This one is particulaly near and dear to my heart. You’re lucky this is via computer and not paper or there’d be an embarassing number of tear stains.
My dad had cancer. And then the cure for that cancer gave him cancer. The cancer that the cancer cure gave him killed him. Cancer sucks.
While we were dealing with the second cancer (Acute Myeloid Leukemia, for those of you who like details) the bills began to get on top of us. The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society stepped in and helped us pay for some of it. And when we couldn’t find a bone marrow donor that was compatible with my dad in the family LLS helped connect us with Be the Match, which helped us organize bone marrow donor registration drives. (It’s free to register through a drive! And painless! All you have to do is swab your mouth.)
LLS does a lot of really important work from supporting people with cancer to funding research to end the aformentioned cancers. My family would have struggled a lot more without them.
There are lots of ways to help LLS. You can donate money, volunteer, harass government officials into spending more money on cancer research, or take part in a fundraising activity like Light the Night.
This one’s my mom’s favorite charity! It makes it pretty easy to shop for her on Mother’s Day, to be honest. Every year a basket of duckies.
Heifer International sends animals around the world. Well, it’s a little more complicated. What they do is train people in impoverished areas on animal husbandry and then give them an farm animal.
The idea is that having something like chickens that lay eggs or a cow that produces milk will create food for the person. And when there’s extra they can sell it, providing income for the person. And over time as the animals reproduce the person can train their neighbors and give them an animal, thereby recreating the cycle and, hopefully, lifting an entire community out of poverty.
My personal dream is to one day be rich enough to donate an entire Ark, which is basically an entire farm. If I’m ever able to do that I’ll really know I’ve made it.
There are lots of ways to support Heifer besides just shipping someone a beehive, cow, or flock of ducklings. You can do some creative fundraising, volunteer, or a gazillion other things all suggested on this handy page.
Although I don’t generally engage with the Salvation Army, Angel Tree has been a staple for my family’s Christmas my whole life.
My dad (who I think might have been a literal angel) never wanted anything for Christmas. Instead he asked that each of his kids pick an Angel Tree kid and take Mom shopping to get what they wanted. After he died we continued to do it in his memory. (And now I’m tearing up like the sap I am.)
Angel Tree has a counterpart in the Christmas Mother program in my home town. There’s likely something similar wherever you are too. The concept is simple. Parents who can’t afford to give their kids the Christmas they want sign up with the program. They list their kids’ ages, clothing sizes, and a few toys that each kid wants more than anything. The Angel Tree program then puts all this information on a tag and the tags get dispersed around town to hang on trees at donation sites (usually malls and banks). You go and pick one, sign it out with the volunteers, and do your shopping.
This program actually takes place in November, at least in my area, and donations have to be returned by the second of December. But you can help Angel Tree by volunteering with the program. Kevin and I volunteered last year with distribution and, although I was nervous, it was a pretty cool experience. There are lots of positions so you if you’re not comfortable with interacting with people you can help sort gifts or manage lists.
Personally, I always chose older kids. It seems that people tend to pick younger children for most projects so I make a point of grabbing the oldest one on the tree. They might not believe in Santa, but they’re going to be much more acutely aware of an absence.
I have a thing in December where, instead of regular posts about my Very Important Life I talk about my favorite charities. This week it’s the Durrell Trust.
When I was in elementary school I discovered Gerald Durrell’s books. My favorites were his stories of collecting animals in far-off places. The animals were so engaging you couldn’t help but fall in love. I was so enthralled I even did a school report on Corfu, the place where his most famous books (about his childhood) are set. My mom called the Corfu tourism agency who delightedly sent us all the information and material a nine year old’s travel report could possibly need. In thanks my mom sent back a Virginia ham.
After he began his zoo in the Jersey Isles Durrell created the Durrell Trust to protect animals all over the world and train other people in that mission. They do really amazing ecological work, and not only for the cool/fuzzy/big animals. Everything from toads to obscure rabbits benefit from their work.
Henry Cavill, AKA “Superman” is the Durrell Trust’s current ambassador, which is pretty cool.
You can do a lot of different things to support the trust, including adopting an animal (my mom adopted Dobby the Pied Tamarin in my name last year). You get a poster and a bookmark and an invitation into an exclusive Facebook group where you can see updates on your animal), buying cool stuff (including his books, which are really hilarious and I highly, highly recommend), become a member, or joining the American Friends of Durrell.