NCIS: Los Angeles star Chris O’Donnell has joined with The ConAgra Foods Foundation’s Hunger-Free Summer program to raise awareness for kids who depend on free or reduced lunch meals during the school year. Now in its fourth year, the initiative has delivered over 2.5 million meals and snacks to children struggling with hunger over the summer. The goal is to reach at least 25 percent more children in need during the summer than before, over the course of five years.
We spoke with O’Donnell about the program, his career, and what it’s like to raise five children.
How do you manage raising so many kids? Do you ever have peace and quiet? On a normal day, peace and quiet doesn’t begin until the last one goes to sleep, which gets later and later as they get older. My wife Caroline and I do try to find time for just the two of us, run out for a glass of wine or a quick dinner. The noise feels like the new normal at this point. If it gets too quiet, that usually means trouble.
What’s the best part of having a big family?
In terms of our children, we try to encourage each of them to explore their individual interests since they are each so unique. It is fun watching them as they dabble in all types of sports and extracurricular activities.
You took time off from your acting career to focus on your family. Was that a scary decision to make?
I had a couple moments early in my career where it was more about re-examining my life. I started young and had a lot of success out of the gate. I would go movie, to movie, to movie, and would never see the people I worked with again. I was really getting burnt out on a personal, emotional level. And that’s just not who I am. The road I wanted to go down was to be married and have a family.
Did raising kids ever get easier for you? By the time you were on the fifth baby, did you feel like you had a handle on things?
I think going from two to three kids was the most difficult, but it does get easier. The older kids start to behave and help out, and we are more experienced as well. We don’t stress out over small things that may have freaked us out in our first couple years as parents.
What’s your best advice for busy parents out there?
From my perspective, it’s important for parents to set a good example for their kids, and impart on them that they should think about and help others.
Why is the Hunger-Free Summer Program particularly important to you?
I was shocked to learn that one in five children in the U.S. faces food insecurity—and that the situation only becomes more worrisome during the summer months. It can be an invisible issue, so as a father of five, I want to do something to help.
Want to help O’Donnell and the Hunger-Free Summer initiative? Check out www.ChildHungerEndsHere.com and watch O’Donnell’s message below. For every video viewed and shared, ConAgra will donate one meal to Feeding America, the country’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization.
Service Allows Bully Reporting By Text
Students are getting a new weapon to fight back against bullies: their cell phones. (via Huffington Post)
Bicycle helmet laws linked to fewer child deaths
U.S. states that require children and teenagers to wear helmets report fewer deaths involving bicycles and cars, according to a new study. (via Fox News)
Sugary drink consumption down among U.S. kids
More evidence that Americans are heeding calls to cut back on sugary drinks appears in a report from researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (via Yahoo News)
Early Brain Responses to Words Predict Developmental Outcomes in Children With Autism
The pattern of brain responses to words in 2-year-old children with autism spectrum disorder predicted the youngsters’ linguistic, cognitive and adaptive skills at ages 4 and 6, according to a new study. (via Science Daily)
ADHD medications not tied to drug, alcohol abuse
Taking Ritalin and other drugs for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) doesn’t affect a child’s chances of trying or abusing alcohol and drugs later in life, a new review suggests. (via Reuters)
With physical activity as a proven brain booster, the Institute of Medicine is recommending that schools provide opportunities for at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day for students.
Since the passage of the No Child Left Behind law in 2001, 44 percent of school administrators report slashing big chunks of time from physical education, arts, and recess in order to boost classroom time for reading and math. Mandatory PE classes can help lower our nation’s childhood obesity rates, increase brain power, and add a healthy dose of fun to our kids’ school day, experts say.
Playground made from trash gets children back in the swing
Ruganzu Bruno and his troupe of fellow eco-artists created a playground made of recycled materials to raise awareness about environmental degradation. (via CNN)
Pregnancy Hormone May Predict Postpartum-Depression Risk
Levels of a stress hormone released by the placenta could predict a woman’s risk of developing postpartum depression, new research suggests. (via Yahoo! News)
NYC School Principals Send Letter Refusing To Consider Recent State Test In Fall Admissions
Principals around New York City are fighting back against what they see as flawed state tests. (via Huffington Post)
Report: Nation’s kids need to get more physical
The prestigious Institute of Medicine is recommending that schools provide opportunities for at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day for students and that PE become a core subject. (via Yahoo News)
Parents Argue School Is Violating Separation Of Church And State
Does teaching yoga in public schools violate the separation of church and state? That’s what two parents are contending in a lawsuit against Encinitas Union School District in California. (via Huffington Post)
Watching your child struggle to breathe is one of the scariest things that a parent can endure. And for parents of asthma sufferers, this can be a constant looming threat.
Winter or spring, indoors or out, active or still, asthma triggers are everywhere. The list of culprits includes pollen, cold air, secondhand smoke, mold, dust mites, pet dander, and many more. And an average of one out of every 10 school-aged children has asthma, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. So how can you keep your kids safe?
In honor of Asthma Awareness Month this May, the EPA is offering free literature for parents and children to learn more about asthma and ways to control it. I especially love the adorable picture book, Why is Coco Orange, in which Coco the chameleon and his friends learn about air quality, and how to stay healthy when the air quality is bad. Coco’s friends also learn to get help when they see Coco struggling to breathe, and Coco learns to sit down and use his inhaler when his asthma is triggered.
Along with these publications, the EPA also offers an Asthma Action Plan that breaks asthma symptoms into green, yellow, and red zones, and provides a list of ways to control things that make asthma symptoms worse.
Dr. Claire McCarthy provides some great tips in her article How to Manage Your Child’s Asthma. As an asthma sufferer myself, I thought that I knew all there was to know about the disease, but I was surprised to learn that minimizing the use of antibacterial products and antibiotics can help reduce the risk of developing asthma.
Although there is no way to prevent the development of asthma, a solid plan of action can be a breath of fresh air for you and your child.
Childhood ADHD tied to obesity decades later
Boys who are diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in elementary school are more likely to grow up to be obese adults than those who don’t have the condition, a new study suggests. (via Reuters)
Newer whooping cough vaccine not as protective
A newer version of the whooping cough vaccine doesn’t protect kids as well as the original, which was phased out in the 1990s because of safety concerns, according to a new study. (via Reuters)
Home visiting programs are preschool in its earliest form
Through programs across the country, nurses, social workers or trained mentors offer support to new or expectant parents and impart skills to help them become better teachers for their children. (via Washington Post)
City closure of Cobble Hill preschool means kids are having ‘classes’ in parks, museums as parents fume
The Linden Tree Preschool is run by the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island. The city closed it on May 9, saying it did not have permits for infants or toddlers. Since then, parents have taken their kids to the park and other field trips where teachers have been instructing the kids. (via NY Daily News)
USA Football health and safety survey shows few youth concussions
Fewer than 4 percent of youth players surveyed in a USA Football-sanctioned study suffered concussions in the 10 leagues examined. (via Fox News)
Child Care Centers Overhaul Proposed By Federal Health Officials
Federal health officials say they will propose Thursday to overhaul federally funded child care centers across the country, beefing up safety standards including background and fingerprint checks for employees and requiring states to better monitor the facilities. (via Huffington Post)
Slightly high lead tied to less reading readiness
Children with even slightly elevated blood lead levels are less likely to be ready to read when starting kindergarten, according to a new study. (via Reuters)
Cracking the Tech Job Talent Crunch by Teaching Kids to Code
For all the parents losing sleep over their kids’ prospects in such a tightfisted job market, I can see at least one recourse: teach them how to code. The earlier, the better.(via Huffington Post)
Judge declines to nix ’79 NYC child-killing case
A man charged with murder decades after one of the nation’s most infamous child disappearances can be brought to trial, a judge ruled Wednesday, turning down the man’s claim that the case was too thin to proceed. (via Yahoo News)
Pop-Tart Gun Suspension: Attorney For Suspended Student Says No Resolution Has Been Reached With School
An attorney for the family of an Anne Arundel County 7-year-old suspended from school after being accused of nibbling a pastry into the shape of a gun says he met with school officials Wednesday in an attempt have the student’s suspension expunged, but no resolution was reached. (via Reuters)
Parents sue South Carolina, hospital over child’s sex assignment surgery
A couple filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the state of South Carolina for what they say was an unnecessary sexual assignment surgery performed on a toddler they later adopted. (via Fox News)
Student Fires Police Officer’s Handgun On Northern Virginia School Bus
A student accidentally shot a police officer’s handgun on a Northern Virginia school bus on Monday. Four students were on the bus at the time, along with the police officer, the bus driver and a bus aide, and no one was hurt. (via Huffington Post)
Bed rest during pregnancy could worsen risk for premature birth, study shows
New research is raising fresh concern that an age-old treatment for troubled pregnancies – bed rest – doesn’t seem to prevent premature birth, and might even worsen that risk. (via Fox News)
Video Game to Help Kids Fight Cancer
Re-Mission 2 is a collection of six free online games–accessible via Web browser or Apple iPad–that share the theme of taking the fight to cancer. They do this by arming patients with a virtual arsenal of chemo, radiation and targeted cancer drug attacks designed to crush advancing malignant forces. (via Yahoo News)
Philadelphia doctor guilty of murdering infants in late-term abortions
A Philadelphia abortion doctor was found guilty on Monday of murdering three babies during late-term abortions at a clinic serving low-income women. (via Yahoo News)
Buena Vista School District Officially Closes For Year, Offers ‘Skills Camp’
For the 400 or so students in Buena Vista, Mich., school is over, even though the academic year isn’t supposed to end until the middle of June. Instead, they will likely attend “skills camp.” (via Huffington Post)