December 17, 2010 at 9:50 am , by Ladies' Lounge
Grab a box of Kleenex and watch one of the most powerful (and popular—it’s gotten almost 550,000 views on YouTube!) music videos of the Christmas season. The song is called “One Last Christmas,” by Grammy nominee Matthew West, and is inspired by the true story of Dax Locke, a 2-year-old boy from Washington, Illinois. At 13 months, Dax was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia. His doctors told his parents he wouldn’t live to see Christmas. Their town heard Dax’s story, and put up their holiday lights early. While Dax did have his Christmas, he died five days later, on Dec. 30, 2009.
In honor of Dax, the Locke family is trying to raise $1.6 million to run St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital (where Dax was treated) for a day. No patient ever sees a bill at St. Jude, and no patient is ever turned away. All of the proceeds from “One Last Christmas” go to St. Jude in Dax’s name. “You see the video and think, ‘That could have been my child,’” says West, who is a father of two. “But there’s also amazing redemption to this story, how the family and a community came together.” To make a donation, go to MatthewWest.com. —Susan Pocharski
December 13, 2010 at 11:35 am , by Amanda Wolfe
Our photo director, Clare, has been going to the Big Apple Circus with her kids for the last 12 years. She and her daughter, Lily, caught a show recently (that’s Lily and a friend, at right). But as much fun as going to the circus is for Clare and her kids, the Big Apple Circus is special for another reason: their Clown Care program, which brings a little bit of the circus to sick kids who can’t go see it themselves. When Clare told us about the program, we loved it. The Clown Care team has 80 performers who visit 16 different pediatric hospitals across the U.S. Together they make nearly 225,000 hospital visits every year, cheering up young patients and providing some much-needed comic relief.
Learn more about the Clown Care program and how you can help!
December 8, 2010 at 10:46 am , by Sara Dayton
I’m always thrilled to find gifts that treat friends and family to something special while giving back during the holidays (’tis the season, after all). This year I’m inspired by three sites that provide the perfect solution: original, affordable art that supports various charities.
1. The Working Proof
Founded with the goal of promoting art and social responsibility, The Working Proof donates 15% of every sale to a charity of the artist’s choice. With a new print released every Tuesday (and prices ranging from $25–100), there’s a ton of great options to choose from. Charities include Doctors Without Borders, The Jane Goodall Institute, and Smile Train.
2. Tiny Showcase
Tiny Showcase has a fitting name: Every week (also on Tuesday), founders Jon Buonaccorsi and Shea’la Finch pick a small piece of artwork to feature, turning it into a limited-run print edition that is sold on their website. They made donations a part of the site in 2005, and now a portion of each sale goes to a group chosen by the artists. Charities include St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, Youth Pride Inc., and Oxfam International.
3. Creativity Explored
Based in San Francisco, Creativity Explored is a nonprofit visual arts center where artists with developmental disabilities create, exhibit, and sell art. If you live in the area, check out the studio—they welcome visitors. If not, you can buy the works online here. Creativity Explored splits the profits evenly with their artists, using their half of the proceeds to pay for local, regional, and national exhibitions of work produced in their studios.
November 22, 2010 at 5:27 pm , by Amanda Wolfe
For most people, Thanksgiving is one of those holidays where being thankful for our abundance (and sitting down to a table overflowing with holiday bounty, like the ridiculously good-looking truffle butter bird at right) goes hand-in-hand with being mindful of those who are less fortunate, and whose bellies are less full. Does your family volunteer or give back during the Thanksgiving season? It’s a wonderful tradition to start, and great a way to make Thanksgiving about more than just food and football (not that there’s anything wrong with either of those things…). Here are a few ways to give back.
- Does your family go around the table and say what you’re thankful for? (Love that tradition.) Put each family member in charge of coming up with a group volunteer idea for the upcoming year based on their “thankful” thing. That way you’ve got volunteer ideas for the year, not just the season. Kids count too! For instance, is your little niece Addie thankful for her pet kitty? Take everyone to the animal shelter to help out for a day.
- Take the pledge and donate to Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign. No child in America should have to go hungry on any day (not just a holiday), and Share Our Strength’s goal is to end childhood hunger by 2015. That’s a mission we can all get behind.
- It’s a cliche but if you’ve never actually volunteered at your local soup kitchen or homeless shelter, now is the time. But before you package up all your leftovers to bring along, call the shelter to ask about their food donation policy. Even better, sign up to volunteer on a monthly basis so your holiday spirit keeps on giving.
- I think we’re all thankful for our service men and women who put their lives on the line to protect our country. Operation Gratitude is a great organization that sends thank-you care packages to our troops, and they’d love your help all holiday season (and year!) long.
- To find specific Thanksgiving volunteer opportunities in your area, do a quick search with our friends at Volunteer Match. Just type in your zip code and “Thanksgiving” as the keyword.
November 8, 2010 at 1:17 pm , by Amanda Wolfe
We need your help! For an upcoming story in Ladies’ Home Journal, we’re looking for everyday women in the U.S. who help women around the globe. Do you know a local church group who raised money to build a school in a village halfway around the world? A woman who is a longtime pen pal with a woman abroad? A teacher who set up an exchange with another teacher across the globe? Or a woman who hosts families who come to the U.S. for medical emergencies?
If you know a lady or group of women who are doing great things (big or small!) to help other women or kids around the world, post them in the comments! (And pass along to your family and friends.) If we decide to feature you or the woman you know, we’ll get in touch with you directly via email.
November 3, 2010 at 1:20 pm , by Ladies' Lounge
Three years ago, I read an article and saw a photo that changed my life and helped me realize that I had the power to make a difference. The article was about the growing problem of ocean plastic pollution, and the photo was of a dead albatross chick whose body was full of ordinary plastic pieces it had mistaken for food: plastic bottle caps, little plastic toys, even a toothbrush. In that moment, I suddenly realized my direct connection to other living creatures on this planet. Plastic was something I had control over, and I knew I had to act.
When I started my blog, Fake Plastic Fish, to keep track of my personal plastic consumption and report on plastic-free alternatives, I had no idea the impact and reach it would have or the lives it would change. I only knew I had to start with myself. Along the way, I have learned a few lessons about how we can take an idea or a cause that we care about and get results.
Trust your voice. How many of us have a great idea or cause we care about and feel that no one will listen to our opinion? Learning to speak up is empowering. And all it takes is practice. Speaking up to store managers about their plastic bags or visiting schools to talk about plastic pollution was hard for me at first. But the more I do it, the more confident I become.
Seek support. Yes, it’s important to start with ourselves, but real change takes many hands and voices. Writing one letter to a company is great. But encouraging others to write letters too, creating a petition, or joining an organization already working on the issue are ways to magnify your impact.
Use the Internet. The Internet makes it easier than ever to spread your message. Using my blog, Facebook, Twitter, email, and online petition software, I spearheaded a campaign to get Brita to take back and recycle their plastic water filter cartridges. Social media helped me connect up with other bloggers who could help me spread the word. And asking people to mail me their used cartridges made a huge visual impact.
Do your homework. Before contacting a company, writing a blog post or letter to the editor, or creating a petition, make sure you have your facts straight. Do some basic research. You don’t have to be an expert, and you shouldn’t let fear of being wrong stop you from acting. But having a clear understanding of the issue you’re tackling will give you confidence and help your cause.
Be persistent. Sometimes change happens over night. Once, I wrote to the owner of a small company about her plastic packaging, and she asked me to help her change it. Within one month, she had completely switched over to recycled paper. The Brita campaign, on the other hand, took 7 months of hard work and diligence. What kept me going was knowing that the only way I would fail is if I gave up early. Seeing a campaign through can be tiring but also incredibly empowering.
Give yourself a break. Persistence is important, but so is taking time out to rest and rejuvenate. Working nonstop is the way to burnout and disillusionment. For me, taking time in nature to remember why I am doing this work in the first place is what keeps me going. That, and playing with my rascally kitties who never take me too seriously.
What I’ve learned is that each of us has the power to change the world for good. We just have to learn to use it. When you care deeply enough about an issue to take that first step, a door opens through which you might never go back. —Beth Terry
By day, Beth Terry works as an accountant for a local home care agency, but nights and weekends she becomes an activist blogger writing about plastic-free living at FakePlasticFish.com. She’s a contributing editor to BlogHer.com and an advisor to the Plastic Pollution Coalition. Join Beth Terry via the web this Saturday, November 6, for the worldwide webcast of TEDx: Great Pacific Garbage Patch, an unprecedented event bringing together experts, activists, and artists like Van Jones, David de Rothschild, Jackson Browne, and Ed Begley Jr to speak about solutions to the plastic pollution problem. Beth Terry will add her voice to the mix, speaking about her plastic-free life and leading by example.
October 29, 2010 at 3:40 pm , by Julie Bain
In August I met a special young lady named Nora. I was in New Orleans to volunteer for a Rebuilding Together project to reconstruct homes damaged by Hurricane Katrina five years earlier. I hit it off with Nora and her mom while we were sweating and sanding together in the sultry New Orleans heat. Nora learned a thing or two about the power of community service, so I invited her to visit our offices at LHJ and write a guest blog about it. Here are her thoughts.
It all started when my Argentine grandmother, Lita, taught me to knit when I was 6. I put my hands on the knitting needles, and she put her hands over mine and guided the movements of my hands and the yarn. Once I knew the motions, I could do it myself at home. At first my knitted squares were loose and full of holes and dropped stitches, but I kept practicing and got better. Now my full ability is to knit scarves and hats. Sweaters and gloves are beyond my skills, although my grandma made beautiful ones.
When I was 11 or 12, I had a group of friends who all had learned to knit. In our religion class, the teacher suggested that we do some good with our knitting skills. She suggested we make a baby blanket and donate it to a hospital. So we each knitted several squares and then sewed them all together. It was in lots of pastel colors and was really cute! We thought it was amazing that we made it—it looked professional! And we were really proud to give it to someone in need.
It made me want to do more community service. So this past summer, my mom asked if I wanted to go to New Orleans with her for the 5th anniversary of hurricane Katrina and help rebuild some houses (below, that’s me with Julie Bain and my friend Julia Collins). I wasn’t sure what I’d have to do and was a little bit nervous, but I was into it.
I had painted sets for my school musical, but that did not prepare me for being on a ladder in 100-degree heat to prime and paint a two-story home. It was tough work. But what was so cool was that I could do it, and I painted a lot of that house. I also sanded almost the whole rebuilt front porch. We also met the owners and saw how grateful they were. They had lived there for decades before Katrina, and I thought it was so valuable to rebuild their home rather than tear it down and build a new one. I mean, they want to live in their own home!
Both of these projects made me want to do more. It’s very rewarding, and I plan to go again next summer. Doing good really does feel good!
Nora Gonzalez, 13, New York City