Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Holiday Giving

image: afrobella.com
An easy way to get kids in the habit of giving back and reinforce the meaning of Christmas is to have them help pick charities for family donations. For multi-kid households, the process is simpler if you give them a few good options & ask them to vote on their favorites.

This year, why not put a kid-created charity on the list? Here are five good options, with the types of donations they accept:

Sheltering Books (books, money)
From Ewe to You (handknit items, knitting supplies, money)
Second-Chance Toys (toys)
Tennessee H.U.G.S. (shoes)
Little Red Wagon Foundation (money)

As impressive as it is when kids & teens start their own charities, contributions really keep those charities alive, so participating in family giving is every bit as meaningful as starting something new. Happy holidays, and happy giving!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

And Speaking of Christmas Cards...

Need some kids-helping-kids Christmas card stamps for your MAC kids-helping-kids holiday cards? Sports fans will enjoy our latest efforts, benefitting Save the Children & featuring (like the MAC products) kids' artwork. Try this football stamp for your holiday mailing:

Personalized Christmas love stamp -- football stamp
Or how about our new baseball stamp?

Christmas card stamps -- baseball LOVE stamp

Not your style? Check out these other kids-helping-kids Christmas card stamps, with snowflakes, snowmen, mittens & other classic holiday themes.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

MAC is Back

Grab 'em before they sell out: MAC Cosmetics' Kids Helping Kids holiday cards and gift tags feature art by HIV-affected kids, with proceeds helping peers through the MAC AIDS Fund. In keeping with this year's "Ice Parade" theme, the adorable cards offer plenty of shimmer & shine to light up your holidays.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Trick or Treat!

My first intro to Trick or Treat for UNICEF, born way back in 1950 when American kids wanted to help overseas peers with the after-effects of WWII, was a Judy Blume book. I can't even remember which one -- possibly Are You There God? It's Me Margaret -- but I do remember thinking wow, what a great idea.

Three generations of U.S. trick-or-treaters for UNICEF have raised a staggering $164 million to date. Where does the money go? UNICEF -- the United Nations Children's Fund -- provides clean water and sanitation, vaccinations, medical care for AIDS-affected children, education programs, and more. 

It's not too late to get involved this year. Kids can order a collection kit, plan a costume party for this terrific cause, or even "trick-or-treat online" for UNICEF. Need inspiration? Check out these kid heroes and kids who've been helped.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Walk This Way

Today is International Walk to School Day, with nearly 3,800 schools participating in the U.S. alone. Walk-and bike-to-school rates have plummeted over the last four decades, with many parents citing safety concerns as the barrier. Safe routes are a piece of the puzzle, but kids can help also each other feel safer on the way to and from school by walking together. It's a common-sense way for kids to help each other maintain a healthy weight, manage stress, and add a little fun to the day. (What better time to debrief on the latest videogame release, Idol vote-off, or peer histrionics than walking with a friend?)

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Nutty Buddy

With peanut allergy a treacherous condition for many kids circa 2011, brown-bagging families in some districts have found they need to operate within a school no peanut policy. Other schools, like ours, allow nuts but ask families to tag lunches that contain peanut. I asked my 14-year-old to help create a "Contains Peanut" label that would help protect peanut-allergic peers, and this is what we came up with. As always with our shop, 1/2 the design proceeds to go Save the Children.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

All American

image: generationon.org
My nieces are all pretty different in personality and style, but at one time or another they've all played with American Girl dolls. So I know what a monster hit these toys are. Pricey outfits notwithstanding, the AG crew & their corresponding books have done girls at least one service: turning their attention to American history & reinforcing what they learn at school.

That point's not lost on Mary-Grace Reeves, a Pensacola (Fla.) 16-year-old named recently to the Parade All-American Service Team. The American Girl Book Club she started at 13 has reached more than 900 Gulf Coast girls in 3 years, building literacy and promoting community service. Cash shortages in Hurricane Ivan's aftermath pushed her to reach out to a diverse mix of funders and suppliers, from the local Kiwanis and friends-of-the-library clubs to restaurants, a local female attorney, even a landscaping company. Guest speakers from the U. of Florida, Daughters of the American Revolution, and others with history connections are invited to speak at each club meeting. "With the ability to read well," says Reeves at generationon.org, "one can do anything."

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Sweet Dreams

image: polyvore.com
Hey teens -- what if there was an easy way to help your friends do better at school, manage stress & avoid depression? You'd do that, right? Well, good news: All you need to do is stop texting your friends late at night.

Teen sleep needs average 9 hours a day, say the experts, but most don't get it. There's a whole cluster of reasons for that, but a growing one is late-night cell phone use. Several studies have looked at this trend -- e.g., the epidemic of teens sleeping with phones under their pillow, which to adults "sounds like torture," CMCH's Michael Rich, M.D. observed wryly -- and found negative consequences. "Hypertexting" teens -- those who text 120 times or more on an average school day -- are especially prone to problems with schoolwork, stress, and depression.

So if you care about your friends, resist the urge. Text before 10 or wait 'til the next day. Your pals will still be there for you, and in much better shape to offer advice and support once they've had some shut-eye.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Face to Face

image: changeforthechildren.org
Few kids like to be noticed for their differences, especially physical ones. So how to handle a prominent facial birthmark? Evan Ducker, 17, drew on firsthand experience to write a children's book dealing with the issue. The Kingston, N.Y., high schooler helped arrange a May read-along for thousands of students "to increase tolerance" of birthmarks such as his own facial port-wine stain. The book's premise -- a Galapagos Island booby bird has a chance to have his birthmark magically removed; will he take it? -- seems relatable to many types of differences kids experience. For his efforts, the teen author earned a spot on Parade's All-America High School Service Team, props from the Jonas Brothers, and most importantly -- he told Parade -- "parents' emails saying how much more confident their kids with birthmarks are" after reading the book.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Gifted & Giving

One student helps another at North Elementary, Des Plaines, Ill.
When a friend visited recently from Calif., we were catching up on the kids, and she mentioned being pleased with her younger son -- very advanced academically -- for helping out a struggling classmate with some math problems. It was a contrast to what I'd seen written by other parents of gifted kids, many of whom seem to resent their kids being asked to serve as "unpaid assistants" to the teacher. Plenty of experts, too, are opposed to gifted kids tutoring peers in the classroom. I can see how this could misfire, at best, if not well managed and monitored. On the other hand, I wonder if the anti-tutoring parents and experts have considered the potential social and emotional learning benefits for gifted kids. In some cases, academically average or even struggling kids are socially adept, while academically gifted kids may struggle socially. Peer tutoring certainly isn't the only tool for helping them help each other, but done right, it may be worth a try.

Here's a nice parent post that's pro peer tutoring, with caveats.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

It Gets Better

It's never easy, but adolescence can be especially harrowing for gay and bisexual kids. To help them cope with the pain, harrassment and isolation that can result from coming out (or not coming out), there's Dan Savage's incredible It Gets Better campaign. Thousands of gay adults have told their stories, shared their strategies, and radiated love and acceptance through YouTube videos shared on the campaign's website. But struggling kids will also find help from their peers, in the form of videotaped coming-out stories that run the gamut of emotions but all ultimately deliver the same message: You're not alone.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Hair Apparent

image: prohairdesigner.com
As is our habit in Chicago, we've done a complete 180 on the weather these past few days, turning from gray and drizzly to sunny and steamy. If I were 10 again with long long hair, I think I'd be drawn to Locks of Love, the well-known nonprofit that relies on donated hair to provide custom hairpieces for 6- to 21-year-olds who have lost their hair for medical reasons. Here's a plan for all the hip, giving young girls out there with 10 inches or more of hair to give: Clip it off now, send to Locks of Love, and enjoy the warm summer breeze on your neck (and the feeling of helping another kid). By September, your hair should have grown out enough to snip into one of those cute celebrity bobs that are all over the magazines lately -- just in time for the first day of school.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Do the Right Thing

Last week at a "Teens and the Law" panel discussion, I found myself drawn to the comments of a caring but stern prosecutor. Maybe it's because he was the only one on the panel to openly recognize the importance of teens helping each other in risky situations. One question from the audience was whether a kid could get in trouble for having consumed alcohol if his/her friend needed help and he/she called 911 while under the influence. A legitimate question, but the judge was incredulous: "Your friend needs medical attention and you're worried about saving your own skin?" When the subject turned to legal issues related to teen sex, particularly when one partner has been drinking, the judge had a strong message: "Look. If you're at a party and your friend 'disappears'? FIND your friend. Get your friend home NOW."

The whole talk made me grateful all over again for having made it through high school with a peer group that got in trouble with the law only for hanging out in the neighborhood at night, bored and goofy but utterly substance-free. Every kid should be so lucky. Then again, it's not all luck, is it?

Monday, April 25, 2011

A for Effort

Typical teens today are busier than ever, but Alana Ethridge takes it up a notch further. As if balancing academics, extracurriculars, and TV & film jobs (including a stint on "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?") weren't enough, the 14-year-old started her own foundation, Alana's Achievers, through Athletes for Education. The goal? Help other kids "achieve their dreams and set positive goals in life" and build the habits they need to get there, from strong school attendance to healthy eating and regular exercise. Understanding that extracurriculars are a pathway to discovering passions, she's offered modest scholarships for disadvantaged kids to cover the cost of these programs. She's raised funds for sick kids, including 9-year-old Danielle Lerma, who is in treatment for a rare blood disease. And she's promoted literacy, recruiting young celebs to visit her school in support of reading programs and partnering with Storytime for Me, aimed at early childhood literacy. You'd think she'd be tuckered out by now, but something tells me Alana's just getting started ...

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Almost Famous

image: uscsnow.org
As a survivor of a 5-boy sleepover this past weekend, looking ahead to two more this coming weekend, I've got PJ parties on the brain. So, luckily, do Guilford, Conn., sisters Addie (8) and Delaney (9) Kenney, who recruited 36 girls for an "almost sleepover" (the "almost" being a key concept when you're talking 3 dozen kids!) to help youngsters at an area shelter. Each girl brought a new pair of PJs for a peer at the shelter. Activities included making treats and crafts for seniors and holiday patients, plus the partiers collected $80 for charity. Addie and Delaney are taking their almost-sleepover concept nationwide this October for Make a Difference Day and, according to USA Weekend, have invited the Obama sisters to join in. Newman's Own awarded $10,000 in the Kenney girls' honor to the Life Haven shelter in New Haven.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Joy of Toys

With Earth Day coming up on April 22, teen-founded Second Chance Toys has again launched a used toy drive for kids in need. Bring fully functional plastic toys to one of their dropoff locations in New York, New Jersey, Philly or Chicago. Join a cause that has saved more than 65,000 toys from landfills & sweetened kids' lives with new-to-them playthings.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Change It Up

Coin drives are such a simple, tangible way for kids to help other kids, demonstrating how small gestures can add up to something much bigger. Seattle's Wellspring Family Services -- which addresses the interlocking issues of mental health challenges, domestic violence, and homelessness -- is offering area kids a chance to create change by collecting change. Wellspring's Kids Helping Kids coin drive runs through September 1, 2011, and even gives entrants a chance to win their own original song by acclaimed kids' artist Caspar Babypants -- aka Chris Ballew of The Presidents of the United States of America.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Helping Out, Hanging Out

(image: plainfield.patch.com)
Greeting friends in the hall: A minor matter for most teens, but for those with autism and other disabilities that affect social interaction, it can take practice. And who better to practice with than typical peers? Adults "don't have the same know-how or the insider information" as peers, said speech-language pathologist Christopher Spiel of the Peer Communication Group he started two years ago at Plainfield East High School in Illinois.

Teacher-recommended students who have a solid academic record and are known as good role models can trade study hall time for a chance to work with their special-needs peers twice a week, facilitated by Spiel and a social worker. Volunteers go through a two-hour training, and the group focuses on trust and relationship building before tackling specific skills. "Special education students [are] self-conscious and ... don't like to show their weakness," Spiel told Plainfield Patch. "We spend a lot of time to develop trust."

Once a month, the students kick back together at Hang Time Club, which Spiel personally funds to give the special-education students a chance to snack, play games, and just enjoy people outside of their families.

A comment from peer helper Myles Walters is filled with the kind of natural sensitivity and respect that teens can bring to their peers with challenges: "I understand these kids are just like us, but they may not know these things."

The benefits go both ways. "We are all clicking." Walters added. "It's a joyful time."

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Class Act

Seeing a peer bullied on the bus in Valhalla, N.Y., a set of teen triplets decided to do something. As high school seniors, they began teaching younger students about bullying and how bystanders can help. There was some concern the program would end when the Williams triplets graduated, but instead they passed the baton to a new crop of seniors. "How it happened, how quickly it grew, and the detail at which it was already formulated when it came forward was certainly a surprise," said Jonathon Thomas, Valhalla High School principal. Less surprising? Other schools have called Valhalla about replicating the kids-help-kids approach.

image: Hey U.G.L.Y.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Moore is More

Gotta love Julianne Moore. Not only did she co-lead the year's most enjoyable (imho) film (The Kids Are All Right), but she founded & continues to support a Valentine card contest for Save the Children that helps kid artists help their low-income peers in Appalachia. Children from across the U.S. drew valentines this year and voted on their favorites. A donation of $25 buys a box of 24 cards featuring 5 winning designs. All proceeds go to Save the Children. Interested? Order cards by Feb. 8 for Valentine's Day delivery!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Baby You Can Drive My Car

Skidding on the icy road yesterday, I thought about how hard it must be for newly minted teen drivers to manage unpredictable winter driving. Add alcohol to the mix, and it's a recipe for tragedy. That's why I love the idea, from DoSomething,org, of high schoolers setting up a designated driver program for their peers.

Should teens drink? Of course not. But underage drinking statistics show that many do. Students save lives when they take time to help peers get home without endangering themselves and others.   

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Sew Kind

image: nonaknits.typepad.com
Tiny Baby-New-Years in Wake Forest, N.C., are waking up to the world in hand-knit hats, booties & blankets thanks to 10th grader Hannah Moyles, who provides warm clothing and blankets to "less fortunate" community members through her From Ewe to You charity. Her "Little Lambs" project supplies pediatric ward and newborn nursery patients with these handmade treasures. What a warm way to start 2011.