Why we do it? Well, judging from the hundreds of families gathered together - I think the real question is - why wouldn't we? There is no better time than now to teach our children how important it is to be involved in change. And even when our hearts are always in it, it seems like quite a challenge sometimes to even research ways we could be more involved in our community - together as a family. With the children being so young right now, we are limited to volunteer hours we can commit to. And yet still, I am determined to raise our kids with the curiosity and familiarity of supporting worthy causes, helping others, raising awareness - all for change.
This starts with Aaron and I including philanthropy in their education. Philanthropy - from the Greek word philanthrōpía, which means love for mankind, is as important of a lesson to teach as patience is. When the kids get a little bit older, we'll share with them how their parents volunteered together many years before they were born. We'll tell them about the Genesis Women's Shelter and how our roles were to play with kids so that their moms could receive counseling. We'll tell them about those memorable moments where we felt sad and helpless to see young kids burdened with their parents' struggles but how spending just one afternoon a week playing helped them forget for just a few hours. And how Aaron, who read books and played basketball with the boys, was a positive male role model they needed in their lives so that they would not grow up thinking that all men are abusive.
When Ava is older, I'm going to tell her how when I was 14-weeks pregnant with her, we walked 60 miles in 3 days together [from Arlington, to Irving to Dallas] to raise money for breast cancer research. I am going to tell her how I thought of her with each step and how we are all working towards a cure so that she won't grow up ever having to worry about cancer.
And when they look back at the photos of the first time they both were involved in a cause - March for Babies 2008- they will see the spirit of a community coming together, a family bond growing stronger, and the beginning of their life-long lesson in philanthropy.
Here's why supporting March of Dimes and other foundations dedicated to raising awareness about premature births and risks:
Every 3.5 minutes, a child is born with a birth defect in the US.
In Texas, 103 babies are born weighing less than 3 1/3 lbs on an average week and more than 14,000 babies are born each year with one or more major structural malformations.
March of Dimes helps raise awareness about risk factors for both babies and moms. Some of their initiatives include newborn screenings, access to health care coverage, smoking cessation, and immunizations. Learn more about their advocacy in Texas and nationwide.
Here are some ideas to growing your own little philanthropists:
1) Collect change for change. We started a piggy bank for each of the kids to "donate" their coins to. They love hearing the clinking and clanking of coins falling. While they don't know the value between a dime and a quarter - they do value storing these precious metals. The real lesson comes when piggy is full and they see their efforts exchanged for a greater good.
2) Visit CharityNavigator.org and research a local foundation or read about those already rated to help guide your fields of interest and selecting a charity to support. When you do - don't just donate. Take the time to attend a volunteer orientation, a tour or even an upcoming event to see whether or not it's a right fit. We're looking at the International Rescue Committee and how they help local refugees in our area. I'll keep you posted on what we learn!
3) Think small. Sometimes, going through your phone book and taking the time to get reacquainted with friends that are "older" and could use some company - is humbling.
4) Put it on the calendar. Designate a day a week or month [whatever feels right for you] for just doing good. Whether we are on the computer researching a foundation's mission we'd like to advocate on behalf, organizing our clutter for a drop-off at the Salvation Army, or walking for a fundraiser - it's all good. It's so easy getting caught up with so many other things so designating an actual time frame for goodwill helps us keep focused on what matters most.