remember that something as simple as giving to a service you are grateful for, can be Making A Difference®!

Making A Difference® While Enjoying Recreation and Parks Month!

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July is Recreation and Park Month! July, with its tradition of beautiful weather that drives people to outside, has been recognized as Recreation and Park month since 1985.

To celebrate the month consider going to one of the many events put on by Chicago’s own Park District. Check out the family friendly play at the Theater on the Lake or enjoy some Latin Jazz at Midway Plaisance Park.  There are a ton of great events happening all month.  But don’t contain your enthusiasm for the parks to just July, the parks have great things going on all year round!  Check out the Chicago Park District Calendar for the very best the city has to offer.

As we enjoy the weather and events of Recreation and Parks Month it’s important to realize how the parks are Making A Difference ® in our lives and in the lives of their other patrons. It is also important to realize that by supporting the parks we are not only Making A Difference® for the park and all of its employees and staff, but for all of the countless people that enjoy the use of our parks, both in Chicago and around the country.

To learn more about donating to the Chicago Park District Foundation click here.  

To learn more about donating to the National Recreation and Park Association click here.  

Though these are great venues to show your support, don’t let these suggestions limit you; there are many ways and places to help out. If Recreation and Parks have touched your life, or the life of a loved one, consider celebrating this Recreation and Parks Month by finding a way to help parks in the manner best for you.

Happy Recreation and Parks Month!

Making A Difference® – Philanthropy in Chicago, and Beyond!

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Very few things rival summer in Chicago; between the weekend festivals and beautiful beaches, there is something new and exciting to experience each day in the Windy City!

Even though Chicago in known for its rich arts scene and thriving business sector,  just a quick ride around “The Loop” makes one thing very apparent – Chicago is a philanthropic city!

Yes, whether it is people volunteering in youth enrichment programs throughout downtown or participating in events like the Chicago Sun Times 2013 Home Team Charity Run on July 14, Chicagoans are enjoying this summer by giving back!

Summer is a great time to find a new cause close to your heart and give your time or resources to Making A Difference® in your community.  No matter where you live in this country, or even if you are just visiting a new city this summer, check out sites like http://www.volunteermatch.org/ to find opportunities around you to give back.  Who knows, you may even meet great new people in your neighborhood when you volunteer your time!

We all love spending time at the beach, relaxing, or catching up with family over the long summer holiday.  But giving back, in Chicago and beyond, is a great way to be Making A Difference® and building a brighter future for those around you. 

Stand Up, Be Proud


October is National Anti-Bullying Awareness Month and there have been two recent news stories that have reminded me that all of us can make a difference just by standing up in what we believe in and being proud of who we are as individuals.  In Michigan, a 16-year-old girl was named to a high school homecoming court as part of an apparent prank, but this did not stop her.  She took a stand against her bullies and the community and nation rallied behind her.  On September 28, 2012, the young 16-year-old, Whitney Kropp, was crowned Homecoming Queen.

On October 2, 2012, Jennifer Livingston, made national news when she took a stand on the WKBT News 8 evening broadcast in Wisconsin and addressed the local lawyer who sent her an email attacking her weight.

There are so many ways we can make a difference.  From speaking up in what you believe in, to giving a co-worker a helping hand or spending some quality time with your friends and family, everyone has the power to be making a difference.

The PACER National Bullying Prevention Center (www.pacer.org/bullying) provides a number of opportuniteis to help stop bullying in your community.  Below are three steps the organization shares that can help you develop a plan of action to address a bullying situation that is happening to you or someone else.

Step One: Think about the bullying you have experienced, seen or even done yourself.

Step Two: Then consider how that situation could be different.

Step Three: Next, think about the steps needed to make those changes happen.

Visit www.pacer.org/bullying/pdf/StudentActionPlan.pdf to read the entire ‘Action Plan Against Bullying!’  Bullying can be stopped, but only if we take action and speak up!

Making A Difference®: The World of Giving – New Choices for Your Support

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Have you ever wondered if there are projects or organizations that are really just right for your attention or support … but you just don’t know about them?  Today there are many ways of learning about, and helping, great organizations, and you don’t even have to do much work!

This week the well-known company Tom’s of Maine launches their annual contest “50 States of Good:  Growing Good Works One Community at a Time.”  And the best part is that it is open to EVERYONE! Tom’s of Maine has already done the work to accept nominations and then selected one terrific nonprofit organization from each state that supports “healthy, human and environmental goodness.”  From now until October 9th you can visit their site at http://www.tomsofmaine.com/community-involvement/living-well/project-sponsorships and vote for the organization (maybe the one from your state?) that you think is most worthy.  The six organizations with the highest vote tallies share $150,000 with a top award of $50,000.

In the interest of full disclosure, I was one of the four judges for this year’s contest (along with the actor Ian Somerhalder of the IS Foundation, Laura Burge, the editor and producer of Care 2, and Sam Davidson, the founder and president of Cool People Care) and the organizations that were nominated were, simply, terrific.  I wouldn’t have known about most of them without this company bringing them to my attention.

Another innovative model for funding – and learning – is with a company like CREDO, which launched Working Assets with credit cards in the mid-80s and has had two goals that may seem mutually exclusive but have come together in one vision: to run a successful business and work for social change.  CREDO takes a percentage of the charges their customers make to support nonprofit groups that work on issues from global warming and economic justice to humanitarian aid and marriage equality.  Most importantly, they don’t make the decisions; their members pick the groups each year and vote on distributing the donations(http://act.credoaction.com/voting/login.html).  In 25 years they have raised more than $70 million with almost $3 million last year!

Donors Choose  is an online charity focused on helping students in need.  Public school teachers post classroom project requests (anything from pencils to violins) that individuals can review and fund.  When a project fund reaches its goal, the materials are donated to the school and the donor gets project photos, a budget report and a thank you letter from the teacher.  This type of crowdsourcing (see www.kickstarter.com for a major success story in online project funding) has grown so that organizational entities, such as public schools, can find new support and donors can learn about great opportunities – and people!  Donors Choose calls this “citizen philanthropy” and, as of September 1st of this year, they have raised over $122 million for public school needs and helped almost 7 million students.

In New York City a small but important organization called The Catalog for Giving  focuses on providing information for donors who “don’t have the time or the means to discover … organizations that provide invaluable services to New York City children.”  Every three (3) years the Catalog seeks out young (two to ten years old), small (budgets under $1 million) organizations that have innovative programs and are under the radar of major funders.  Donors can target their donations to the program of their choice.

You can even get access to hard-to-get concert and sports tickets while supporting charities and foundations that have been fully vetted for their effectiveness!  Charity Partners has a goal of generating $100 million a year so that identified charities can spend more time on their work, and achieving their missions, and less time seeking funds.  Tickets-for-Charity® has great seats for high-demand live events nationwide that wouldn’t otherwise be available, and their site notes the work of their partner charities (these snapshots are a highlight of most of these  collaborative support sites).

Well known corporations are getting into the act through Facebook.  While building attention and increasing business, these programs also offer a chance to learn about, and choose, projects for their support.  Once again, Toyota conducted its 100 Cars for Good Program which gives 100 vehicles to nonprofit organizations that need them.  Like Tom’s of Maine, winners are selected through public voting only using Facebook.  The Facebook fans of Enterprise Rent-a-Car (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Enterprise-Rent-A-Car/17003167554?ref=ts) vote on how some of its grants are chosen (this past spring over 1.5 million votes were cast over a seven week period).

With the growth of the Internet – and social media – there are new ways to discover where you offer your donations and your time.  Here are five (5) tips to keep in mind when exploring organizations for your commitment to Making A Difference® (M.A.D.):
  1. Read about the nominees on crowdsourcing sites or at Tom’s of Maine’s 50 States of Good contest; these offer lots of information in a simple format for your consideration
  2. Use Facebook to learn about organizations and you might post about those you’re excited by; spreading the word is one of the best ways you can help!
  3. Consider putting together your own “catalog” by telling your family, friends and community about what you’ve learned and the organizations that are worthy of support right where you live
  4. Check out social funding consortia like Network for Good (www.networkforgood.org), Causes (www.causes.com) and Crowdrise (www.crowdrise.com) to find out about dozens of causes and projects
  5. Ask around!  You might be surprised by what you discover when you ask friends, neighbors, teachers and more about the causes THEY support; you just might find exactly what you’re looking for!

Bonus Tip:  My friend Abby often tells me about her “loan” via Kiva (www.kiva.org).  Kiva exists to connect borrowers and people willing to make small loans via partner institutions to alleviate poverty throughout the world. It is also amazing to hear from Abby the transformations that have happened in the lives of people because of a relatively small financial loan…which all except one time has been paid back by the borrower!!

When I started researching other options, I found that there were so many new – and wonderful – things to consider and the time spent discovering was both rewarding and fun; take a look and you’ll be M.A.D. before you know it!

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