When Port Huron Northern Varsity football players took the field on October 12th at Memorial Stadium, the crowd didn’t see their blue and gold uniforms. Instead the players sported specially designed jerseys honoring or in memory of local veterans and supporting the national nonprofit, The Wounded Warrior Project. This was the second year in a row that the Husky players have taken the field to honor veterans and raise funds. The team aimed to raise $3,000. “Our players feel honored and privileged to be able to recognize and support our nation’s military heroes while playing at our home field, which was built in honor these same heroes,” said PHN Varsity Football Coach Patrick Connell.
Being a cause embraced by the community is familiar territory for the Wounded Warrior Project. This nonprofit began when several veterans and friends, moved by stories of the first wounded service members returning home from Afghanistan, took action to help others in need. One of the founders, John Melia, had been severely wounded in a helicopter crash while serving in Somalia in 1992. What started as a program in 2002 to provide comfort items to wounded service members, has now grown into a complete rehabilitative effort to assist warriors as they transition back to civilian life. In a truly innovative move, the organization includes support services and classes for the wounded veteran’s care partners, knowing that injuries are life-changing and impact not only the veteran, but the entire family.
The Wounded Warriors Project also advocates for legislation that will assist our injured heroes and their families. They celebrated a victory recently after legislation to improve long-term care for warriors with traumatic brain injuries, a serious side-effect of the tools of modern warfare, was signed into law by President Obama in August. In a move to evolve treatment options, Wounded Warriors Project utilizes the web to deliver information and services. They offer free, confidential, self-paced Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) resources through their Restore Warriors program. This online tool offers resources and self-help exercises to assist in building coping strategies for real-world challenges.
In San Antonio Wounded Warriors recently partnered with the Culinary Institute of America to put on cooking classes for wounded veterans. Proper nutrition is important for everyone, but even more so for the wounded who might be unable to exercise. As always with Wounded Warrior activities, camaraderie among the veterans only served to grow their support system. Anna King told KSAT News, “You don’t feel so odd. You don’t feel … like nobody understands you. You don’t feel alone anymore. It’s really therapeutic.” King suffered injuries from a mortar attack while serving as an Army Captain in Iraq.
For 35Projects I was proud to sponsor a jersey in memory of Dewayne T. Williams who was killed in Vietnam on his 19th birthday.
Throughout my 35Projects venture, I met with several founders and CEO’s of nonprofits that ranged in size and budget. None of them were ever like West Michigan’s Carol Manos. Carol founded the nonprofit Carol’s Ferals somewhat by accident, although if you met her you would argue that she was always destined to make an impact in a big way. She just has the personality and heart of a leader that people love. To be fair, in 2006, you might have thought she was a crazy cat lady. She was trapping stray cats from the back of her van in a fast food parking lot. Since then, her nonprofit has gone on to provide spay or neuter services to over 6,300 stray or feral cats. An unaltered pair of cats and their offspring left to breed can produce 677 cats in just 24 months. With thousands of unwanted pets being put to sleep across the country each week, Carol’s impact in reducing the misery caused by pet overpopulation has been significant. In addition, she has provided adoption services that have placed 550 more homeless cats with loving families.
For this project I am working through a series of opinion editorials to spread the word about low cost spay and neuter services available.
November is a complicated month for a lot of people. Frankly, some of us spend the first few days of the month still feeling slightly disturbed by adult friends who got way too into Halloween in October. November also kicks off the holiday season for the many people paying homage to the weeks that we will overspend on gifts, get shaken down by airline fees, eat too much, shove total strangers to get into Toys R Us at 4 a.m., and hang out with relatives, some of whom we still can’t believe we are actually related to.
In November, we salute our veterans with well-deserved ceremonies and, in Michigan, deer hunters hail the start of firearm deer season. We honor unpaid caregivers with National Family Caregiver Month and talk about the nation’s sixth-leading cause of death during National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. In the middle of this potpourri of activity lies a gem of a cause, where knowledge is power and the mustache is king. It is a movement that has been steadily gaining momentum and changing lives across the globe since it started in Australia nine years ago with 30 participants. What is this cause, you ask? I am talking about Movember, a time when men worldwide grow facial hair to raise awareness about men’s health issues, particularly on prostate and testicular cancer initiatives.
Male participants are encouraged register at www.movember.com and start the month clean shaven. As the month progresses and their mustache, or “mo” as it is called, grows out, they become walking conversation starters about men’s health issues. They end of the month with parties to celebrate their mustaches.
It all sounds funny, but beneath the approachable exterior of Movember lies a much-needed discussion. As the Movember experts will tell you, when you consider that men die on average five to six years younger than women, the male suicide rate is four times higher, and treatment and reduction of the social stigma surrounding depression for men hasn’t made the advances that it has for women, this is a serious issue. Each hour, more than five men die prematurely from potentially preventable illnesses, and up to half of male cancer cases could be prevented through healthier diet and lifestyle choices.
The Movember website also encourages participants to fundraise for men’s health causes supporting education, survivorship services, and research activities. For example, Dr. Steve Cho and his team at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine won a Movember-funded grant for evaluation of an imaging technique, PSMA-based PET, which noninvasively pinpoints the location of prostate cancer on a smaller scale and with greater accuracy. This technique could more easily determine a man’s stage of prostate cancer prior to initial treatment and pinpoint those who might benefit from more aggressive treatment versus active surveillance.
Movember follows October’s Breast Cancer Awareness month, when the whole world is decked out in pink – but in Movember, many men still ignore their own health needs. Movements like Movember are hard at work to change the way men take care of themselves and handle their health issues. In a month providing such a complex but critical opportunity, it is our job to make sure that this Movember movement continues and that men strive to take care of themselves and control their own health.
Taking Root: Innovation From The Nonprofit Community
Carrie is volunteering with 35 nonprofits this year. You can catch up with her at www.35projects.com
In September I attended a fundraiser for the March of Dimes, their 2012 Signature Chefs Auction Sparkle and Spice. $35,000 was raised at this event that will go towards the March of Dimes mission of preventing premature births and helping the 543,000 babies that are born too soon each year. My friend Tara’s first child was one of the 307 babies that were born in my home state each week. I have personally witnessed all of the wonderful things March of Dimes did to help her family and I was proud to help her give back.
The March of Dimes arose due to a public need. President Franklin Roosevelt’s personal struggle with polio led him to create the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis at a time when polio was on the rise. Known as the March of Dimes, the foundation established a polio patient aid program and funded research for vaccines developed by Jonas Salk, MD and Albert Sabin, MD. These vaccines effectively ended epidemic polio in the United States.
Like most of the nonprofits that I have encountered, their growth is due in part to the people that the organization connects with along the way. For March of Dimes, Virginia Apgar, MD is credited with pivoting the organization to focus on premature birth as a major health concern in the 1960’s. Its original mission accomplished, with her dynamic personality and public health focus, the foundation turned its focus to preventing birth defects and infant mortality. The March of Dimes has led the way to discover the genetic causes of birth defects, to promote newborn screening, and to educate medical professionals and the public about best practices for healthy pregnancy. We have supported research for surfactant therapy to treat respiratory distress and helped initiate the system of regional neonatal intensive care for premature and sick babies. Maybe you have heard about their recent Folic Acid Campaign achieved a dramatic reduction in the incidence of neural tube defects, birth defects of the brain and spine.
An easy smile and enthusiastic hello greeted me when I walked up the driveway of the Judeo Christian Outreach Center in Virginia Beach, VA on a sunny coastal day. It was Katie Livington that was cheerfully welcoming me like an old friend. Livingston was there to volunteer too on that day. She uses her talent as a hairdresser to help residents of living in the community and those relying on the soup kitchen maintain that freshly groomed look one needs in order to gain or maintain employment.
Katie had a hard luck story of her own. She is currently seeking employment. With an enthusiastic outlook that is contagious she doesn’t let it get her down. Instead, she focuses on how excited she is to help people. I watched her give a haircut to Roberto. He is also a volunteer, handling PR for the local chapter of the Kidney Foundation. Roberto said that he feels a sense of duty to do something productive instead of just sitting around. For this project I am excited to support Katie’s mission to provide her hygiene packs to residents of the shelter and those using the soup kitchen for a hot meal. These backs of toiletries help Virginia Beach residents in a time of housing crisis maintain their outward appearance. Obviously, that is demanded in the workplace and also has a big impact on one’s mental state as well.
On the streets of Detroit and in the surrounding area, a group of volunteers called Dog Aide have started a network to rescue the area’s unsafe and abandoned dogs. These individuals work with various local rescues to achieve the mission of to educate dog owners, identify needs of communities, supply owners with food and daily care items, provide access and financial help for routine veterinary care, and network with rescues and community organizations to help people get the food and financial assistance they need. They often end up taking in some of the worst cases of neglect, abuse, and injury, seeking to make these hard luck dogs healthy enough for a foster and then a forever home.
For this project I supported Dog Aide by participating in a chip-in donation for a lovable pup named Rocky who found himself with a broken pelvis. I also purchased a Dog Aide t-shirt to spread the groups message wherever I go. Unable to get the great work that Dog Aide does out of my mind I also brown bagged my lunch for a week to raise some money for them. I even dusted off my sewing machine and made three blankets for them to auction.
Dog Aide 2012 Education Core Principles: Physical and Behavioral Health Proper Containment Permanent Identification K-12 Education Seminars Networking Saves Lives
Dog Aide 2012 can be contacted at:
In April of 2012, I visited the Library of Congress (LOC), located across from the Capitol Building in Washington, DC. It was National Volunteers week and there were several signs up in the building celebrating the volunteers. While many of us have heard of the Library of Congress before, I had no idea of the depth and breadth of research and preservation that the LOC undertakes.
James H. Billington, the Librarian of Congress, describes the Library of Congress as the Nation’s oldest federal cultural institution. It serves as the research arm of Congress. It is also the largest library in the world, with millions of books, recordings, photographs and manuscripts in its collections. The Library’s mission is to support Congress in fulfilling its constitutional duties and to further the progress of knowledge and creativity for the benefit of the American people.
Walking in D.C.
Those that wish to support this mission can donate both time and money. If you tour the LOC, you too can observe from the balcony and see citizens utilizing the vast collections. The LOC also supports a project to preserve the history of veterans. This involves the gathering, processing, preservation and access to oral histories and personal documents collected from veterans from all wars. In January of 2012 The Library of Congress Veterans History Project (VHP) launched a multi-year campaign to preserve the stories of the nation’s Vietnam War veterans. Volunteers and veterans are needed to record these important stories for the Veterans History Project collection, accessible at www.loc.gov/vets/. Preserving and accessing the individual stories is of extreme importance. The LOC was established by an act of Congress in 1800 when President John Adams signed a bill providing for the transfer of the seat of government from Philadelphia to the new capital city of Washington. The legislation described a reference library for Congress only, containing “such books as may be necessary for the use of Congress – and for putting up a suitable apartment for containing them therein.” In August of 1814, when invading British troops set fire to the Capitol Building, burning and pillaging the contents of the small library, retired President Thomas Jefferson offered his personal library as a replacement. Jefferson had spent 50 years accumulating books and his library was considered to be one of the finest in the United States.The Library of Congress is a great treasure, indeed.
An Important Project
The stories of former Sen. Chuck Hagel and his brother Tom Hagel, who fought side by side in the 9th Infantry Division in the Mekong River Delta, are among the more than 13,000 Vietnam veteran collections already held by VHP. “When we think of war – whether it’s Vietnam or any other war – we think of it as a unitary subject, the Vietnam War,” Tom Hagel shared at a recent event. “But there are millions of Vietnam Wars. If you were a clerk-typist stationed in Saigon or up on the demilitarized zone, or some other unit with some other type of job, your Vietnam War would be totally different from ours. And that’s important to tell. It gives a more complete, realistic picture of that experience. That’s the value of this project.”
For 35Projects I videotaped and submitted to the library of congress the stories of a young man from Michigan who flew over 30 missions during World War II. He talks about what it was like to live in the stress of battle and about his wonderful life after the war. It was touching to be a part of that and his story needs to be preserved for future generations. One of his interviews can be found here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OAO0g0owXfc
Both the library and the Veterans History Project are deserving of our attention and support. I was privileged to have Nelson share his story with me.
On July 30, 2012, Matthew Ross Smith set out from Philadelphia, PA, with a goal in mind. He wanted to preserve one million American memories for future generations. To accomplish this, Matthew formed an intergenerational community art project known as The Spaces Between Your Fingers Project and traveled the country to promote it. Individuals are encouraged to write a “story you don’t want to be forgotten” on 8×4” postcard, and affix a photo on the other side. Instead of signing your name, you trace your unique handprint onto the postcard and mail it. All of the postcards are individually catalogued and archived in The William B. McNamee Wisdom Library in Philadelphia, PA, using the same rigorous archival standards that the Library of Congress uses in preserving a piece of history.
What has motivated Matthew, an educator and musician, to take to the road meet people and preserve the memories of total strangers? The memory of his time with someone special is behind all of this. Matthew lost his grandfather, William McNamee, to Alzheimer’s disease. As the disease progressed and robbed him of the world he knew, the accomplished orthopedic surgeon told his grandson Matthew that it would make them strangers one day. Matthew’s project serves as a platform to raise awareness about this devastating disease and foster conversations between generations while preserving memories that shouldn’t be forgotten.
I met Matthew in Allen Park in August after his workshop stops in Buffalo and Toledo. I watched him run a workshop in the Maple Heights retirement community. Even the Staffers that interact with residents every day were amazed at the memories the residents had to share. The residents came alive talking about war, lost loves, husbands, Halloween with their children. On so many levels, I have to say that this project is amazing. My grandfather passed suddenly five decades ago. He took with him his knowledge of the family history, and also his personal memories; fleeing Germany, making his way in America as a young immigrant during the depression, raising a family of ten children.
A Mailbox Full of Memories
I supported the project with a donation and by distributing 35of the 8”x4” postcards for others to share a memory with Matthew. I sent a memory postcard to Philadelphia to be archived. The memory that I shared was about the winter my dad used the tractor from my grandfather’s elevator and made me a sledding hill that was taller than our house. Following his Michigan stops, I asked Matt what he thought about his time in the mitten. “Michigan was one of our favorite stops,” Matt said. “The people were incredibly welcoming and proud to show us around. There was real depth to the stories because people had roots in the area that went back for generations. We can’t wait to see the stories that come through the mail with a Michigan postmark.”
The Spaces Between Your Fingers Project is an intergenerational art project designed to fight back against the memory loss caused by dementia. The project seeks to build a revolutionary archive of American history that preserves photographs and hand-written memories on postcards. http://spacesbetweenyourfingers.blogspot.com/
Traveling this summer I was introduced to some startling statistics about drowning. It is the number one cause of accidental death in children under the age of 4. A swimming pool is 14 times more likely than a motor vehicle to be involved in the death of a child age 5 and under and an average of 10 people die per day due to drowning. There are several great nonprofits throughout the country that are dedicated raising awareness about this issue and educating the public.
The Conor Cares Foundation in Maryland advocates for defibrillator placement and training at public pools. The Foundation is names in memory of Conor Freed, a 5 year old boy who drowned in a country club swimming pool. Founded in 2006, their long-term goal is to have a defibrillator at every public and private pool nationwide. The Connor John-James Freed Scholarship Fund has sponsored over 400 children in Arlington Echo’s Drownproofing Program in Anne Arundel County. The fund provides an assortment of necessities for under privileged children that otherwise could not afford the drownproofing program and associated cost. They have a second scholarship fund, “Not One More Child Drowns” that supports the Infant Swimming Resource (ISR) program.
Colin Holst would have been 9 years old this fall. He would have had a birthday party with friends and family. He likely would have told his partents what he told them every night as they tucked him into bed, that it was the best day ever. Sadly, none of that will happen. Colin drown on a sunny day at a waterpark surrounded by family and friends. His death highlights some of the little known statistics about fatal drownings, namely that there are often adults and caregivers right there. To combat this the organization that those who loved Colin formed, Colin’s Hope advocates the use of a Water Guardian Badge. The Water Guardian takes a pledge and carries a physical badge with him/her when responsible for children.
Colin’s Hope has one full-time employee and relies on thousands of volunteers to package and distribute water safety packets throughout central Texas in English and Spanish. Using statistics on drownings and neardrownings they can target their campaign to needed areas. They also work within the waterpark and recreation industry to increase awareness.
I will be spending time this fall promoting the use of their Water Guardian Badge with the Michigan Lodging and Tourism Association.
Okay, I’ll admit it… I am a cat person. During a recent trip to Austin in July, I knew that I wanted to volunteer with the fabulous no-kill shelter, Austin Pets Alive. I looked into several of their volunteer programs and trainings, including their pool of volunteers that bottle-feed small kittens. The shelter took in over 1,500 cats this summer and some were kittens that were not ready to be weaned. What really caught my eye, though, since I am trying to be more active, is the Jog-a-Dog program that APA participates in. Volunteers check out a shelter dog waiting for adoption and go for a jog around Austin’s Lady Bird Johnson Lake. Both the human and the canine reap the benefits. The dogs get exercise and fresh air, reinforce their leash manners, and are exposed to potential adopters. Do I jog? Nope. Did that fact deter me? Nope. You could say that I was looking to bring the W A L K to the Jog-a-Dog program.
The training for the Jog-a-Dog volunteer program are managed through MeetUp.com. In fact, before I arrived in Austin, I noticed there was a good deal of information on the web and social media sites about the Jog-a-Dog program managed by a local running club, Team Spiridon. As the Executive Director Rob Hill explained it to me, Team Spiridon is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that provides low-cost but high-quality training for runners at all experience levels. From individuals that are trying to pry themselves off of the couch (like myself) to those with multiple marathons under their belt, team members pledge to connect their athletic efforts to raising funds, 100% of which are split between local animal welfare organizations.
In the city of Austin, the Jog-a-Dog program was born when one of the trainers at APA asked some of the Team Spiridon runners to take some of the higher-energy dogs out for runs. APA does so much to get the dogs out and about and involved in playgroups with other dogs, leading to happier, healthier dogs and lower aggression. Running with a dog gives the dog more exercise, which helps burn off a lot of that excess energy and stress. Running several miles with a person also gives the dogs someone to bond with, and all that put together makes the dogs better behaved, easier to train, and ultimately more adoptable. Team Spiridon’s Rob Hill noted, “the program was a success on that small scale, and one or two of our runners even ended up fostering or adopting dogs they had run with during the program. In July of 2011, we began marketing the program to Austin’s broader, very active running community.”
I arrived early in the morning at the APA shelter to participate in the program. When I checked in, the staff suggested that I take a calm dog named Sandy for a walk, although I was free to choose any dog to exercise. On the way to find Sandy, a rascal named Bacon Bits was giving me the eye. I could tell that Bacon Bits was anxious for a little fresh air and he seemed to be telling me that everything would be cool, he would behave. I opened his kennel and leashed him up, and we were off on our adventure. The trails around the lake are gorgeous and they were populated with people running and walking, making it easy to feel safe, even though Bacon Bits and I were on our own. The first thing that Bacon Bits did when we hit the trail was take a giant poop in the middle of the paved trail. I then realized that being a crazy cat lady and not a dog person was working against me. I had walked right by the giant stand of doggie poop bags that APA provides without taking one. I had been responsible for a dog for less than five minutes and already I was “that person.” Yep, it was happening.
On the trail, I quickly learned that Bacon Bits disagreed with my plan to have a leisurely Sunday morning walk. He wanted to run and stay true to the word “jog” in the program’s title. Since he was the one that was going to be cooped up all day, I obliged the best I could. Bacon Bits convinced me that I can actually run for a good 90 minutes when pulled. I had a great time and it was the best exercise that I have had in a while. I joked with the staff that they should partner with a local diet center. Having a canine work out partner was amazing … oh no, this crazy cat lady is going to the dark side! If you listen to the volunteers at the center (which I didn’t), they can partner you up with a dog that is a great fit for your fitness and desired activity level that day. You can also ask them what dogs need to go out for a run.
So Many Great Stories
I will definitely go back and participate in the Jog-a-Dog program again. It was hard to put Bacon Bits back in his kennel and leave him. If I lived in a house where a dog was allowed, Bacon Bits would have come home with me that day or soon after. My husband also gets a vote in addition to APA’s adoption process, but surely Bacon Bits would have won him over.
Jog-a-Dog was a fabulous experience and I am so thankful that these two great nonprofits collaborate to provide it. My story is just one of hundreds that people who have participated in the program have to share. When I asked the organizations for one of their favorite stories from this whole adventure in nonprofit collaboration, Rob shared that one of Team Spiridon’s runners bonded with a dog named Crosby in the early days of the program and fostered him. He’d bring Crosby out to the group runs. Another runner ended up fostering Crosby and eventually adopted him, enabling the first runner to foster another dog. Crosby’s owner ran her first marathon this year, and had a really tough, very long day. She came in near the end of the pack. There at the finish line was her family with Crosby. It was a heck of a moment to see them so happy to see each other.
Rob closed by saying that you don’t have to wait for one of those stories to be struck by what Jog-a-Dog can do. He said that for him, it was fascinating to see dogs come back from runs sticking by someone they’ve just met, looking up at them with a very visible appreciation and closeness. I couldn’t agree more and I would say that in many cases, that feeling of closeness goes both ways. Many of the volunteers I ran into on the loop around the lake were working very hard to promote their running companions that were up for adoption and telling people about the Jog-a-Dog program. When I returned from Austin, I went to sponsor Bacon Bits’ care at APA and he had already been adopted. That is a testament to the wonderful work that APA does.
Both nonprofits have received numerous inquiries from New Mexico to Ontario, Canada, on how to run a successful community program like Jog-a-Dog. One of my interests in volunteering at 35 different nonprofits over the course of a year was to find innovative programs that should be replicated in communities across the country. Austin’s Jog-a-Dog certainly is one of those programs. It combines nonprofits from two different areas: runners and an animal rescue organization. Team Spiridon credits the APA shelter’s great location, right near Lady Bird Johnson Lake and trails that are the hub of the local running community, in part for the program’s success. It also benefited the participating shelters to tap into another group, the runners, for support. Even with this success, Team Spiridon would like to see the program grow.
On the weekend that I was there, 40 dogs were out running by 10 a.m. That is a great accomplishment. Although the heat in the summer in Texas also limits the hours that it is safe for running, Jog-a-Dog would like to increase the number of dogs out to 60 a day when the temperature drops this fall and runners can take advantage of more daytime hours. The group is also creating a site that lists all the dogs in the program, with pictures and descriptions from people who have run with them, so that runners can find that running partner they want. It seems to be all in a days work for these two fabulous nonprofits that have collaborated for one great program.
Team Spiridon is celebrating its fifth year as a group, and third as a nonprofit. They have become one of the official charities of the Livestrong Austin Marathon and Half Marathon. www.teamspiridon.org
Austin Pets Alive! Is a nonprofit dedicated to making Austin, TX a no-kill city. More than 17,000 animals have been saved from euthanasia since 2008. www.austinpetsalive.com