Shortly after Jayme Ritchie and Sunny Heydorn became moms, they decided to leave their careers as attorneys and find a way to give back to their community of Denver. But when they discovered a shortage of volunteer opportunities for the whole family, the duo began a kid-friendly charity of their own in 2008 to incorporate two important interests: helping children and preserving the environment. Their nonprofit, WeeCycle, collects new and used baby gear such as strollers, high chairs, and cribs from families and local businesses to be distributed to low-income households in the area. "To know we're making a difference in the lives of struggling families, while also keeping usable items out of landfills, is very fulfilling," says Ritchie.
Kim Jackson and her son, Jacob, who was born with heart defects, dreamed of opening a summer camp where kids with heart diseases aren't limited by their condition. With the help of cofounders Jay "Bird" Thompson and Dr. René Herlong, they were able to open Camp LUCK in May 2010 as a medically supervised summer camp in Kings Mountain State Park, South Carolina. Children ages 7 to 14 with a severe heart condition, in the Charlotte, North Carolina, area, can now safely participate in normal camp activities. Sadly, Jacob passed away at 17, only a few months after its opening, but Camp LUCK thrives in his memory. "For these kids, it's a place where they don't feel different," says Jackson.
When Tracy Wirtanen's 4-year-old son, Sami, was diagnosed with neurofibromatosis, a genetic disorder that causes tumors to grow on nerves throughout the body, she and a team of two family members and a close friend participated in a bike race across America, raising more than $50,000 for research. The race motivated her to create a nonprofit in Appleton, Wisconsin, to continuously support NF families. Founded in the spring of 2010, the Littlest Tumor Foundation is dedicated to finding a treatment for pediatric-tumor growth through its three objectives: advocating for research funds, creating awareness, and offering yearly wellness retreats to empower NF families from all over the Midwest. "We're not just sitting back; we're active about bringing change and a solution," says Wirtanen.
In the spring of 2009, Lisa Truong and Rachel Fudge cofounded Help a Mother Out after learning that the number-one need for families affected by the economic crisis was diapers -- which are not covered under social safety-net programs like WIC or food stamps. With just $100 to start, they organized a diaper drive in the San Francisco Bay Area and have since distributed more than a million diapers to families in need. "Diapers are a basic need, so giving parents access to them can make a really big difference," says Truong.
Kerry Glass, of Millburn, New Jersey, was saddened when she learned that a local mother had passed away from cancer, leaving behind her husband and two children under the age of 4. As a mom of two young kids herself, Glass worried that if she were in a similar situation, her children would never know the sound of her voice, stories from her point of view, and her hopes for their future. That drove Glass to create Memories Live in 2010. The donation-supported nonprofit's mission is to help terminally ill patients create a free life movie made up of personal stories, advice, and photos for loved ones to have when they're gone. "The process of creating this gift for their family is powerful and cathartic for them," says Glass.
After realizing that there was a shortage of youth-oriented volunteer opportunities, Halle and Josh Hara founded Caring Cubs to teach children the ideals of social service. The nonprofit hosts monthly events for kids ages 2 through 7 in the greater Cleveland area, where they engage in hands-on activities such as making cards for sick children. "We wanted our kids to learn the importance of giving back at a young age," says Halle.
Tracy Quisenberry, of Baltimore, got into cake decorating after leaving her job to take care of her son, Justin, who had an immune deficiency. Seeing guests' reactions to the special first-birthday cake she made for him inspired her to bring the same sweet excitement to families of critically ill children. Tracy's nonprofit, Icing Smiles, has created nearly 3,000 tiered, three-dimensional, and carved cakes to give sick kids and their siblings a reason to celebrate. The organization connects families across the country with one of its 3,200 volunteer bakers, called "sugar angels," who then spend days creating the child's dream dessert. "Our cakes go beyond the sugar and icing," says Quisenberry. "They're packed with love, hope, and positive thoughts."
In March of 2010, Necole Tompkins went to wake her 11-year-old son, Zachary, and found he wasn't breathing. Tompkins later learned Zachary had passed away due to sudden arrhythmic death syndrome, an undetected heart condition. Just two weeks before, he had shared his hopes of one day building a football stadium for the kids of his hometown of Hudson, New Hampshire, so Tompkins created The Zachary M. Tompkins Memorial Fund to fulfill her son's goal. Construction of the 13-acre sports complex is under way. "Zach's Stadium will be used by kids from all over New Hampshire," says Tompkins.
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