Why Advocacy Counts and Makes a Difference


IF ONE MORE IGNORANT PERSON tells me that they have a cure for Type1 Diabetes, I am really going to scream!!! While shopping, I was discussing health and wellness with a holistic healer.  For whatever reason, when I mentioned my brother engages in a wellness regimen to manage his illness, she told me that there was a cure!  When I said, “he is TYPE1 – Insulin Dependent, NOT Type2,” she assured me I was wrong and that he really does not need insulin but diet and exercise.  AS IF I do not know what I am talking about, having personally dealt with the disease for 10 years.

In an earlier post, When a Cause Hits Home – Volunteering with a Personal Purpose, I described my brother’s struggle with Type1 Diabetes.  An autoimmune disease, his life DEPENDS on daily doses of insulin and blood sugar measurements through finger sticks.  His pancreas DOES NOT function.  He did not acquire diabetes through diet or any behavior of his own.  Doctors, meaning Endocrinologists, believe that an environmental trigger stopped his pancreas from working, and he was genetically predisposed to Type1.  He has never been obese or overweight, in fact, at 6’0, he struggles to maintain a weight over 140 lbs.  Anyone who would suggest he STOP using insulin very ignorant about the disease. 

Sadly, this is not the first person to tell me that my Type1 brother does not need insulin to survive. Maybe these people would like to see what happened when he had a bad batch of insulin. He ended up in ICU for 5 days and nearly died. 

My rant has a point.  Advocacy and education about YOUR cause is vital to the public receiving information about the issue at hand.  Potential donors, volunteers, and supporters MUST know the FACTS and MYTHS about issues, such as Type1.  Otherwise, they will not understand the urgency families are experiencing as everyday 80 more people are diagnosed with this life threatening disease.   Everything on the outside seems fine, but inside the lives of these families there is struggle, fear, depression, anxiety, and a glimmer of hope…that one day…their loved one will be cured.  

Advocating and educating the public and other stakeholders does not mean you have to march on Washington and storm the state house.  It can be as simple as making a YouTube video about your personal experience, writing a guest blog for an organization working on your cause, sharing information through social media contacts to raise awareness, and correcting ignorant people whose suggestions could harm a loved one, should you follow the advice.

JDRF, the leading organization fighting for a cure for Type1 has done a great job in encouraging families to share their personal experiences with the disease on YouTube.  In turn, these videos are shared on Twitter and other social media platforms.  These experiences are personal, inspire others to action, and provide a face for the disease.  You can make a difference through advocacy and education for your cause.  Get involved today!

How are you advocating for YOUR cause?  Please share.  Make YOUR difference in the world…Volunteer!

JDRF

Diabetes Mine

American Diabetes Association

09.24.2008 – Fighting Cancer for Those Who Cannot

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Betty Seise, My “Second Mom”

Once in a lifetime someone makes a difference in your life.  I do not mean my parents, or my husband, my childhood best friend, or even my child.  Someone who takes an interest in your well-being for no reason except that they really give a crap about your future.  That was my mentor, and “second mom,” Betty Seise.

When I was a teenager, I worked as Betty’s assistant for a company where she was the Controller.  She guided and directed me through school, life decisions, and choosing a future.  She supported me when I was right, told me the truth when I was wrong, and encouraged me to the light when it was dark.  After her career advanced and I went on to college, Betty remained close by.  She was always interested in what I was doing with my life.  When I graduated from school, she told me, “The world is your oyster,” and I was inspired by that.

Betty was a champ.  She had her shares of ups and downs, but she was a self-made woman, a mom, a daughter, a wife, a leader, and a self-proclaimed life-long student.  She was charitable, helped others, and when you told her something you knew she was listening.

So, you can imagine my response when in the summer of 2008 I found out that she had cancer.  Stage 4, Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, to be exact.  I began researching everything I could find on the disease, and found that 5 in 10 people go into remission post chemotherapy and radiation.  I was 100% confident she would be okay.  After all, Betty was a fighter. 51 years old, in impeccable shape, a healthy eater, and a holistic healer.  She was educated and well-read, so if anyone had a chance for survival…it was her.

Over the next ten weeks, the updates on Betty’s health were up and down.  Due to the cancer in her lymph nodes, large amounts of lymph fluid accumulated in her abdomen and under her arms.  Doctors had to surgically extract 1.8 liters here, 1.5 liters there, and it was excruciatingly painful for her.  She had to maintain iron levels in order to receive the chemotherapy treatments that were imperative to her survival.  She spent days in the hospital, lost a great deal of weight, could not eat, could hardly sleep, and eventually could not talk.  One day, her condition improved.  We had hope!  Then on a Monday night, I received the news that she was again hospitalized and was not expected to make it.

09.24.2008 is the day that Betty, my mentor, my second-mom, lost her battle to cancer.  And I started the fight.  4 months and 1 day before I was married.  Two years and one week before my daughter was born.  One day before her son turned 22.  One year before her oldest son earned his Master’s Degree.  And my life, like many others, has never been the same.

Betty is not the only one.  We all know somebody who has won, lost, or is still fighting the battle.  There is something that we can do to help.  All organizations that provide prevention to support for Cancer patients and their families need volunteers.  In fact, many rely on volunteer support to serve those in need.  Contact any hospital, cancer treatment center, hospice, American Cancer Society, or Leukemia and Lymphoma society and find out how you can help.  Or, volunteer to be a bone marrow donor. ALL of these organizations need volunteers, so JOIN THE FIGHT!

How are you volunteering to fight cancer?  Please share.  Make YOUR difference in the world…Volunteer!

Leukemia and Lymphoma Society

American Cancer Society

Delete Blood Cancer – Bone Marrow Registry

Hospice Foundation of America

UC Davis Hospice Volunteer Program

Mentors Bridge the Gap for Youth

Picture1There are not many causes that pull my heart strings more than those about children…the most innocent of victims in poor circumstances.  They have the most to lose and the least with which to fight.    Mentors are working every day to bridge the gap for children in crisis or at-risk of crisis.  Mentors teach youth skills to achieve their life goals and live productive, fulfilling lives.  And, it is still not enough.  There is something that we all can do to help.

All kids need the influence of a positive adult.  However, not all are devoid of a loving home.  Some families have one parent or even two parents who work long hours to support the family.  Other children have a learning or physical disability, or are simply struggling in school.  Others may have endured a traumatic experience such as divorce, loss of a parent to death or prison, abuse or neglect, or are in foster care.

I am inspired by the life stories of two star NFL athletes, Jimmy Graham of the New Orleans Saints and Patrick Willis of the greatest team in the league, San Francisco 49ers.  Both men endured poverty and abuse as children, were rescued by an adult mentor, attended college, and embraced sports with motivation to overcome obstacles.  Both Graham and Willis have shared that the adult mentors in their lives made the difference for them.

Jimmy Graham was abused and abandoned at 9 and again at 11 years old. While attending a local church, a young mother, Becky Vinson, took him under her wing.  The three lived in a small trailer with no heat, where they had to sleep in one room during winter to stay warm.  Becky graduated from college and her example encouraged Jimmy to excel as well.  While Jimmy went on to college at the University of Miami on a basketball scholarship, he played one year of football, and was drafted by the Saints in 2010.

Patrick Willis and his three younger siblings, living in poverty and violence from an alcoholic parent, were on their way to foster care.  A coach and a young couple took the Willis kids into their home and encouraged their education.  Patrick went on to graduate from the University of Mississippi, playing baseball, basketball, and football, where he was All-American.  A highly awarded athlete, he was drafted in 2007 by San Francisco.

The key factor for these outstanding athletes was a mentor, an adult who envisioned a future for these kids whose parents gave up on them.  There are many children, who are in crisis or at-risk of crisis today.

Youth mentors make a difference on a variety of schedules.  Organizations such as Big Brothers Big Sisters, Boys and Girls Club, or your local school district match adults with at-risk students to provide help with homework, engage in hobbies or sports, teach leadership and life skills, and serve as a positive role model.  YOU can make a difference as a youth mentor.

What is your inspiration for mentoring?  Please share.  Make YOUR difference in the world…Volunteer!

The National Mentor Partnership

Big Brothers Big Sisters

Boys and Girls Club of America

Hands On Network

Junior Achievement

A Call to Action – What Inspires YOU to Volunteer?

Saginaw, TX Neighbors Display Purple Ribbons for Alanna

While working on a blog post earlier in the week, I read an article about a tragedy not far from where my nieces live.  A 6-year-old little girl, Alanna Gallagher, was killed and discarded on a quiet neighborhood street.  A few miles down the road, like Alanna, my niece Alyssa could have been found riding her scooter and playing at the homes of neighbors.  For whatever reason, I felt inspired to act.  Perhaps it is because I am a mom and an aunt to three nieces.   Or, perhaps when tragedies strike children, little Alanna becomes everyone’s child.

Also inspired by this tragedy, neighbors and businesses are wearing  or displaying purple ribbons, representing Alanna’s favorite color and showing support for her family.  But more importantly, they hope to raise awareness of the crime and encourage anyone who saw something or knows something to report it to police.  While neighbors could not save Alanna, they can seek justice for her.  This is their call to action.

Tragedies are a great opportunity for calling volunteers to act.  The storms in Moore, OK a few months ago are a great example.  Earned media repeatedly featured victims and damage in real-time video to viewers nationwide.  This is great for fundraising, rallying the troops, and helping those in need.  But how many of us are working on causes, to make a difference in the everyday lives of others?  Typically, we do not have the advantage of a fantastic news story to compel large funders or attract volunteers.  Yet, what we do is so very important.

Fired Up Fundraising blogger, Gail Perry suggests there is “little passion or energy in so much nonprofit language.”   In a survey of her readers, the most common overused words include “underserved, programs and services.”   How many of us can relate to using this language, over and over again?  The very lifeblood of the organization depends on passionate, emotion evoking, and energetic language.  So, our calls to action must get the attention of volunteers or donors and compel them to act!  TODAY!

Kivi Leroux Miller of the Nonprofit Marketing Guide.com shares a solution, “if you want people to do something, you have to be clear and specific about what that thing is and how they should do it.”  Volunteer to clean the parkway on Saturday. Donate a new child’s backpack.  Feed a sheltered animal for one month.  Find a cure for Type 1 Diabetes.   These are clear, specific calls to action.

Responding to a call for action, our family has committed to helping foster children.  A local business, the Sleep Train, supports various organizations supporting foster agencies in our region.  Through various campaigns, the company raises awareness of the needs of foster children and provides opportunities for people to donate items such as pajamas, shoes, backpacks, money, etc.   While we cannot do anything to help little Alanna, we can help children in crisis here in our community.  You can do the same.

What calls to action have you found compelling?  Make YOUR difference in the world…Volunteer!

Alanna Gallagher – Facebook Page Displaying Purple Ribbons in Saginaw, TX

Nonprofit Marketing Guide

Fired Up Fundraising

Sleep Train Foster Kids

Family Friendly Volunteering – Are You Inspiring a Future of Service?

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Mom and Son at Family Volunteer Day

I am a parent.  I volunteer with the youth at church.  My neices and nephews that range from teenagers to toddlers. I help with Geometry, Physics, History, and English. I cheer  the team at football and volleyball games.  I drive 40 minutes for a high school car wash and buy tickets for a restaurant I do not like, just to support fundraisers.  I frequent science fairs, academic decathlons, cheer competitions, and soccer award ceremonies.  Why? Because I want to inspire good students and encourage greatness in the youth I influence.

But, what about the greater good?  With so many demands on our time, how can we instill the value of helping others?  Many parents and youth leaders actively engage children of all ages in community service through volunteering.  Finding the opportunity to cultivate a commitment to service while having a good time may be most challenging.

For liability and logistical reasons, many organizations do not allow volunteers under 16 to participate.  Do not be discouraged! There are a myriad of opportunities to encouragechildren in volunteer work.  Service clubs such as 4-H, Boy Scouts of America, and Girl Scouts of the USA are a great opportunity for youth service.  Faith-based organizations and child friendly community events are another option. Include kids in employer sponsored service projects, or school and sporting events and fundraisers.   Or, create your own volunteer activity with family and friends.  Designing  your efforts to be age-appropriate and enjoyable, expressing gratitude, and ensuring that children understand the purpose of the work and how they are making a difference is very important.

My teenage niece has volunteered with our family since she was 4 years old.  She has visited many lonely elderly neighbors, participated in neighborhood clean ups, served lunch to volunteers, cared for animals, tutored fellow students, supported school events, and much more.  Voluntarily, she joined her high school Key Club and volunteered all summer to support the coaches of the football team.  I am very proud that she has integrated a commitment to community service in her personal values.  I would like to think I played a part in that.

Some of my most exciting volunteer projects include youth.  One group of honor students from a Parochial school system along the West Coast provided 3 days of service to elderly in the community.  These kids were captivated by a 95 year old woman who recited poems that she wrote to her huband over 60 years prior.  Another team of students from a Jewish school in Arizona helped low-income older adults with household tasks.  On Family Volunteer Day, children and their parents made cards to be delivered with gifts for at-risk elderly in the community.  Rotarians, their children, and grandchildren visited isolated seniors in their homes and facilities in the area. There are many ways we can help our kids to make a difference in the world they live in and develop a lifelong commitment to community service.

Are you inspiring a future of service?  Leave a comment.  Make YOUR difference in the world…Volunteer!

Are You Maximizing Your Employee Volunteer Program?

Corporate Volunteers Provide Safety Assessments to Elderly Neighbors

Corporate Volunteers Provide Safety Assessments to Elderly Neighbors

Today’s consumer wants to feel good about where he/she does business.  This is a growing sentiment that will determine where consumers spend their dollars.  Through Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives, many businesses contribute a lot of capital, financial and human, to “give back” to the communities where they operate.  However, some companies are not maximizing the return on their community service.  What is your employee volunteer program about?  Are you maximizing your service experience for volunteers, the company, and the community?

When I was in college, I worked for a big bank that engaged in community service through an employee volunteer network.  Each location or city included an employee committee, open to all, which selected local community volunteer projects and recruited employees to participate, while the bank contributed a handsome cash donation to each event.  Some of these events included Junior Achievement, Special Olympics, American River Adopt-A-Parkway, Susan G. Komen Foundation Race for the Cure, and more.  These events were awesome.  I made a lot of friends and connections, including the CEO, through the volunteer network activities where employees and retirees with their friends and families volunteered on their own time.

Special Olympics Athletes CSUS

Special Olympics Athletes CSUS

Special Olympics – the crown jewel of events.   Employees from all over the region came out to volunteer in the 3-day event, providing coaching and cheering to developmentally disabled athletes, preparing lunch for all event participants and spectators, hosting medal ceremonies, and the like.  For the athletes, this was the event of a lifetime and volunteers were inspired by the opportunity to make a difference by serving others with severe limitations.  What is more, employees established a rapport with each other through volunteering for a perceived worthy cause, which raised morale in the workplace and throughout the organization.  I met Brian and Shelly from the branch in Elk Grove, who now know employees in the loan center, and we will volunteer together next year too.  It was not uncommon to hear, “I know him from Special Olympics,” “We worked together at Junior Achievement.”

What is the mission of YOUR employee volunteer program?  Are you maximizing the service experience for employees, benefits to the company, and improving the community?   Is your program objective to simply add a recipient to your donation board, or to leverage human capital of your organization to truly make a difference in the community where you do business?  If it is not the latter, you are certainly missing out.

Leave a comment.  Make YOUR difference in the world…Volunteer.