Several weeks back I approached Atia’s school about doing a fundraiser for Atia’s Project Ladybug Fund. During our toy drive in December, Atia showed such enthusiasm to help organize and label the many items we’d collected. I was fascinated by her curiosity about what a toy drive was, why we had so many toys in our house, and who they were for. It was one of those “teaching moments” presented on a silver platter.
I explained that the people who would receive the toys were kids like her, kids who were battling cancer like she had, and that the toys would bring them a great deal of joy, just like they’d always brought her when she’d gotten something at the hospital. I could see the wheels turning. She was processing, relating and comprehending. Thereafter, on several occasions, I even heard her explaining to others that the toys were for the sick kids, the kids with cancer.
Handling all those wonderful toys was a true exercise in selflessness. A concept difficult for many adults let alone a four year old girl.
For me, the experience sparked a series of questions: If children were exposed at a young age to the concept of giving and expecting nothing in return, could the act of selfless giving become less of a chore and more of a choice? Could the seeds of philanthropy be planted and nurtured in tandem while sowing the seeds of knowledge and physical skill? Was there a way to make volunteering, fundraising and donating something that would become second nature, like singing the ABCs?
Atia’s school warmly welcomed the idea of a fundraiser and quickly decided on a Bake Sale, which was hosted this last Thursday and Friday. I’d never organized a Bake Sale before, but with the help of Atia’s teacher, we came up with a list of treats and asked parents in Atia’s class to donate baked goods. Surprisingly, several parents in the other classes heard about the fundraiser and offered to donate too. I was so impressed; I never expected such an outpouring of support.
The purpose of the Bake Sale was two-fold. First, it was to raise money for Atia’s Project Ladybug Fund so that we could provide Valentines to the pediatric cancer inpatients and outpatients at The University of Chicago Comer Children’s Hospital. Second, it was to expose Atia’s class of four and five year olds to the full circle process of raising money, and using the money raised to do wonderful things for others.
Atia’s teacher and I tried to involve the kids in as much of the preparation as possible by asking them to take inventory of the cookies, brownies, cakes and muffins, adding price tags to each item – over 300 of them – and identifying which basket, tray or vase the goodies should be displayed on or in. I was impressed with their budding design skills – after all presentation is everything, dahling!
They really got into the Bake Sale. They made suggestions to our customers (other moms and dads) about which things were the most delicious - the adults were tickled with the kids’ salesmanship – they’d help count change - counting in unison as I pulled out the crisp dollar bills – and they warmly thanked our customers for supporting the Bake Sale.
Their hard work paid off because we surpassed our goal of $500 by bringing in a whopping $1,199 - a figure that amazed me and the school! As planned, the money was used to purchase age and gender specific goodies to create Valentine’s Day packages for pediatric cancer patients.
As part of the full circle teaching approach, I’d intended on having the kids at Atia’s school help me put everything together, but sadly Atia came down with a nasty cough and head cold this weekend, so she and the gifts stayed home with me. I ended up organizing them myself, and delivered the gifts this morning.
Turns out a Bake Sale is a great way to introduce philanthropy, and childhood cancer to kids. One of the parents expressed how touched she was when her son explained that he was helping with the Bake Sale in order to help kids with cancer. Even at four and five years old, these kids got it. They really got it. We should never underestimate the power of a young mind and a young heart.
Choosing to live with a giving heart – that’s what we want for our kids, right? To grow up and be good, socially conscious citizens, making our world a better place. That’s my hope for Atia and Asher. Was that your parents’ hope for you? Are you living what you preach, what you teach?
As you may remember – and I truly hope you do – September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month, and last September we were introduced to a beautiful little girl named Donna. She was 20 months old when diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor, which she battled for thirty-one months. Her mom, fellow ChicagoNow blogger, Mary Tyler Mom wrote about Donna’s Cancer Story in a serial format every day in September – each day covering one month of Donna’s treatment.
To read Donna’s Cancer Story is to love Donna, to cherish Donna, to live with her spirit branded on your heart, and to endure the excruciating pain of the horrific outcome – Donna passing away.
Sharing Donna's story and raising awareness about pediatric cancer is how Donna’s mom now parents Donna. She founded a charity called Donna’s Good Things (DGT), whose mission is to provide joyful opportunities for children facing adversity, be it economic, familial, social or health related.
One thing all Cancer Parents know is that childhood cancer research is gravely underfunded. If there was more research, there’d be more discoveries. If there were more discoveries, there would be more survival. And that is the ultimate goal!
To help fund childhood cancer research, DGT is hoping to raise $20K on March 24th to benefit St. Baldrick’s, a nonprofit organization committed to funding the most promising research to find cures for childhood cancers and give survivors long and healthy lives.
You can make a difference by clicking this link http://www.stbaldricks.org/events/mypage/6969/2012 to pledge your donation. Give in the name of love. Give in honor of a love one, on behalf of a loved one, so that someone else's loved one might live. There are a thousand reasons to give. Choose any one. Choose to live with a giving heart.
Every dollar counts, and it’s even more so because an anonymous donor has offered to match dollar-for-dollar every donation up to $2K from February 14-February 18. So $1 become $2, and $2 becomes $4. So on and so on.
Please, choose to live with a giving heart, and help DGT exceed their goal. Do it for Donna and Atia and the thousands of other kids whose lives have been and will be changed forever by childhood cancer.
Atia was 17 months old when diagnosed with cancer.
Donna was 20 months old when diagnosed with cancer.
Atia and Donna both battled cancer for over two years.
Atia and Donna both took to ballet.
How can you help Conquer Kids’ Cancer?
1. Donate Now to fund lifesaving research
2. Sign up as a Shavee or Volunteer at an Event Near You. (Once you find an event, click on the blue box that says ‘participate at this event’. If you want to join the Donna’s Good Things team, when prompted say you want to join an existing team, and filter for “Donna” at other events)
3. Can’t find an event near you? Organize your own event. The St. Baldrick’s Foundation will coach you every step of the way. In particular, they are looking for new events in Maine, Mississippi, Alabama and Utah.
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