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Archive for December, 2011

-Blog post by Reed Sandridge of Washington, D.C.

One in three children in the United States are overweight or obese.

The CDC reports that since 1980 obesity prevalence among children and adolescents has almost tripled.  So what is being done to stop this? Well, some of the most influential stakeholders came together in Washington last month to actively discuss innovative ways to reverse the rising trend of childhood obesity – and guess who volunteered their time at this conference? You guessed it.

photo courtesy of cbs.com

As a chubby kid myself, I have more than just a casual interest in the subject. As a young adult I started to get interested in the food that I ate and how it affected my health. I even had the honor to work for the Alliance for a Healthier Generation a few years ago, one of six founding members of the Partnership for a Healthier America.

At this first of its kind summit I was charged with being a facilitator for a breakout discussion about how the private sector can help reduce current barriers that negatively affect young people’s ability to participate in before and after school activities. Cash-strapped schools generally don’t have the means to provide transportation for students to either arrive earlier or go home later if kids choose to participate in sports and extra curricular activities outside of school hours.

I participated in several preparatory meetings and phone calls, read numerous articles and opinions on the subject and took off work to volunteer at the two-day conference. As it turns out though this is either not really a problem or in fact it is such a conundrum that people truly don’t know where to begin. I say that because only one person out of the more than 700 attendees showed up to the session! “I don’t know much about these challenges and thought this could get me up to speed,” she told me as she sat alone in a sea of chairs that I had formed into a large circle. We decided not to hold the session given the turnout and our brave attendee joined another session.

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My empty breakout session

Besides my rather anticlimactic session, I enjoyed the two-day experience and was particularly energized by the collective expertise and brainpower they managed to bring together. On top of that, there were memorable moments by tantalizing speakers such as First Lady Michelle Obama and Newark, NJ Mayor Corey Booker not to mention an entertaining and educational dinner program which challenged James Beard Award-winning chefs Tom Colicchio, Maria Hines, Holly Smith and Ming Tsai to create dinner meals on a SNAP (food stamp) budget of $10!
To learn more about this event and other resources to help reduce childhood obesity, check out the Partnership for a Healthier America or the Alliance for a Healthier Generation.

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-Blog post by Reed Sandridge of Washington, D.C.

Merry Christmas everyone! It seemed rather appropriate to make a post today – on a day that many of us associate with the spirit of giving. So now that your family room looks like a tornado went through it and destroyed an entire city built of wrapping paper, take a moment to enjoy a little update some holiday kindness investing.

At the end of December 2010 I stopped my year-long journey of giving away $10 a day. Well, sorta. I’ve found myself on many occasions giving a ten-spot away this year, I just chose not to write up the stories every day like I did last year. But this last week I did a little extra kindness investing.

I went out to meet up with a former colleague of mine, Jess, for lunch. I laugh because she say’s that I am one of two “famous” people she knows – the other is her brother who is an elementary school principal who is also a local legend singer/song-writer in Rochester, MN. Anyway, on my way over to meet her I decided to go run a few errands and I bumped into Kenneth B. from Day 30.

Normally I find him pacing back and forth hawking the Street Sense paper but this day he sat deep in a folding chair barking his familiar cadence, “Street Sense! … Street Sense!” I was in a bit of a hurry and didn’t want to be late to my lunch meeting but I did want to stop and wish Kenneth a happy holiday and give him a few dollars. As I left, I placed a twenty in his hand – $10 from a Year of Giving supporter in Havertown, PA which I matched with a ten of my own.

I then hopped on the Metro and headed downtown. On the train I started thinking that maybe it would be fun to do a little extra giving and I decided that I would give $10 to each person I passed that day who was asking for money. How much money would that add up to? I mean there are days that I feel like I am surrounded by panhandlers in this town.

As I reached the top of the escalators at Metro Center I saw a man with a plastic cup extended toward those exiting the station. I reached into my wallet, found a ten-dollar bill and handed it to him. “Thank you very much!” he said quickly as he tucked it into his cup.

Photo: Reed

After lunch I headed over to Macy’s to look for a gift I still needed to get. I was sure that I would give $10 to the Salvation Army bell-ringer – but to my surprise there was no bell-ringer in sight. But I did pass plenty of other people and before the day had ended I had passed nine more. One of those was Tommy B. – a Street Sense vendor who ended up being my $10 recipient on Day 155. He was doing well and was planning to head down to South Carolina the next day to spend Christmas with his sister. Like Kenneth, I gave him $20. This time I paid forward a $10 donation I had received from Marcio from New Zealand matched with $10 of my own. He was thankful and gave me a warm hug when I said goodbye.

It was a bit nostalgic giving away ten-spots for the day. Somehow it felt right given the holiday season – but as I have said before, it’s not just the holidays that people need help. They need it even on sunny days in June. So as we approach a new year I hope you will take a moment to think about how you might be able to help others and make a plan, even if it is just in your head, about what you will do. Nobody else needs to know, but it will help you stick with it. Drop me a note if you need some help.

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-Blog post by Reed Sandridge of Washington, D.C.

There’s an overwhelming joy … of sharing what I love and bringing it into the community.

Those words were spoken to me back in the summer of 2010 by Maestro Darrold Hunt, the founder and conductor of the Urban Philharmonic, a nonprofit whose mission it is to take high quality symphonic music normally heard only within the marble walls of prestigious concert halls and introduce it to diverse neighborhoods throughout our community.

Hunt was the 189th recipient of my $10. As I normally do I spent some time speaking with him and learned more about him and the organization he started four decades earlier. I was so touched by the history and potential of the organization that I agreed to take a voluntary role of interim executive director. Despite its rich history, the organization had fallen on hard times. Silenced for several years, they were in debt and missing clear direction.

I spent about one day a week for the next year working to revive the symphony. I recently stepped down from my role and now serve as an advisor – albeit in a much less active way. We succeeded in improving the financial position of the organization tremendously, however, now it is time for a full time executive director to come in and take it to the next level. If you are able to make a donation or know of a dedicated individual who might be able to carry the organization forward, please reach out.

Hunt outside Soho Tea and Coffee on Day 189 of my Year of Giving

To learn more about Maestro Hunt and the Urban Philharmonic click here to watch a short video I shot of him in what became our “office” – Soho Tea and Coffee at the intersection of 22nd and P. If you go in the mornings you will hear some beautiful orchestral music. If you go in the afternoon you very well might run into Maestro Hunt…say hello and tell him I sent you!

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-Blog post by Reed Sandridge of Washington, D.C.

This is the Giant where I did my research

Ever feel like supermarket prices are going through the roof? Well, those who depend on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Progam (SNAP) – formally known as Food Stamps – really feel these increases. And how do we know that the amount that SNAP provides is sufficient to meet a family’s food needs?

D.C. Hunger Solutions, a nonprofit here in the nation’s capital that works to create a hunger-free community, set out to answer this very question. On a warmer than usual November evening I found myself at their offices across from the Hilton Hotel near Dupont Circle participating in an orientation on how to visit supermarkets and record pricing data that can be used to compute whether the benefit offered through SNAP is sufficient to cover reasonable costs of buying food for low income families. They also want to find out if foods, especially high nutrient dense products, are equally available across the city regardless of socio-economic factors of the neighborhoods. The two staff members did a great job going over the process and then we were assigned a grocery store where we would record the prices for about 150 items.

Since I have a car they assigned me to a Giant Foods Store on Eastern Avenue up in Hyattsville, MD. I had Friday afternoon free and decided to go up there after lunch to do the inventory which we were told would take about an hour. I was to find very specific items and record the lowest available price for that size. So for example, I needed to find “Chocolate Drink Mix” in a 21.8 ounce package. After finding the right size, and who knew that 21.8 ounces is a pretty standard size for chocolate drink mix, I compared the prices of each one and determined that Nesquick was the cheapest at $5.59. Usually there is a store brand that is cheaper, but not in this case. Anyway, multiply that process by 150 and I ended up running up and down the aisles for about two and a half hours.

Despite some funny looks from those who saw me “shopping” for hours with no groceries to show for it, it was a good experience that helped me develop a greater respect and understanding of food pricing. When I got home I had to fill out an online form so that D.C. Hunger solutions could properly evaluate the data that I collected with data they received from the dozens of other stores from around the Greater Washington area.

If you would like to learn more about D.C. Hunger Solutions or volunteer with them, please visit their website.

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-Blog post by Reed Sandridge of Washington, D.C.

So for week 44 I went out to support the 21,250 runners in the 36th running of the Marine Corps Marathon. I was camped out at about mile marker 12 cheering the semi-lucid runners on. As the temperature traversed the 40 degree mark, the lead pack whizzed by us at an alarming clip. Charles Ware, a 27-year-old 1st Lieutenant in the U.S. Army, was in that group and eventually won the race finishing in a lightning 2:19:16.

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Army 1st Lt. Charles Ware leads the three-man breakaway at mile 12. Ware went on to win the race in 2:19:16.

For me the highlight was seeing my good friend Sasha Bratt. Me, along with a couple of friends, hoped that we would see him through the sea of runners. Actually he spotted us and came running over to give us all a hug. “Don’t stop,” I told him, “you gotta finish this thing.”

Sasha is a bit of a marathon addict these days…well not really, it’s more of a Disney Marathon addiction. He’s actually got a special place in his home where he can display all of his Disney medals which number close to ten.

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My friend Sasha displaying Jody's name on his right arm.

This race though had special meaning for Sasha. The words “Jody” and “Brother” were written on the insides of his forearms. He had planned to run the Marine Corps Marathon in honor of his brother-in-law Jody who had been battling brain cancer for the past 10 years. Unfortunately, two days before the race the cancer took Jody’s life. He was 45 and the father of four children.

“This one’s for Jody,” he said looking at his arms. “When this race gets tough – that’s who I’ll be thinking of.” With that he took off. He finished the race in 4:37:52. Congratulations Sasha!

This blog post is dedicated in memory of Jody David Viets Calabrese.

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-Blog post by Reed Sandridge of Washington, D.C.

Before we get started with today’s volunteer experience, I want to remind you that today is the United Nation’s International Volunteer Day. I’m teaming up with Meridian International, Washington Parks and People and DC Green Corps to plant 61 trees in Oxon Run Park located in Southeast D.C. If you don’t have a volunteer project scheduled for today, make a commitment to volunteer at least once before the end of the year.

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A group crosses the finish line together

Now close your eyes and imagine this. It’s a  chilly October morning and you and your friends are gathered at ski resort getting ready to run a ten-mile course peppered with 25 insane obstacles that I probably wouldn’t want to do by themselves, much less after I’ve been running for hours.

To quote their website, “Tough Mudder is not your average lame-ass mud run or spirit-crushing ‘endurance’ road race. It’s Ironman meets Burning Man.” I’m not sure that’s how I would describe this extreme race designed by an ex British Special Forces commando, but it is not for the week at heart.

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A woman collapses as her body absorbs some 10,000 volts as she tries to navigate the dreaded electrical guantlet.

The sunlight  breaks through the trees while rumors of daunting tasks such as traversing logs floating in freezing pools of water and sprinting through a gauntlet of live electrical wires, some of which are charged with more than 10,000 volts, circulate amongst the participants. I’m just thankful that I am not actually running this race. That’s right, I’m volunteering in this madness.

The event, one of a series of international races that Tough Mudder puts on, is being held at Wintergreen Ski Resort nestled in the picturesque Blue Ridge Mountains in Central Virginia. I drove down the night before in stayed at the Acorn Inn – a wonderful European style inn run by Kathy and Martin, charming hosts who make you feel like you never want to leave.

I spent my day of service primarily at the finish line – watching exhausted participants triumphantly complete their mission. We handed out fruit and energy bars as well as water and sports drinks to the dazed athletes who wandered around trying to recover. Those who finished also were awarded a t-shirt and a free beer sponsored by Dos Equis.

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Tattoos and mohawks are free to particpants.

In addition to the race, several other Tough Mudder related activities were going on. You could get a mohawk style haircut or a mullet, have the Tough Mudder logo tattooed on your body or donate your mud encased shoes to charity. The haircuts and tattoos are free too!

“It’s all for a good cause,” said one exhausted racer who had driven up from North Carolina the night before, “the money goes to help the Wounded Warrior Project.” Well, that is partly true. Some money, nearly $2 million to date, does benefit the charity – and that’s the reason I agreed to volunteer. But as I handed out bananas to weary runners my mind raced off to calculate how much money these guys are making on all of this craziness. Let’s just say they are doing quite well – and I am totally ok with for profit companies doing well while also doing good. The business is so going so well that next year they will double the number of Tough Mudders.

I captured LOTS of images from the event – some of them show the euphoria of crossing the finish line – others show near defeat as the race begins to take its toll. I also got a few good shots of some brave souls who got tattoosmohawks, and mullets. You can check out all of my photographs from the weekend here.

DSC_0127.jpgIf you think you are Tough Mudder material – check out their website for an event near you! They have races in North America, Europe,Japan and Australia – chances are there is one near you!

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-Blog post by Reed Sandridge of Washington, D.C.

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Registration at Philanthropy Day 2011

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure to volunteer at the National Capital Philanthropy Day here in Washington, D.C. It’s an annual celebration of the region’s individuals, nonprofits, volunteers, businesses, and fundraising professionals whose philanthropic contributions have made significant impacts on our community.

On my way over to the JW Marriott, I ran into Bill Davis who was my 100th $10 recipient last year. He was filling the corridors of Metro Center with the beautiful sounds of his alto saxophone.

I arrived at the hotel around 9:00 a.m. – a few minutes early for our scheduled 9:15 arrival time. I grabbed some pastries that were offered for us while waiting to get our assignment for the day. At my table I met some great people who were also volunteering. One of them (and her family!) ended up coming to my farewell party for David! She’s got a great blog too that you should check out.

Anyway, I was asked to be a greeter at one of the hotel entrances. It was an easy enough job but you do get a newfound respect for security guards and hosts who stand all day in the hotel. After a couple of hours it starts to take a toll on your feet.

Another great volunteering experience chalked up! If you know an outstanding individual or group who you believe to be worthy of recognition of their philanthropic efforts, please consider nominating them for your local Philanthropy Day! To find one in your area, check out the Association of Fundraising Professionals website to find your local chapter.

To see more photos from the event, click here.

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