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Ideas for Another Kind of Gift

 

Tis the giving season, is it not? If you’ve already completed your shopping list for the usual suspects and have a few bucks left over to spread additional cheer, here are some gift ideas of the non- profit kind.

Love animals? The Little Guild in West Cornwall, CT https://www.littleguild.org/ rescues homeless dogs and cats and finds loving homes for them. A donation of $25 will buy a one-day supply of food for all of their animals; $50 vaccinates one animal for a year or helps pay the cost to spay a cat ($150) or neuter a dog ($300). Or maybe adopt a pet…

Who isn’t moved by the notion of a child at risk? Berkshire County Kids Place https://www.kidsplaceonline.org/ in Pittsfield, MA picks up the pieces of children damaged by sexual and domestic violence and makes them whole. When a child comes in for a therapy session they get a snack first. $10 buys all of the kids snacks for a week. $50 covers most of a private therapy session for a child. Usually it takes 12 – 24 sessions per child.

Continuing the focus on children, Brooker Memorial https://www.brookermemorial.org/ in Torrington, CT provides early learning, child care, pediatric dental care and child therapy for youngsters in need. $25 will buy a week’s supply of healthy snacks for 10 kids or dental screening for one child. $50 will provide one month of art supplies for two classrooms or a dental cleaning for one child.

Adopt-a-Family in Millerton, NY cares about the young ones too. Headquartered at Moore & More Printing ( 518 789-4508), Stacey Moore and her large band of helpers provide clothing and toys (non-electronic) to some 300 kids up to age 13. Each child gets a winter coat, boots and three toys. A $50 or $100  donation will put a big dent in that per child cost.

Hunger may be our greatest scourge. Gratefully, there are many non- profits dedicated to feeding our residents-in-need. One of them is the Sunday In The Country Food Drive http://sundayinthecountryfooddrive.com/. They are based in Millerton, NY, but they serve 18 towns throughout the Tri-State area. They provide Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners to over 300 families. A $25 gift will provide a family of six with a complete holiday dinner including a 14-16 pound turkey.

Special Olympics is one of the most beloved of international charities. It allows children and adults with intellectual challenges to participate in and succeed in 26 different sports throughout the year. And the “United Sports” program partners challenged athletes with non-challenged high schoolers to compete together. Everyone wins. a $30 donation buys a basketball. If you care to give on the installment plan, $15 a month funds year round sports activities for three athletes. Each state manages its own programs. Connecticut https://www.soct.org/; Massachusetts https://www.specialolympicsma.org/ and New York https://www.specialolympics-ny.org/ .  A $65 donation will earn you a Special Olympics tree ornament.

Robin Hood Radio’s http://www.robinhoodradio.com/ home is in Sharon, CT, and it serves the Tri-State region. It is an NPR station providing local and national news and entertainment as well as providing  public service announcements about non-profit activities throughout the year. Robin Hood Radio is a non-profit that needs our support. A $25 or $50 donation would help pay for stringers who report local news or help support an emergency fund take care of equipment failures, among many other expenses.

The Jane Lloyd Fund https://www.thejanelloydfund.org/ provides financial help for cancer patients in the Northwest Corner by paying their living expenses while they concentrate on healing. A $50 donation could cover a tank of gas to drive to treatments, or pay for part of an electric bill or a piece of a mortgage payment. No donation is too small.

Housatonic Youth Service Bureau (HYSB) https://hysb.org/ . Counselors at HYSB offer free counseling to youngsters in Region 1 in Connecticut addressing a broad array of emotional needs from depression and anxiety to avoiding school, and support children and families coping with personal or economic crises, emotional or physical neglect, trauma, substance abuse and more. A $50 donation to HYSB will pay for one counseling session.

The Salisbury Winter Sports Association (SWSA) http://www.jumpfest.org/ in Salisbury Connecticut has been teaching youngsters to ski – cross country, downhill and jumping for 94 years. They provide skiing scholarships for four area grade school downhill programs and maintain  20, 30 and 70 meter jumps at their Satre Hill facilities as well as host the annual Eastern Ski Jumping Championships. A $50 donation to SWSA will fund two hours of landing hill snow grooming or travel expenses for a SWSA jumper to compete at other eastern hills.

These are just 10 of the 300 or so charities found on the pages of sportingAcause.com, all of which are doing heroic work to improve lives in our part of the world. Please remember them when gift-giving this holiday season.

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Fundraiser Dos and Don’ts

I hesitate to write this blog. People hate to be told or even advised about what they should do. I know. I’m one of them.

But write it I must,  because after two years of searching websites and social media pages for information and writing up over 400 sports-related fundraising events around this Tri-State area,  I’ve made some observations and come to some conclusions that you may find helpful.

So here is my list of Dos and Don’ts when you are organizing or promoting your event whether it is sports-related or not.

1  This should be an easy one – Decide on an event name and stick with it. I’ve seen the names of events vary so much across media that they are barely recognizable as the same event. This usually happens if more than one person is involved in promoting the event. Sometimes the name just morphs from year to year.

If there is a word like “Jogfest” in the title, make certain it is always used- it is a key word that readers will use to recognize your event.

Also, you don’t have to tell the whole story in the title. The longest event title on sportingAcause.com is eleven words – too long. Make it descriptive but brief.

2  When posting your event, especially on social media pages,  please, please write the date including the year and include the town/city and state in the lead sentence. Many is the time I’ve clicked through three-plus times to find the race is in Nebraska or the golf tournament notice was from 2012. And keep your website information current too. I swear some folks haven’t reviewed their non-profit sites in years!

3  Every event must have a contact- “For more information about XYZ  Golf Tournament call/email so-and-so”. But make very, very sure that contact person addresses all inquiries. Because, believe it or not, 10% of the inquiries that I’ve made go unanswered. Let me put that another way – one out of ten times that I seek information about an event, no one gets back to me.

That, my friends, is inexcusable.

4  If you have a successful, established, multi-year event, do not change the date. You will lose loyal patrons. If your event  has always been on the third Saturday in July, leave it there, or you will be sorry.

5  And finally (Yay) – If you are planning a new event for your non- profit, good for you! But think seriously about the date . Ideally, you should schedule your event on a date when not much else is going on. For example, do not plan your event during September. Weekends during the 9th month are already overflowing with fundraisers. Before you pick a date, check out sportingAcause.com to get a sense of when the event traffic is lighter.

So there. Had enough instruction for one blog? I thought so.

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Breast Cancer Awareness Month

With half of October gone, the bright colors of autumn are on full display- reds, oranges, yellows and… pink ?

Yes, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, when the whole country seems to turn pink in support.

And, with many companies with brands you know well supporting the fight against  breast cancer, it’s confusing to know how much is being donated and to whom.

Consider these national and world wide brands and their pink programs:

Ralph Lauren –  gives 25% of the proceeds from its Pink Pony line of T shirts, (but 100% of the purchase price of the “Live Love” T shirt) to Pink Pony Fund which supports an international network of charities.

IT Cosmetics – for each item of a select cosmetic line sold, IT donates one to Look Good Feel Better which helps women with appearance-related issues.

Olay – gives 100% of proceeds for each sale of pink Olay Regenerist Whip to Bright Pink, an awareness charity for breast and ovarian cancers.

Macy’s – gives a portion of sales from The Pink Shop line to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

Gap – donates 10% of select bras sales to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, up to a maximum of $100,000.

Ford Motor Co. – gives 100% of net proceeds from the sale of its scarves and other accessory items to support transportation needs of breast cancer sufferers.

And on and on –  so many cause-marketing programs with varying charities and donation percentages.

Confused?  Me too!

So if you are looking for a way to support Breast Cancer Awareness Month in a most meaningful way, here is an idea.

Make a pledge to someone who is taking part in the Making Strides of Litchfield County  Walk Against Breast Cancer. It’s happening at White Memorial Conservation Center this Sunday, October 20th (find details below).

Walk members have been collecting donations from folks like you to give directly to the American Cancer Society and its fight against breast cancer.

Or better yet – join the Walk yourself – bring a donation, take a stroll, for the very best of causes.

271,000 people will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year.

41,760 women will die of breast cancer in the US this year.

1 in 8 women are affected by breast cancer in their lifetime.

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Cars vs Bicycles

It must be said- cars and bicycles hate each other.

Despite state laws declaring them both “vehicles” and directing them to obey the same rules of the road, the two forms of travel are incompatible.

The major problem, of course, is they move at very different speeds.

When a car traveling at 45 mph comes up behind a bicycle riding at 15 mph, with oncoming traffic, the car must slow until the oncoming traffic clears then move into the left hand lane, pass the bicycle and then return to the right lane, giving the cyclist ample room in the process.

But you know what really happens, don’t you. More often than not, the impatient driver “shoots the gap” between oncoming car and slowpoke bicycle, engineering a close – call scenario. And if there is a mishap, it’s almost always the cyclist who loses.

There have been several bicycle rides and races on the sportingAcause calendar so far this year with more to come.  With more cyclists on the roadways, often in groups, it is imperative that everyone knows how to behave.

Car and truck drivers-

Bicycles have the same right to the road as you- that means they have access to the right hand side of the right hand lane, so don’t pass them unless it’s safe to.

Cyclists-

Don’t overstep your “right to the road” privilege . If you have an adequate shoulder to ride on, use it.

Otherwise stay as far to the right as possible. Oh, and it is not OK to ride two or three abreast, taking up two thirds of the lane just so you can chat. And your responsibilities as a ‘vehicle’ include stopping at stop signs and red lights, signaling  turns  etc.

And finally to the cyclists- remember that your adversary ,the driver, is surrounded by two tons of metal while you are riding on a few pounds of tubing and little bits of rubber. Should the worst happen and your bicycle interacts with a car or truck, it will be small consolation that you were “in the right” if you’ve become road kill.

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The Color of Loss

September is Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month, and there are upcoming Out of the Darkness Walks to Prevent Suicide sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.  Last year I attended one of their events, and this is what I found.

 

Most of the people wore strands of brightly colored beads around their necks. There were white ones and red and gold and orange and silver and green and blue and teal. Each color held specific meaning.

All of these people, nearly 500 of them, had gathered to celebrate the lives of loved ones lost to suicide, and the beads represented the nature of the their loss. White designated the loss of a child, red meant the loss of a spouse, gold a parent , orange a sibling and so on. The beads color-coded their pain.

This  was the  Out of The Darkness Walk to Prevent Suicide, one of 400  held nationwide  by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) to support survivors of suicide and work to end it.

The Walk was billed as a celebration of the lives of those who are gone by those who remain. One of the speakers addressed the seeming conflict of joy amid such pain.

“How can we feel such profound gratitude and such profound sadness at the same time?” she asked. Everyone there seemed to know. There were tears, as people stood at the microphone and explained their color “I am wearing orange because I lost my brother- my best friend”.

“I wear silver today because I lost military- a couple of them”.

“I’m wearing white because I lost my twin sons” -both of them.

Bertha, one of the event organizers, wore nearly every color- father, child and other loved ones- all lost . And she wore green to represent her own struggles with suicide.

Yes there were tears but also smiles and hugs and laughter and camaraderie. And that of course was the answer to the question- that amid that profound sadness, they could  feel gratitude because they all had the support of each other- they all understood.

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States at the rate of 129 people a day.

There will be an Out of the Darkness Walk to Prevent Suicide on Sept. 29th  on the Walkway Over the Hudson in Poughkeepsie and one on October 5th at The Common in Pittsfield, MA.

Find details at sportingAcause.com.

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Alzheimer’s

We all have causes dear to us. We support charities that touch our hearts for the good works they do – for making the world a better place.

Sometimes we support causes that fight afflictions, like cancer, that have taken our loved ones.

For me, the Alzheimer’s Association is such a cause. Alzheimer’s disease wiped out my father’s side of my family as well as friends and friends of friends.

I hope for a cure so others escape that fate. And, because of forgetful moments, I hope for myself.

Many share my particular brand of pain and hope, and some are moved to action.

One such action is the Walk to End Alzheimer’s this Sunday, September 8th at the White Memorial Conservation Center in Litchfield. It is one of 600 Walks held in the coming weeks around the Nation.

Folks will solicit pledges from friends, family and neighbors and then walk the two –  mile course through the beautiful White Memorial grounds. Over 325 people have signed up so far.

If Alzheimer’s has touched your life, consider walking  this Sunday in Litchfield or on the Walkway Over the Hudson on September 29th.

And if you can’t walk, perhaps make a pledge to someone who is.

One in three seniors will die of Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia.

There are 5.8 million Alzheimer’s sufferers in the U.S., growing by one every 65 seconds.

There are16 million Alzheimer’s caregivers.

Learn more about the Walk to End Alzheimer’s Litchfield and Dutchess at sportingAcause.com.

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Alex’s Lemonade Stand

 

 

1996 – 2004

So little space between those dates. Too few years to live a life. But that was all Alexandra Scott had to work with.

See how she used them.

At age nine months Alex, as she was known, was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a form of childhood cancer.

At age one, defying her doctors’ best judgment, Alex learned to walk first with leg braces, and then without.

She improved for a time, but then relapsed. We know cancer can do that.

While hospitalized for stem cell treatment, Alex had a notion. “When I get out, I want to have a lemonade stand” to raise money so doctors could “help other kids the way they helped me.”

At age four, Alex and her brother did have a lemonade stand ,and that summer raised an astonishing $2,000.

Word spread about this determined little girl and her selfless quest. Others built stands and sold lemonade in her name.

When Alex passed away at age eight the movement she started had raised $1 million dollars.

The following year her parents formed the Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF).

During  September, which is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, they are hosting Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation Million Mile, a virtual event,  to raise money to battle childhood cancer.

Here’s how it works. Folks like us walk, run, bike or saunter, wherever we live, and we keep track of the mileage. Get friends, colleagues and bar buddies to sponsor your efforts. By month’s end hopefully a million miles will have been logged and lots of money raised for ALSF.

Find all of the details about Million Mile at  http://sportingacause.com/event/alexs-lemonade-s…ion-million-mile/

And if , in your travels, you happen upon a lemonade stand in the coming weeks, stop and buy a cup- whether you like lemonade or not.

 

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Bob Frink

I only saw Bob Frink once, and from that moment wished that I had known him longer. I met him at the Canaan Country Club last August where he was hosting the 3rd Annual Ice Bucket Open Golf Tournament to raise money  for the  ALS Association, Connecticut Chapter.

Bob sat in a motorized wheelchair. He could no longer speak, but he could smile, and I think smiling is about the bravest thing you can do when you have ALS.

ALS stands for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or, more commonly, Lou Gehrig’s disease. It is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder which means it robs the sufferer of muscular control starting with mobility and manual dexterity and eventually speech and the ability to breath. There is no cure, and it is always fatal. It stole those things from Bob, but it couldn’t rob his spirit, or the spirit of his wife Jeanine and their family. Much is asked of a family when a member has ALS.

Bob had served as greens keeper at CCC for 27 years, so a golf tournament at the Club was a natural for a fundraiser.  Well known and well loved, Bob’s friends organized the Open to raise money to help him out, but Bob decided the proceeds would go to ALS Association CT, the organization that has helped him and his family.

Bob passed away in February, but the Ice Bucket Challenge continues. It will be held this Saturday, August 10th, for the fourth year, at the Canaan Country Club in memory of Bob Frink.

The tournament has raised over $70,000 for ALS research over its three year run. 

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Please Read to the End

You’ve just gotta love the sights and sounds of children at play, and if last year’s Family Fun Night during Canaan Railroad Days was any indication, many will descend on Canaan’s Lawrence Field on Thursday , July 25th to enjoy dozens of kid-centric amusements. There will be hula hooping, slack-lining, hay maze, obstacle course, Frisbee, ring and bean bag tosses, food…

But, also like last year, one activity will be conspicuously quiet – unless we can do something about it.

Fairview Hospital will again host its Bystander CPR training program.  CPR Lite, as I like to call it, is a shortened version of the three hour CPR course that only takes  five minutes to learn- that’s right, just five minutes. In the time it takes to order a hot dog, pay for and eat it, you can learn a skill that could save a life.

Bystander CPR  is a hands-only technique (no mouth-to-mouth nastiness involved). You will learn chest compressions to the beat of the Bee Gees 1977 hit Stayin’ Alive. Fun, right?

The American Heart Association tells us that 350,000 of us will suffer cardiac arrest this year. If only 100 people learn this technique and then go about their lives, chances are that someday, somewhere, one of them is going to have a chance to help save someone’s life.

So this is what we are going to do to help – for every person up to 100 who visits the Bystander CPR tent on the 25th and learns this life-saving skill, sportingAcause.com will donate $5 to the North Canaan Ambulance Corp.

Last year two eager EMT’s and a practice dummy waited for someone , anyone to stop by and learn their life-saving lesson. Few did. Let’s change that this year.

For a two-hour time span on a warm summer night, you can entertain your kids, have a hot dog, trigger a donation to a worthy local cause and learn how to save a life.

Time well spent I’d say.

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Bullet

You know you’ve made your mark on the world when you are recognized by one name- Elvis, Bono, Ali , Bullet.

This bear of a man with an outsized heart had both a handshake that could (and did) break bones and a tenderness that anyone whose child has ever sat on Santa’s lap knows well.

His  unfiltered style and complete disregard for its consequences made Bullet the freest man I’ve ever known.

Much has  been written about Bullet Sherwood since his passing yesterday, with much more to come, no doubt. The stories that will be told, both outrageous and moving, are the stuff of legend.

He was already a legend by his high school years. Imagine  Bullet , as we’ve known him, as an adolescent!  He famously locked horns at HVRHS with the equally-legendary principal Doc Stoddard by arriving to class in a Santa costume for which Doc kicked Bullet out of school.  Doc won that round, and, yes, Santa Claus was Bullet’s alter ego even back then.

The arc of Bullet’s life reads like a series of larger-than-life stories: military service, auto accidents that would have taken the average man, service to community, service to nonprofits,  love of family,  his eulogy to his son Joey. The list is long.

I’m sure Bullet would describe himself as a simple, uncomplicated man with an equally simple philosophy: ” Pop Cheeks”- his  rebuke of propriety, pretension and convention.

Rest well my friend. We love you and we needed you.

Pop Cheeks

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