Photo: Iron & Honey // Box Sign: Alice & Wonder
Merry Christmas Eve’s Eve, everyone!!
I recently looked back on my content this past month, and I became very aware that I talk a lot about what to BUY this time of year. Gift Guides, shopping suggestions, sale alerts… yes, I talked about peace and dreaming, and I always hope my recipes encourage you to connect with your friends/family around a table… but the overwhelming majority of my content this season has been about stuff.
While I love giving you ideas on what to get for your loved ones, I also understand that the Holiday Season is about so much more than opening gifts this Sunday. It is a time to hug your friends and family extra tight; a time to say I love you more than usual; a time to appreciate everything and everyone you have in your life… and I’ve found that this time to reflect about what I’m thankful for has made me exponentially more motivated to give back. Sure, I didn’t have anything to spare for most of my 20s, but now that I’m adulting pretty well (woo!), I feel the desire to help those who haven’t been afforded the same advantages as me. So, I’ve compiled a list of charities and organizations that are making strides in all kinds of categories and I hope that it encourages you to find one that speaks to you and give back – and more importantly, to remember to open your heart to others. You don’t necessarily know who has been affected by cancer or who has been bullied or been a victim of abuse just by looking at them. But we are all human, and I hope this holiday season reminds us all to be kind, always.
- Youth Outreach Services – If this sounds familiar, it’s because I co-hosted a little event at the beginning of the month to benefit YOS, and their work really struck a chord with me. They’re a Chicago based non-profit organization that partners with at-risk youth and their families to help them discover their potential. They help kids who have had to deal with abuse, addictions, homelessness and so much more. Their prevention services and counseling are just two of the amazing ways they are connecting with these young people. It is so important that every kid/teen/young adult knows that they are important, seen and worthy of a bright future – especially in Chicago right now.
- Jeffrey Pride Foundation – This Foundation was created by a family in my hometown, after their 7 year old lost his battle with cancer. Since then, they have raised money in support of drug research, clinical trials, and genomic testing of children’s cancer cells. “These new developments quite possibly could have changed Jeff’s treatment and he and other children like him might have been healthy adults today.” Oof, if that doesn’t tug at your heart strings, I’m not sure what will!
- The V Foundation – Sports fans might remember the legendary basketball coat, Jim Valvano… but they might not know about the charity organization he left behind. He started the V Foundation in 1993, and it has since become one of the biggest supporters of cutting edge cancer research funds. Also, thanks to an endowment from generous donors, 100% of your donation goes straight to cancer research. Every single penny. And they continue to aim high – their current goal is to raise $200M by 2020 through their Not a Moment to Lose campaign.
*If you don’t have a ton of cash to spare, one of my best friends has a pretty remarkable Dad who wrote a book about his time at ESPN called Every Town Is a Sports Town – and he is donating all of his proceeds from the book to The V Foundation. Get a good winter read and donate to a great cause at the same time!
- Royal Family Kids Camp – Royal Family Kids Camp is an organization focused on mobilizing the faith community to confront child abuse by creating life changing moments for kids in the Lake and Cook county foster care systems (as well as other locations all over the world). Volunteers from the community spend a week with 6-14 year old male and female campers, reminding them that God loves all of them, as well as participating in lots of fun Camp activities. Activities include swimming, arts and crafts, wood shop, archery and more. Children in foster care have to deal with so much at such a young age, and this Camp can help extend love and build positive memories that they can hold onto for years to come.
My boyfriend actually volunteers with this camp, and hearing him talk about it is incredibly heartwarming. You can keep up with this particular camp on Facebook, or find one closer to you on Royal Family Kids‘ general site.
- Save The Children – I’m sure we’ve all heard of this one before, but it’s never meant more to me than right now. The horrors of Aleppo are real and every time I see a child amidst all of the terror and destruction, I want to cry. Save The Children is there in Syria, helping refugee communities by providing Syrian children and their families with food, emergency care, shelter, protection, clean water and warm clothes.
- Doctors Without Borders – Like Save The Children, this is an organization I have been aware of, but the more I understand what they actually DO on a daily basis, the more I am astounded by their bravery and commitment. For those of you who aren’t aware, Doctors Without Borders is an independent international humanitarian organization that delivers emergency medical aid to people affected by conflict, epidemics. disasters or lack of health care in over 60 countries, including Syria.
- The Domestic Violence Legal Clinic (DVLC) – This is a local clinic that provides free civil legal assistance to low-income victims of domestic violence in Cook County. They have been dedicated to keeping families safe for over 25 years, by standing up for their clients’ safety and achieving victories on behalf of people who have become so accustomed to defeat and abuse.
- Stomp Out Bullying – STOMP Out Bullying is the leading national anti-bullying organization for kids and teens in the U.S. They focus on reducing and preventing bullying/cyberbullying, educating against homophobia, racism and hatred, and deterring violence in schools, online and in communities across the country. Seriously, read all about their mission on their site. It seems like common sense, but unfortunately it’s incredibly important that we teach our kids to choose kindness, every day.
Other notable causes:
- Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation – Dedicated to advancing quality of life and discovering cures for spinal cord injury.
- Support Our Troops – I’m going to be honest, I haven’t done enough research about this topic to give you a recommendation, so I linked to Charity Navigator’s top picks if you are looking to support Veterans and Active Duty Servicemembers.
- Human Rights Campaign – HRC is the largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans. Their goal is for these minorities to be embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.
- Earthjustice – I’m not suggesting this to get political, but if you’re worried about the environment, Earthjustice is working to defend it as the premier nonprofit environmental law organization in the country.
- Goldsheep x Paw Works – If you like yoga pants or live in California, this is a no brainer. Buy a pair of adorable leggings and those proceeds will go to Paw Works, a nonprofit animal rescue organization that gives abandoned animal a second chance at life. *If you’re a Chicago native, you could also just donate to Paws Chicago instead!
Did I leave any of your favorites out? I’d love to know which ones are most important to you!