Posts Tagged ‘ charity ’

Moms Show Boston and the World That Humanity is Still Beautiful Through Canvas Campaign

Friday, April 25th, 2014

On Monday April 21, Boston’s iconic marathon finished without a hitch. It was hard to believe that we’d already crossed the one-year mark of the bombings on Boylston Street, which shook the city of Boston and our nation. But we were not rattled for long. In fact, a group of seven moms from Naples, Florida sprang into action just days after the attack to show Boston and the world that there is more compassion than there is hate. Kari Wagner founded the Prayer Canvas: America4Boston project to create artistic canvases from around the country to send physical well wishes and messages of healing to Boston.

“The idea was to create a giant symbol of our compassion, resilience and unity as a country and as a world,” said Wagner. “I wanted to show that millions of people still care about one another and want to do good things, instead of a small minority of people that wreak havoc in our lives, strike fear in our hearts, and try to change the way we live.”

Starting with one 6 by 18 foot canvas, these moms got down on their knees and drew out 360 squares that could be decorated and signed in red, white and blue, with messages of hope for Boston.

“I wanted something that everyone could do from age 2 and up,” she said. And the project was funded entirely through her team’s “creative budgeting” so that no one felt they had to donate in order to partake. Some artists did tuck bills under the sandbags weighing down the canvases, but these donations will go to One Fund Boston.

A true grass roots initiative, the seven moms reached out to friends, family, and former co-workers across the U.S. on their mission to get all 50 states involved. The campaign snowballed and to date, there are 215 canvases totaling over 20,000 square feet that have been completed by nearly 150,000 participants with more coming in. “We’ve been to major sporting events, schools, churches, festivals, state fairs, rehab centers, senior facilities, it truly is a great representation of the fabric of America,” said Wagner.

Daryl Sissman is one of the original Florida mothers who started this campaign with Kari. A Boston native and mother of three children ages 9, 7, and 5, Sissman felt that this could be her outlet to “help the city heal.” She came back to her hometown last week for the presentations of the canvases in Boston—from the Boston Medical Center Ceremony to laying out the banners on the Boston commons to the Red Sox Tribute at Fenway Park. “We like to say ‘Seven moms, 11 months, 50 states, 100,000 messages strong for one Boston,’” Sissman quoted. As a mom of two kids, ages 7 and 5, it was also important to Wagner that she show her children and the future generation that a small group can do something huge.

The canvases will be displayed all over Boston—from the airport to the Medical Center—and even, hopefully, one day on Capitol Hill. “The media would ask me ‘Did you ever think it would get this big?’ Wagner recalled. “I think the anticipation is that I would say no, but I always did because I believe in people. I believe in the goodness of people. I just wanted a giant reminder of that.”

Find out more about America 4 Boston and ways you can get involved here.

For ways to encourage volunteerism and generosity in your child, sign up for our Parents Daily newsletter.

Photograph: Credit Andrew Nelson / (From left to right) Nicole Soderlund, Soofia Khan, Daryl Sissman, Kari Wagner, Jen Warkel, Kim Bellestri, Melissa Kruk

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Needy Kids Asking for Xbox This Christmas?!

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013

operation santa letters often include requests for XboxChristmas is a time of giving and a time of magic, which is why I’ve made it a tradition to participate in the U.S. Post Office’s Operation Santa program where everyday people can help fulfill the holiday wishes of less-fortunate local kids. As far as I’ve been told, the letters that qualify for the program are selected by postal workers based on the return address on the envelope (think the projects, really poor neighborhoods)–so they really are coming from kids and families in need.

My favorite part of Operation Santa is that you get to read through as many kids’ letters as you like before choosing the ones you want to “adopt.” Some of these letters are flat-out funny. For instance, one little boy admitted to Santa that he actually hadn’t been good all year, and that he’d done a few naughty things, but that he tries to be good, and that he’d help out an old sick man “if his dad said yes.” Many are sweet and come from little ones wanting things like “doctor sets” so they can practice to be a doctor when they grow up. Others—the biggest tear-jerkers—come from older kids not asking for anything for themselves, but hoping that Santa can bring a toy or a warm coat for their little brother or sister.

And then . . . there are the Xbox letters—or, to be more accurate, they’re the Xbox Live, iPhone 5, iPad mini, laptop letters. As you can imagine, they go something like this: “Dear Santa, Please bring me an Xbox Live with these four games. I’ve been good all year.” Or, “Dear Santa, Please bring me an iPhone 5. I’ll leave cookies by the fireplace.”

If you’re like a lot of people, you’re probably rolling your eyes and thinking these big-ticket letters are coming more from a place of greed than a place of need. But the truth is, that these kids aren’t asking for expensive things to try to work the system—they’re asking for them because they want to feel normal.

Most young kids—especially kids who have little to nothing at home—really don’t understand the difference in price between, say, a playset or doll that might cost $40 and the latest tablet that can cost hundreds of dollars. Why? Because their family likely can’t afford either. To that child, both are equally out of reach.

Plus, it’s only natural for a kid to want the things other kids at school have and talk about–and right now, a lot of those things (not all of them, though, thank heavens for Rainbow Loom, right?!) are seriously expensive. In a needy kid’s world, getting an Xbox Live or an iPhone 5 would take a work of magic—the kind of magic kids think only Santa Claus can provide.

TELL US: Do you give gifts to needy kids at the holidays? Would you be upset if an underprivileged kid asked for an expensive toy or gadget?

To learn more about Operation Santa (you don’t have to choose an Xbox letter unless you want to!) click here.

NEXT: Great last-minute gifts for kids

Christmas Crafts: Polar Bear Ornaments
Christmas Crafts: Polar Bear Ornaments
Christmas Crafts: Polar Bear Ornaments

Image of Santa via Shutterstock.

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Stuck at Stella’s: How Teaching Money Lessons to Our Kids Paid Off

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

Pink piggy bank and moneyEditor’s Note: In a post for an ongoing series, Dr. Harley A. Rotbart, a Parents advisor, will be guest blogging once a month. He will be offering different advice, tips, and personal stories on how parents can “savor the moment” and maximize the time they spend with kids. Read more posts by Harley Rotbart on Goodyblog and on Parents Perspective.

How are you teaching your kids to be dollar-wise? How will you know if it works? I’m the son of a fruit peddler (Max’s Mobile Market), and I grew up impoverished. I didn’t know I was poor, though, because my mom managed to make do on dad’s meager earnings and provide us with everything we needed. My own income as a pediatrician and professor is heartier than my dad’s was, but so are our expenses. So as a family, we are very careful. Our kids grew up respecting the value of money and knowing how many different priorities need to be met in the life of a family. My wife and I made sure they were part of important buying decisions as they were growing up, and we would remind them how many boxes of apples Grandpa Max had to sell to pay for school clothes when I was little.

A phone call a couple years ago told us we must have done something right. Our daughter, then a college senior, called to tell us she was stuck at Stella’s—a quaint, Euro-style cafe just off campus where students hang out, study, and Facebook. On a day when she needed to get away from distractions and work on her senior thesis, our little girl took her laptop to Stella’s where, for one dollar a day, patrons can get unlimited Internet access and nurse a chai for hours. Accidentally, my otherwise tech-savvy child clicked the “5 days for $5″ button on Stella’s WiFi prompt instead of the “1 day for $1″ button. She freaked. Well, semi-freaked. “Five dollars is a lot of money! I would never have paid that much on purpose!” she told us from Stella’s, where she was now encamped until “17:54:38, 2/11/12,” as her digital receipt read.

“Go home, sweetie—you don’t have t stay there the whole time. Work at home; you have Internet at your house. Make dinner. Take a shower.”

“That’s not the point, Dad. I paid for it; I should use it. Otherwise, it’s a complete waste!”

Stella’s wasn’t really going to let her sleep there till Saturday, but if they would have, she might have. Actually, she probably wouldn’t have slept for fear of wasting paid Internet minutes. In the big scheme of things, five dollars is a just a drop in the college expenses bucket. Not so much a bucket, really, as a sinkhole. But it’s a good thing when your kids worry about all the little drops that fill the bucket. It means they were listening. Listening to us compare prices, debate priorities, and make tough choices as they were growing up.

Kids will inevitably resent some of the “no’s” we must tell them. The “no” to the must-have toy they saw on TV, the cool clothes all the other kids are wearing, the video game the neighbors got for Christmas. Without our coaching and explaining, the “no’s” can seem arbitrary and unfair. But, ideally, making your kids part of the budgeting process from an early age, teaching them about charity and those who are less fortunate, and working with them to make compromises everyone can live with will help your kids become financially responsible by the time they’re old enough to get stuck at a place like Stella’s.

Dr. Harley A. Rotbart

Dr. Harley A. Rotbart is Professor and Vice Chairman of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital Colorado. He is the author of three books for parents and families, including the recent No Regrets Parenting, a Parents advisor, and a contributor to The New York Times Motherlode blog. Visit his blog at and follow him on Facebook and Twitter (@NoRegretsParent).


Image: Piggy bank on paper money dollar pile via Shutterstock.

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