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Posts Tagged ‘children’

-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, DC

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Students at Let's Get Ready's Career Day in New York City (photo: Reed Sandridge)

Although his eyes seemed to dance around the room, I would later learn that Antoine was indeed paying attention.  Seated at a small table on the third floor of Robert F. Wagner Middle School on New York’s East Side, the soon to be high school junior’s mind was aldreay dreaming of places far beyond the walls of room 302 this past Saturday.

Antoine was attending Let’s Get Ready’s Career Day.  It’s a day that gives a diverse mix of high school students the opportunity to learn about a variety of careers from about 50 professionals who volunteered their time to share their knowledge with more than 250 young people who attended.  Founded in the summer of 1998 by Jeannie Lang Rosenthal, an undergrad at Harvard, Let’s Get Ready is a nonprofit organization serving communities in and around New York City and Boston whose mission is to expand college access for motivated, low-income high school students by providing free SAT preparation and college admission counseling.

“You think that one day I could have a job like you,” the young man from west Bronx asked me after I finished my presentation.

“Absolutely.  How are your grades?”

“Okay, I guess.”

“What’s that mean?” I asked him trying to get a sense of how he was doing in school.

“Well, last year I did real good: an A and mostly B’s.”

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Students took a personality assessment to help determine possible careers to explore. (photo: Reed Sandridge)

The 16-year-old, whose real name I changed to Antoine for this article, is one of 3.1 million young people this year who will be faced with the decision of whether or not to attend college after high school.  If you evaluate his situation based solely on drive, there is no doubt in my mind that he will go on to college.  He’s thirsty to know more and asked several excellent questions during the seminar.

I co-led a variety of sessions focused on helping the students understand their career interests through a personality assessment, interactive sessions about college, and tips on how to build and maintain a professional network so that they can land a job after college.  Originally I was only to be a speaker at the half day workshop, however, when their photographer wasn’t able to make it, I offered to stand in and try to capture some visual images of the day as well.  Click here to see the images I captured from Career Day.

The thermometer nearly broke the century mark that afternoon and there was no air-conditioning in the room that I was assigned to.  Exhausted and covered with sweat, I wrapped up my session and headed to the closing session in the main auditorium.  I got the chance to meet and exchange business cards (Let’s Get Ready supplied the students with cards that they filled out to serve as business cards for the day) with dozens of tomorrow’s leaders.

It was inspiring to talk with them and hear their dreams.

“I want to be a pediatric oncologist.”

“I want to be a social worker.”

“I want to work in television.”

“I want to start my own organization to help underprivileged kids.”

“I want your job!”

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photo: Reed Sandridge

After the event was over I stayed and spoke with several young people who patiently waited to introduce themselves to me.  I hope they all keep in touch, I will be checking in on them periodically too to see how things are going.  When the last student had left, I grabbed my bags and headed for the front doors.  Now dim and voiceless in the school, the heavy metal doors rumbled as they gave way to a sun-drenched sidewalk filled with the sounds of the Big Apple.

The success of Let’s Get Ready depends greatly on volunteers and donations.  If you would like to support this organization and help prepare our next generation of leaders, please visit their website and get involved!

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Blog post by Stephanie, a Kindness Investor from Mt. Laurel, NJ.

I created an intention this morning ~ Today, I am open!

I wrote up a certificate that said “I value you & your story” to give to today’s recipient. I eagerly left my house ready to meet my $10 recipient.  I went to the bank with 4 $20 bills and asked for 8 $10 bills.  Seven bills were for my YOGI’s (Year of Giving Investment) this week and one bill was left over for me. :)

While I was at the bank, I overheard the teller next to me tell the young woman that she was in the negative.  I had been there before and bounced a check, so her situation hit home for me.  I wanted to hand her the $10 but she was with the teller, had a cell phone call on hold and her mom was waiting for her in the car.  Honestly, the scenario to give her the money at that moment didn’t seem like an open opportunity so I left the bank and ventured off.

I went to Panera for lunch, thinking this was a perfect place to meet a YOGI, but the place seemed crowded, busy and sadly the people felt closed off to making connections with a stranger.  I left and later set out to Whole Foods.  I was aware that it still seemed difficult to even make eye contact with people.  Everyone seemed to be in a hurry.  The customers seemed to be looking in their wallets, talking on their cell phones or focusing on where they were going next.

I did approach a woman shopping with her 4 year old child, and to my surprise she was not open to talk with me at all.  She quickly raced away saying, “My child is with me.”

I was let down for a moment and felt she really wanted to protect her child. I have always promoted Kindness in schools and enjoy connecting with children.  People tell me I have a natural gift for this, but I didn’t realize how challenging it is to connect with people I don’t know who are going about their everyday routines and schedules.

Feeling like I may fail myself and not find someone to connect with, I looked over at the last register and watched a middle-aged woman tap a man on the shoulder and point to a bill on the ground.  I believe it was only a dollar bill, but I observed this woman’s kind gesture.  The man was not even aware that he dropped money, but picked it up and graciously thanked the woman.  After the woman paid for her salad, I approached her smiling and gave her the $10.  I said I observed her gesture and that I would like to give her $10 as part of the Year of Giving.  She was shocked and surprised, so I started our conversation by explaining just what YOG was.

Cheryl F. accepted the $10 and told me she is the mother of four teenage girls ages 12, 14, 16 and 18. She said the hardest thing about being a mother was how close in ages her girls are and wished daily responsibilities did not get in the way of her spending more time with them. Cheryl works as a Home Health Aide and helps serve the elderly.  She shared how our elderly are a lot like children – needing lots of care and attention, too.  She said she enjoys her job and helping other people out.

When I asked how she will use the money, Cheryl said, “I will hold on to it and then pay it forward!”  She wanted to tell her daughters about what happened today.  I thanked Cheryl for sharing her story and for being so kind.  Cheryl was warm, friendly and cares about her daughters and the elderly!

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-Blog post by Traci, a Kindness Investor traveling in Southeast Asia.

The Sustainable Organization for Community Peasant Laborer Student Development and Orphans (SOCPLSDO),  a non-profit, non-governmental, non-political organization, was established in 2006 by Mr Pong Sena.  The SOCPLSDO established the Chres Village School and Orphanage in the same year for the regional orphans, students, laborers and peasants from the villages in and around the district of Bakong of the Siem Reap Province, Cambodia.

The aim of the SOCPLSDO is to alleviate the poverty and difficulties of the orphans and children of poor families in the Bakong district providing support of their basic needs such as food, clothing, education, accommodation, health services and school supplies.

More than 50% of the Cambodian population is less than 21 years old. The population lacks education and productive skills, particularly in the poverty-ridden countryside, which suffers from an almost total lack of basic infrastructure.

I went over my $10 today, but it was my pleasure to give my temporary English students the help they needed for each of them to buy school supplies, toothbrushes and toothpaste.

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Photo: Melinda T.

A few days ago while speaking with Reed on the phone I was telling him about my dog Max being a Therapy Dog.  Later that day Reed saw a news story about a service dog that helps an autistic child.  The dog was trained through a group called 4 Paws for Ability.  Very ironic because 4 Paws for Ability is located in Xenia, Ohio where I’m currently living.  Reed had no idea of this at the time.

I’ve lived in Xenia for almost a year and a half, drove past  4 Paws for Ability several times but never actually stopped to check it out.  I decided I should head over to 4 Paws for Ability and donate $10 to a volunteer there.  I gave the money to Charlene who in turn donated the money to 4 Paws for Ability.

Connor says hello to Melinda. (Photo: Melinda T.)

Charlene showed me around the facility and introduced me to quite a few dogs.   In total 4 Paws for Ability has 200 dogs but they are not all living at the facility.  Some of the dogs live at a Correctional Facility where the inmates there train the dogs, other dogs are living with foster families.  75% of the dogs at 4 Paws for Ability are rescued from animal shelters, I thought this was just amazing.  After working with the dogs if a dog just doesn’t seem like it will be a good service dog they place the dogs on PetFinder.com.  All dogs placed on Pet Finder have went through extensive obedience training so you get a fully trained dog.

4 Paws for Ability has designed the inside of the facility to resemble a home.  They have an area in the facility which is set up like the living room in your home.  This area has toys, television with video games and a computer.  The area is somewhat barricaded and was designed for children who are getting a service dog to be able to spend a day in a home like setting with just them and the dog as the parents view the interactions from outside the area.

Outside the building is a 2 acre area which is sectioned off into different yard type areas for the dogs to play.  Outside I was greeted by Connor who is currently going through training.  Connor was playing in the area which was made up to look like a typical backyard area with swings and play-sets.  During the warmer months the children can spend time outside interacting with the dog.

4 Paws for Ability play area (photo: Melinda T.)

If it weren’t for participating in the week of giving I may have never walked into 4 Paws for Ability.  Thanks to this opportunity I may have just found an additional opportunity to volunteer.

4Paws for Ability has ongoing needs for donations.

-Melinda T. from Xenia, OH

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Tomorrow is the big day!  I am sadly not going to be caught up with my blog posts by Tuesday, Day 365.  At one point I thought I could do it, but I have to let that idea go.

I am still looking for people who are out of work and would be willing to do what I have been doing; giving away $10 a day and then sharing the experience.  You don’t need to do it for a year, just 7 days.  If you are interested, send me an email to reed@yearofgiving.org.

Day 347 was the day after Thanksgiving.  I woke up that morning still sufficiently full from all the turkey and stuffing I consumed the day before.  I had agreed to go to Yuengling Brewery that day with my friend Laurie whose parents live about 15 minutes away in Camp Hill.  There was no specific reason to go other than I enjoy beer and used to brew my own and we had nothing to do that day. 

It was no more than an hour and thirty minutes from Mechanicsburg.  The last 10-15 miles of it is a very pretty drive through the winding hills of central Pennsylvania.  Pottsville, where the brewery is located, is a picturesque little town that reminded me of several other towns in Pennsylvania and Ohio.  I parked the car in front of the brewery and started digging for quarters in my pocket to feed the meter.  Thankfully it was only twenty-five cents for each hour.  In DC it costs about twenty-five cents for every seven minutes! 

Filling cans of Yuengling lager beer.

As we walked up to the building bearing the name “D.G. Yuengling & Son” on it I mentioned to Laurie that one of the brewers was the uncle of a good friend of mine.  I had met him once or twice and once even completely confused him with my friend’s father.  In my defense they do look quite a bit alike.  Anyway, it would be nice to see him again if he was there.

Just inside we were greeted by a woman who said we needed to wear a wristband.  While we were waiting for the tour I asked her, “Do you know James Buehler?  He’s a brewer for Yuengling.”  Perplexed she looked at me and said, “Yes…he’s my husband!”  I introduced myself to Cindy and explained how I knew her husband.  She informed me that he had the day off.  I guess there is a decent chance that I had met her before too, but neither of us seemed to remember.  As we were taking the tour, we were asked to go and wait in the gift shop for them to call for us.  Afterwards I thought I would look for Cindy and give her my $10 for the day but I couldn’t find her.

We then headed down the hill to Roma’s to grab something to eat.  It’s a good place that looks like it once was just a small walk-in pizza joint that had expanded to having a dinning room with sit down service.  I thought about giving the $10 to the waitress, but in the end decided to walk around Pottsville and find somebody.

Stacie protects Kylie from the strange man handing out money.

I saw a young woman and little girl skipping down road.  It reminded me of that scene in the Wizard of Oz when Judy Garland (Dorothy), Ray Bolger (Scarecrow), Jack Haley (Tin Man), and Bert Lahr (Cowardly Lion) all go singing and skipping down the Yellow Brick Road.  I stopped them and asked Stacie to accept my $10.  She did.

Stacie, 19, and Kylie, 4, were heading home to Orwigsburg which apparently is not far from Pottsville.  Although Kylie is her boyfriend’s daughter, Stacie seemed so natural with her.  Like most small children that get close to me, Kylie shied away as I approached her.  She clutched the drawing of a bear that she had colored earlier that day and ducked behind Stacie’s leg seeking protection from big scary Reed.  Thankfully she didn’t start bawling, usually they do.

Stacie is taking online classes right now to get her Associate’s Degree in Childhood Development.  “Someday I hope to have my own day care,” she said smiling at little Kylie.  She seems to have a knack with children and will probably be great working in that field. 

She told me that the $10 was going to go toward Christmas.  “It’ll probably end up going for something for her,” nodding her head toward cute little Kylie.

We said goodbye and Stacie carefully loaded her precious cargo into the car-seat in the back of her SUV and they drove off.  I walked up Market Street a little more and took some photographs of the town before heading back to Mechanicsburg.

The other day I got an email from Stacie.

I just wanted to e-mail you and tell you that my $10 is in fact going towards Christmas gifts for Kylie.  I bought her [books] (ended up being 20 books and a pack of flashcards!) for her Tag reader (you know those electronic pens that read the words in books out loud?  I got her one of those for her 4th birthday this summer and ever since then she’s loved reading.)  In my mind your $10 paid for a Super Speller book for her so thank you for helping my ‘stepdaughter’ (I hope one day she legitimately is) learn and to help support her love of reading.  I’m sure after this project you really understand just how important things like reading skills are. “

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I just got home from work, kicked my shoes off and scanned around my messy apartment.  This week has been crazy and I have kind of let things get out of control around here.  Well, I have blocked off this weekend to get things done, so hopefully that includes getting things straightened up.

Day 336 was November 15th which was a Monday night.  On that night a tragic murder was committed here in Washington.  The Redskins fell victim to the Eagles 59 – 28.  But before the horrific slaughter, the parking lots were full of jubilant and hopeful fans who were still gossiping about the earlier news of the day that the Redskins extended Donovan McNabb’s contract for five years.  The deal pays McNabb 78 million dollars over five years with a guaranteed amount of 40 million.  Shoot, maybe I should be asking McNabb for some financial support for my Year End Celebration!

Antoine gave $3 to his friend and said he was going to save the rest.

Anyway, I told my buddy Chris that he could choose the recipient of the day but that his wife had veto power.  Well, this didn’t go very well.  Chris kept picking people that Beth didn’t approve of.  Until Chris drug 11-year-old Antoine over in front of her to be inspected and she approved.

Antoine was a sixth-grader who was selling candy to raise money for at risk youth in the DC area according to a gentleman accompanying Antoine who didn’t identify himself.  “I’ve got caramel hearts, peanut butter crisps, peanut brittle, green tea,” Antoine began to tell me.  What would you like?  I explained that he didn’t need to give me anything in return for the $10 and that he could just add that to his collection. 

“We use the money to provide activities for the kids and keep them off the street,” the man explained to me.  “You know we go to Kings Dominion, bowling, laser tag, all kinds of things.”

About this time another kid came over, he was a little older than Antoine.  I went to go get my camera to capture a few photographs.  “We got to get going,” the adult said as I returned 30 seconds later.  “We got to leave by 8:00pm and they still have plenty of items to sell.”  

I set up my camera while I asked some more questions to Antoine.  He told me that he had sold 12 boxes and that he had 7 more to go.

That's Antoine in the middle with his crate of goodies.

I snapped a few quick shots and let them get on their way.  As he grabbed his milk crate that he carried the items in I asked what he was going to do with the money.  “I just gave him three,” he said nodding his head toward the older boy, “and I think I will save the rest.”

This was a weird exchange.  Our conversation was awkward and I didn’t feel good or bad about it, just ambivalent.  I thought about it for a while even after Antoine was long gone and I was comfortably sitting in my covered seat in the stadium.  I wondered if he had ever come inside to see a game.  Probably not. 

As I said earlier, the game went on to be a disaster.  It poured rain for all of the second half and the score looked more like a basketball game than it did a football game.  The Redskins played awful.  I think 11-year-old Antoine could have played better than several of the guys that night – he would have played his heart out just be on the field.

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