“Sometimes, one simple act of caring and kindness can have such an impact on another living being at that moment, it completely changes the course of their life and blesses your life forever.” – Dr Jeff Mullan
Here’s a great way for your kids to enjoy Halloween, not get overly sugared up, and make a difference at the same time. Check out Halloween Candy Buy Back — where dentists “buy” Halloween candy from their young patients and send the goodies to troops overseas via Operation Gratitude. Dentists can offer creative exchanges for the candy such as free toothbrushes. To see if there is a participating dentist near you and to learn more about the program, visit their website.
© YesKidzCan!, 2012
“How was your summer?” “What did you do?” “Where did you go?” Our kids are probably racing around the school corridors bombarding each other with these questions. Undoubtedly many of them will share stories of memorable travel destinations, hours of pool time, and milestones at camp. Summertime should be great for kids — all kids. But there is one group of children who experience a much harder summer — kids of deployed, injured or fallen U.S. service members.
Thanks goodness for Camp C.O.P.E. — a support program for kids ages 4 through 18 who help each other heal from the challenges that come with having a parent serve in the military. Many of these kids need to deal with moving from place to place, changes in their parents personalities or physical abilities, or tragically, with losing a mom or dad. Through crafts, games, and small group activities, Camp C.O.P.E. teaches kids of military members how to express and manage their feelings and bond with peers in similar situations.
So far there are 18 camps serving about 2,500 children nationwide. The camp relies on donations to cover supplies, travel, meals, and stipends for counselors. If your kids had a great summer, consider putting Camp C.O.P.E. on your family’s donation list so that kids in military families can have a summer to remember, too.
© YesKidzCan!, 2012
Many kids understand that July 4th celebrates the United State’s independence from British rule in 1776 with the drafting of the Declaration of Independence to document what was important to our leaders and citizens. Seems like a perfect holiday to add an easy service project to bring out the leader in your kids.
We’re not talking about anything complicated. Kids are looking for some entertainment while you’re heating up the grill. So, set up a table with a few canvases and some paint and brushes and have the kids create inspirational paintings (perhaps with patriotic themes in honor of the 4th). Many hospitals, senior centers, libraries, or schools would appreciate receiving the artwork to brighten up their hallways or waiting areas. For a complete how-to on this kind of project, download our free our Art that Heals Community Service Project Kit. It includes a butterfly template as one artistic option. You could also download our Lifting Soldiers’ Spirits Community Service Project Kit which provides complete instructions for decorating and donating pillowcases to lift the spirits of our service men and women. The kit includes patriotic-themed iron-on decals. Or you could simply use fabric markers or paint. Just a few ideas to amp up your patriotism this holiday!
© YesKidzCan!, 2012
Thankfully, people have become more aware and appreciative of all that our military service men and women do for our country. However, unless you are connected to a military family, it is still difficult to fully appreciate all the sacrifices family members make when loved ones are deployed or wounded. The kids of military personnel are often the hardest hit.
Fortunately, there is an organization that keeps these kids top of mind: Our Military Kids. This group raises money to provide grants for sports, arts, and tutoring programs for children of deployed and severely injured service men and women in the National Guard and Military Reserve. The organization has been able support every grant request that has come in. That’s great news for kids like Joseph and Ian who got to continue their karate lessons while their dad is in Iraq. Or, Logan who is able to continue his training to become a master falconer while his father is serving in Kuwait. Take a moment to visit Our Military Kids’ website with your kids, and consider lending your support. Read some of their newsletters together to learn about how helping these kids pursue their interests is powerful stuff in helping them get through the tough times.
© YesKidzCan!, 2012
As adults, we know that Memorial Day commemorates U.S. soldiers who died while in the military service. We can also use this day as a way to educate our kids about the sacrifices soldiers continue to make for our country and involve them in a project to raise the spirits of those recovering from war-time injuries. Thousands of our country’s soldiers get wounded every year, and many cannot return to duty. To date, in the Iraq war alone, more than 30,000 service men and women have been wounded. The average hospital stay for a wounded soldier is 10 months, but some stay as long as two years. Recovering from injuries is difficult enough. Doing so away from all the comforts of home is equally challenging.
In honor of Memorial Day, YesKidzCan! is offering one of our Community Service Project Kits, Lifting Soldiers’ Spirits, for free. This project has kids decorating pillowcases for wounded soldiers to lift their spirits during their recovery, provide some comfort while they are away from home, and convey our appreciation for all they do. The kit includes:
Easy, step-by-step instructions. We’ve kept directions for each community service project short and simple. But, we’ve provided a few extra details for those of you who haven’t done this kind of project before or appreciate a little bit more guidance.
Useful and fun and information. The kit lists everything you need including supplies, participant invitations, a countdown calendar, and estimated costs for the project. We’ve also included several patriotic graphics that you can print out on iron-on transfer paper and apply them to the pillowcases.
Something for everyone. While our kits are designed for elementary school-aged kids at home, in school, or with clubs or faith groups, we also give you ideas for older kids. For example, older kids may enjoy supervising younger kids’ projects, organizing an activity with peers, or getting their community service requirements.
Finally, the kit lists specific military hospitals that will accept the decorated pillowcases along with the mailing instructions. We want to make it easy for you and your kids to let our service men and women know that we value their sacrifices. Our military helps us sleep more soundly at night. Perhaps this act of kindness will help them do the same.
© YesKidzCan!, 2011
When our military women and men are deployed, they face the difficult decision of finding a place to love and care for their animals. Several private organizations are dedicated to finding long-term companionship and care while the military personnel serve our country. Perhaps you and your child would have an interest in raising funds for one of these groups, spreading the word, or even serving as a home for someone’s pet! Here are groups that help find homes for animals of all kinds:
www. FosterMilitaryPets.com The mission of this program is to provide a safe and secure temporary foster home for pets of deploying military personnel until they return home.
www.Netpets.org Netpets.org’s MilitaryPetsFOSTER Project is a global network of individual foster homes that will house, nurture, and care for dogs, cats, birds, horses and all other pets for Military personnel only. It’s recognized by the U.S. Department of Defense as the Pet Assistance Provider recommended by the military.
www.Operationnoblefoster.org This website is provided as a public service and staffed by Purebred Cat Breed Rescue, an organization that strives to provide a safety net for Purebred cats and support rescue efforts for all cats.
Consider helping to give a temporary home to pets whose owners are away from home providing a valuable service to our country.
© YesKidzCan!, 2010
Kids learn differently about charitable giving. While some may gravitate toward community service projects, others may prefer reading a book. This holiday season, we want to highlight a book that celebrates a miracle between a man and a very special dog — Nubs, The True Story of a Mutt, a Marine & a Miracle.
Nubs is a special little dog of the Iraqi war who meets up with Marine Major Brian Dennis and his team at the border of Iraq and Syria. When the team relocates miles away, Nubs is determined to find his new friend, and he treks across the treacherous desert for 70 miles. When it was time for Dennis to return to San Diego, friends and family were so moved by the story, they raised several thousand dollars to rescue Nubs so that he could begin a new chapter of his life with Dennis in the United States. By Brian Dennis, Kirby Larson, and Mary Nethery, this unbelievably true story is an amazing testament to the loyalty and love between animals and humans.
Many of you have needed a simple community service project idea for a scout meeting or other group activity, but couldn’t find the convenient AND meaningful activity. We understand this dilemma. That’s why we regularly profile groups that help busy parents, teachers, and community leaders involve kids in easy and inspiring charitable activities.
Today’s group is Operation Gratitude, a nonprofit organization that puts smiles on troops’ faces around the world by sending care packages addressed to individual Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines who have been deployed.
The organization has a website section especially dedicated to boys and girls scouts filled with great community service projects and craft activities for charities including:
- making bandanas, neck gaiters and scarves;
- collecting Halloween candy and organizing other types of collections;
- writing personal greeting cards, and more.
In addition, they suggest a “Troops for Troops” activity for scouts’ cookie, nut, and popcorn sales programs in which scouts encourage buyers to purchase extra products for donation to Operation Gratitude.
Operation Gratitude makes it easy for kids (whether a scout or not) to show their gratitude to our troops. Pick a special holiday project that will give men and women in the military support they can carry with them year round.
For my family, it was that time of year when we needed to open up the closets, face the garage, and dig into the toy chests to figure out what we truly needed to keep and what would be best to donate. We always involve our daughter in this process to reinforce the importance of charitable actions. Sometimes it’s difficult for her (and us!) to part with certain things – even though we have outgrown them or don’’ use them anymore. Belongings – while just belongings – do carry memories with them.
We were a relatively well functioning team and assembled a significant amount of items to donate – items we hoped would make another family happy. We had bikes, artist easels, a pogo stick, games, dolls, clothing, shoes, an old television, and even an enormous plastic slide (a gift from the grandparents when our daughter was a toddler)!
When we have a large number of items to donate, we like to give them to the Vietnam Veterans of America which support Vietnam-era veterans and their families. First, they accept so many different things including old electronics, furniture, carpets, books, toys of all sizes, kitchen appliances, clothing, and much, much more. Second, they have a charitable donation pickup service in a handful of states across the country (Minnesota, Kentucky, Indiana, Missouri, Illinois, Maryland, Virginia, and New York) where you can package up your donations, label them, and leave them outside for the VVA truck. (Super convenient!)
So, this past Sunday afternoon, we labeled and set out our belongings for a Monday morning curbside pickup. My daughter and I left early Monday for camp and passed our pile of memories at the end of our driveway. My daughter said, “Hey, mom, where are the bikes?” I stopped the car and assessed the belongings we had left out the day before. Sure enough, not only were two bikes missing, so were the pogo stick and two artist easels.
Now what do you say to your kid when your donations are stolen?! It had crossed my mind and my husband’s that our belongings could be the target of vans and trucks that rove the streets looking for valuable goods to resell or keep. Oddly, Angus MacLachlan had just shared his funny take on this very thing in a piece called “Lives: Curbside Pickup” in the New York Times Magazine.
Fortunately, I got off the hook easily as far as my daughter was concerned. She evaluated the situation with her own conclusive analysis. She said, “That’s pretty mean of someone to take stuff that was meant for people who really needed it. But . . . maybe the person who took it really needed it, too.” Then the real clincher for me was this: “Mom, maybe next time I will do what Atticus Finch did in To Kill a Mockingbird when he set up a chair outside Tom Robinson’s prison cell to protect him. I’ll guard our stuff until it gets picked up safely.”
Not only did my daughter understand the value of donating items to a worthy cause. She was willing to do what it took to make sure the intended recipients received them. I think I ended up being the one who received a lesson about generosity that day.
© YesKidzCan!, 2010