Showing posts with label Bloggers Unite. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bloggers Unite. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 21

Socializing Monkeys: SMAC! Takes Thanksgiving

If you have never head of Leslie Lehrman or Jennifer Windrum, the day before Thanksgiving is the ideal day for an introduction. Leslie Lehrman is dying of cancer. Jennifer Windrum is her daughter.

And yet, despite the direness of their situation — that this may be their last Thanksgiving together — they and their family are grateful. For the past seven years, Windrum has used social media to chronicle her mother's fight against lung cancer. Today, more people are aware that lung cancer research is being neglected for all the wrong reasons because of their efforts and awareness always leads to action.

A social media campaign becomes a catalyst for action.

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to ask Windrum a few questions about WTF? For Lung Cancer and SMAC! Sock Monkeys Against Cancer as her story became a good will pick on Liquid [Hip]. There, you will find some of the back story. Here, I want to ask for your help.

SMAC! Sock Monkeys Against Cancer only has a few days left to raise $35,000. While Windrum will meet her minimum $29,000 funding requirement, she really needs $35,000. She has until Nov. 30 to raise it, but she needs some additional help because her mom took a turn for the worse this month.

Windrum has been where she is needed most, bedside with her mom. Tomorrow, even as their family gets together for Thanksgiving, she will be there too. Ten years ago, this inconvenient truth would have canceled any fundraising effort. But social media is different. For every minute Windrum cannot be online, she has a network of friends who are willing to step up. She has raised more than $20,000.

The funding is to launch a new sock monkey product line with two very interesting twists. The sock monkeys are always sold in pairs so any time someone purchases a SMAC! sock monkey, another will be sent to someone with cancer. And any time someone purchases a pair, it will raise funds for the National Coalition of Oncology Nurse Navigators (NCONN) and Liz’s Legacy at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, Eppley Cancer Center.

The first directly benefits cancer patients because NCONN provides advocates who help cancer patients with appointments, phone calls and treatment regimens. The second directly funds cancer research.

Why sock monkeys? 

On one of the many occasions that Lehrman traveled to various medical centers around the United States, Windrum gave her two sock monkeys — a Mother's Day gift from her twin daughters. Those two sock monkeys helped to remind her mom that no matter what happened she would never be alone. She had people who loved her, their hugs were tucked inside for whenever she needed them most.

They worked. And personally, I am not surprised.

Having lost many family members to cancer, including my two grandparents who raised me until I was 10, the smallest symbols of our affection always become the greatest catalysts for them to face whatever comes next. And because of Lehrman and Windrum, these little guys carry with them not only our love but also a gesture that sweeps across hundreds and thousands of cancer patients and survivors just like them.

I am especially touched by the Lehrman-Windrum story because Windrum gave up everything her career might have become in favor of a career tied to a cause that most people don't understand. It was especially noble given there is virtually no funding for lung cancer research because it has become associated with the stigma of smoking.

But perhaps that makes the story all the more compelling. Although Lehrman never smoked, she has become the victim of this stigma. The lack of lung cancer research is as responsible as the disease.

While they both know any cancer research funding will come too late to help Lehrman, it might one day save the life of someone else who has lung cancer. It currently accounts for 30 percent of all cancer deaths and 80 percent of the people who are afflicted have never smoked or gave up smoking decades ago.

You can join me and help change this. While every $10 donation is an amazing show of support, $50 or more will include your choice of the first two sock monkeys designed specifically to help cancer patients and cancer research. Larger pledges include sending dozens of monkeys to cancer patients too.

You can learn more by visiting the pledge form at StartSomeGood. If you cannot help with a donation, then perhaps sharing this story or passing along this ask will help it find someone who can help. Or maybe you could even can save a little time at the Thanksgiving table tomorrow and smile at everything you have to be grateful for. Just ask Lehrman and Windrum. They are grateful for any and all support.

Wednesday, October 31

Frighteningly Good: Neil Gaiman

Rather than find some superficial tie-in for Halloween, I'd like to give a nod to an authentic one being promoted by author Neil Gaiman. It was an idea he had back in 2010. It was simple, straightforward.

Instead of filling sacks with sweets and other treats (although you can do that too), why not be part of All Hallow's Read and give someone or everyone a spooky book for Halloween. It doesn't have to be today. Make it sometime this week. Not only would such a gift be memorable, but it's a hit for literacy.

If you think a book might be too much to give, there are always comics instead. The point is that a book is safer than candy and it lasts that much longer. Who knows? Maybe it will last an entire lifetime.

The pitch for All Hallow's Read by Neil Gaiman. 

Let me be clear. This brilliant idea wasn't my own. It belongs to Gaiman and I was fortunate enough to learn about it as a fringe benefit to publishing an alternative review site call Liquid [Hip]. We do more than review the occasional author or artist. We listen to them long after they make the list.

Not only has Gaiman put together a website to promote the idea, but he also published this video to explain.

In keeping with the spirit of this exceptional idea, I've put together a quick list of books with a spooky slant. Some of them have been reviewed on Liquid [Hip] and others are part of a short list for any week when we haven't had a chance to find something new. (A couple just mean something special to me.)

Five titles that are great fun for Halloween.

Hobgoblin by John Coyne. Although meant for young readers, it is also one of Coyne's best before joining the Peace Corps. It's about prep school student Scott Gardiner whose love of fantasy role playing begins to blur with the real world. Despite some story problems, it's well worth the read.

It mostly holds a special place for me because I stumbled upon the book as a young teen while traveling alone. My flight was late on arrival, stranding me without any cash in Dallas. I couldn't convince the store clerk to give it to me on loan so I read as much as I could in the airport bookstore. It took months to track it down again because I had forgotten the author's name and Hobgoblin was so ubiquitous.

The Stand by Stephen King. The Stand is easily one of the heaviest horror books ever written. There are plenty of people who love it and hate it. But as far as end-of-the-world scenarios go, it's hard not to appreciate a mutating flu virus that paves the way for an apocalyptic confrontation.

As King was one of my favorite authors for many years, I had to include him. The Stand is my favorite, even if King had written other stories that were more frightening (It) and sometimes more disturbing (Survivor Type in Skeleton Crew). Ironically, I've only reviewed one of his books on Liquid [Hip]; a collection of short stories called Just After Sunset.

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill. Although I have yet to read Horns, Heart-Shaped Box was an amazing debut about an aging death-metal frontman who decides to buy a ghost on the Internet. Mostly, he bought it because he wanted to believe he didn't believe in the supernatural or his former persona.

Besides being a great book that I had the privilege to review, I had no idea that Hill was also Stephen King's son until I finished the book (although it was obvious there were King influences). While it gets a little wonky at the end, it was great to find someone focused more on the supernatural and less on hack-and-slash horror.

Summer of Night by Dan Simmons. Although many people know Simmons for his science fiction and fantasy, he wrote one of the most riveting horror stories I've ever read. It's about five 12-year-old boys who would have been content to come of age riding bikes in their small town of Elm Haven, Illinois. Unfortunately for them, there is an old evil that is coming to life again under their quiet town.

Although I don't know if it would hold true today, I remember this book as the scariest I had ever read. In fact, it was the only book that once kept me up at night because the idea of going to sleep with the story still in my head was too much. It didn't help that the same night I was reading it, my apartment door (which I believed to be locked) blew open with such force that I thought someone was breaking in. While it does resemble an outline, it might be the better book.

Midnight by Dean Koontz. While Odd Thomas is probably his most memorable character, Midnight was one of his most memorable books. The transformation of the people who live in Moonlight Cove, Calif. — whether surrendering to their wildest urges or becoming affiliated with computer-enhanced intellectualism — is frequently nerve-wrenching with its frenzied pace and genre-bending bite.

While Koontz is likely too popular for review on my alternative site, Midnight will remain one of my favorites from this well-known author. The idea of chemically induced evolution is perhaps even more relevant today as what was once science fiction now resembles science fact.

There are countless more I could list. Several of them can be found on my growing online bookshelf, including one by Gaiman with co-writer Terry Pratchett. (One for now, I am certain). If you want to grab up something short, look for Roald Dahl or Rudyard Kipling. All of these gems can be considered lovely stuff. So I hope you will consider Gaiman's idea seriously. If not this year, the maybe next.

Special note to Neil Gaiman: Anytime you want to talk about creating an online campaign to support All Hallow's Read, do not hesitate to drop me a "note". While it already has strong grassroots support, a little push in the right direction would give a groundswell to make it permanent.

Monday, October 15

Going Social: From Hunger To Hope

The facts speak for themselves. One in four children in the developing world is underweight. One in six people don't have enough food to lead a healthy life. About 25,000 people will die of hunger-related causes today. And that means 18 people will die of hunger by the time you finish reading this post.

There is no question it will happen. There is no question that something can be done about it. The only question is what do we want to do about it? Nothing? Something? Anything? Here's one idea.

From Hunger To Hope Starts October 16. 

From midnight (ET) on Oct. 16 to 11:59 p.m. (PT) on
Oct. 17, Yum! brands and several thousand people all over the world will be raising funds for the World Food Programme, which already provides 460 million meals to millions of people. It can provide more too, but they need help.

For $10, 40 more children will receive a meal. For $25, one child in school will be fed for six months. For $100, a child under 2 years of age can receive supplementary food for 18 months. But really, this campaign will benefit the program even more than that because Yum! brands will match $10,000.

You can donate direct via the World Hunger Relief 2012 page developed by Razoo. It makes giving simple, even if you only contribute $10. (Your $10 will become $20 with the matching grant.)

You can do a little bit more than that. Razzo put together a social media/social network kit to help. I'm not going to lie and tell you it's perfect. It's not. You might even feel lost when you visit it.

Having worked on dozens of these global campaigns, including one that was recognized as one of the first social advocacy campaigns on the Web, there is a sequence of steps that can maximize your contribution. Many of them were employed in For Hunger And Hope, a program we developed with Heifer International. That campaign worked, as many Bloggers Unite campaigns did before BlogCatalog had to temporarily move it to the back burner. But that's another story. Let's talk about now.

Six Steps To Help Alleviate World Hunger On Oct. 16. 

Step 1: Commit. There isn't any time to waste. Tell people you are committing to the cause today
(Oct. 15) and ask them to join you for From Hunger To Hope (Oct. 16). Share the link. You can also add a Twibbon for Twitter or Facebook, which helps promote this event. (Twibbons are little banners that frame your profile picture, expressing your support of a worthwhile event.)

Step 2: Connect. Join the campaign at Twitter and Facebook. And any time you tweet it, post it, or share it, try to remember to include a hashtag. The official campaign hashtag is #hungertohope and although the campaign says to include it on Twitter, use it on Facebook and Google+ too. Let people know you joined/liked/followed and ask them to do the same.

Step 3: Promote. If you have a blog or any other content creation account (YouTube, etc.), visit the blogger resource page for pictures, logos and facts. The resources will make it easier for you contribute content to the campaign and make connections with other people who care about world hunger. Set your content to be published on or around 8:30-9:30 a.m. (ET) on Oct. 16, which will help kick off the campaign.

Step 4: Donate. Once it runs, please remember to keep your commitment to donate at least $10, which will be matched by Yum! brands. It might not seem like a lot, but if 10,000 people make similar donations than four million meals will be served. That is the power of compounded generosity.

Step 5: Take The Lead. Having worked with nonprofit organizations all over the world throughout my career, I know that giving is a very personal thing for most people. Not everyone likes to tell people they gave a few dollars here or there for fear of looking like they're bragging. While I respect those who prefer to be more anonymous, you are wrong. When people know you are giving to a cause, they are that much more likely to give to the same cause. Talk about your contribution and let it inspire people. If you are still uncomfortable sharing your own contributions, recognize and promote those who do.

Step 6: Track The Results. Stay up to date with the campaign, at least through Oct. 18. Once the tallies are made, let anyone who saw your messages, notifications, posts, or other content know that it really did make a difference. They will appreciate it, but none of them as much as that child who will go to sleep with something in their belly, maybe for the first time.

All six steps might seem like a lot, but they don't have to be. Giving works best when people do what they can within their comfort zone. If all you feel inspired to do is make a small donation, then do that. If you want to do more or simply give kudos to others who step up, then that works too. It all counts.

While I am not part of the campaign team and merely a contributor, it reminds me how many great causes there are out there and how much I have missed organizing social media campaigns for causes since promoting Patch Adams. Maybe that will change. We'll have to see what happens in 2013. But for now, I'm thrilled to have found some comfort here and elsewhere. I hope that you will too.

Wednesday, August 25

Taking Media Out Of Social Media: CitizenGulf

Citizen GulfIn Boston, it will take place at The Precinct Bar. In Houston, you can hook up at the Continental Club. In Santa Monica, it's the Sulkin Secant Gallery.

These locations and seventeen more across the United States have become the local connections for a national event to do one thing right. Hundreds of people are working together, online and offline, to raise funds for fishing families impacted by the BP oil spill in the Gulf Coast.

While each event location varies in planned entertainment and environmental awareness, they all show solidarity in hosting gatherings loosely themed around a New Orleans-style event with live jazz, blues, or Zydeco music and speakers knowledgeable about the environmental impact. Most local events were coordinated by the Social Media Club chapters from coast to coast.

CitizenGulf National Day of Action

In addition to these 20 events, smaller unofficial fundraisers are taking place across the nation. And for people who are unable to attend, there are plenty of ways to help support area fishermen, including Bloggers Unite, where bloggers and other social media site owners can list their online contributions in building awareness.

You can help too. Check the event listings to find an event location near you and post a link on your Facebook page or send up a shout out on Twitter to let your friends know how they can make a difference. If they cannot attend, CitizenEffect is coordinating online donations for this nationwide effort.

There are more ways you can help. Take a look at the various Pepsi Refresh Gulf initiatives proposed by dozens of individuals and organizations. Vote for you favorites, including the Gulf Coast Benefit, which is directly tied to CitizenGulf National Day of Action. (Pepsi has pledged $1.3 million toward ideas that specifically benefit the Gulf Coast.) There are seven days left to vote as of Aug. 25.

CitizenGulf And Social Media.

CitizenGulf National Day of Action represents one of the best uses of social media, coordinating events online to host simultaneous activities across the country in an effect to raise funds for a tangible project that benefits people in need. You can learn more about the plight of fishermen's families at Liquid [Hip], an online review site that helped build early awareness after Geoff Livingston's inspired call for support.

Proceeds from online donations and event donations will be awarded to Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans. This benefactor was chosen because it is deeply entrenched in supporting afflicted communities and well-suited to developing educational programs that benefit fishing families.

CitizenEffect chose the benefactor after traveling to the area and surveying residents. It made sense to choose the nonprofit best equipped to provide support and one that area residents readily supported as opposed to creating a duplicate program.

Likewise, CitizenEffect, along with its partners, has done something few event organizations do. Rather than "own" the event and attempt to drive people to a singular location or one-time contribution, CitizenGulf National Day of Action allows people to help in whatever way they wish. No action is too small or contribution overlooked, easily making it a best practice in effecting social change. They should be commended.

How about you? Do you have an extra 30 seconds today to help build awareness for this worthwhile cause? If you do, please send up a tweet, post, or shout out to your friends and family. I am almost certain others would do it for you if the roles were reversed. Good night and good luck. And thank you.

Thursday, April 22

Overdosing On Climate Change: Earth Day

"Mister!" he said with a sawdusty sneeze. "I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues. And I am asking you, sir, at the top of my lungs" — he was very upset as he shouted and puffed — "What's that THING you've made out of my Truffula tuft?"

For most people, Earth Day started some 40 years ago. For me, given I was only 3, it started a year later in 1971. 1971 was when was the year Random House published The Lorax by Dr. Suess. It was also the same year Iron Eyes Cody debuted as the "crying Indian" in the "Keep America Beautiful" public service announcement campaign. The messages matched the appetite of the populous.

There were lessons to be learned. We could all do our part. All of it was in our best interest.

Wisconsin was well ahead of the environmental bell curve too. Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson proposed Earth Day in 1969 and had intended it to raise environmental consciousness through rallies, symposiums, and discussions on college campuses and in cities across the country. His work had started much earlier as governor. Earth Day matched the sentiment of the state, especially because of its blended assets with forests and lakes to the north, farm and dairy land to the south, and industry to the east along Lake Michigan.

So what happened on the way to a greener planet in the last 40 years?

Geoff Livingston made an excellent observation about Earth Day yesterday. There isn't as much fanfare about Earth Day.

The answer might be found, in part, from another observation last year in the Washington Times. They compared Arbor Day and Earth Day to conclude that Arbor Day was largely non-political and positive where was Earth Day was political and pessimistic.

When did that happen? While the stage was already set, the shift in direction of our environmental conscience occurred in 2006 with the winds of climate change and global warming. The inconvenient truth was very much like a wild part of proof for all of us concerned about the environment, but it eventually came with one of the worst hangovers ever because some of the numbers were fudged.

That wasn't the worst of it. The inconvenient truth also took away the individual's ability to do their part and focused heavily on regulating others to do their part. The immediate impact of divide and conquer politics becomes clear enough. It shifts attention away from what "we" can do and onto what "they" can do. So "they" defend themselves while "we" forget to buy lower emission cars, recycle, and whatever. And overdosing on climate change for all its faults has made the problem bigger than any individual can fix.

Sure, I know for a fact that many manufacturers are willing to sit on emission controlling technologies (literally keeping them secret) to avoid sweeping regulations that occur at a faster pace than they can implement. But at the same time, most of those manufacturers are tied to defending their position because of pressures — price, profits, and employment — that those same regulating individuals benefit from. In other words, we're all in this together folks.

Messages make all the difference.

There have been a lot of clever and creative environmental messages since 1971, but few of them have become as iconic and legendary as the crying Indian or The Lorax. Ever wonder why?

The 1971 messages are stories that bind us together in the choices we make as individuals, with no distinction between producers and consumers or companies and people who litter. Both messages ask us to make a choice: which person do you want to be? The choice seems logical enough. Most of us want to be the solution instead of the problem.

Even the Lorax, though disgusted by the greed that came with the invention of the thneeds, left a last chance in the hands of the Once-ler, despite the Once-ler's responsibility for making the mess. The message, if you remember, is unless.

"No more trees. No more Thneeds. No more work to be done. So, in no time, my uncles and aunts, every one, all waved me good-bye. They jumped into my cars and drive away under the smoke-smuggered stars. Now all that was left 'neath the bad-smelling sky was my big empty factory ..."

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Saturday, April 10

Spreading Hope: Ten Cards4Cancer Stories

For the last several months, Spirit Jump and Bloggers Unite, and thousands of bloggers have been making handmade cards. The medium doesn't matter. Some use glue. Some use photographs. Some put pen or paint to paper. Some made purchases.

The cards are special. Their purpose is to bring hope and comfort to the many men, women and children battling cancer. The idea was to deliver as many as 100,000 uplifting cards to people in hospitals, hospices, and treatment centers.

For one of my friend's fathers, the cards will arrive one day too late. She e-mailed me this morning. Her dad passed away last night. She did not make it home in time. I'd share more if it were my story to tell, but it isn't. So here are ten others for hope.

Ten Stories From Those Who Spread Hope And Awareness.

1. Cards for Cancer... Wrapping Up... by Darcie from Minnesota. She has been working hard to create and collect cards for as long we can remember. On March 31, she had already surpassed her goal to create and collect more than 300. Make sure you follow the back links for more examples.

2. Card-Making Parties Are Great Not all of the stories can be found on independent blogs. Some of them have been collected by the sponsors on a dedicated Cards4Cancer blog. You can also visit the Cards4Cancer Facebook page, where more than 7,800 people have connected.

3. Easter, Cards 4 Cancer, And A Goodbye by Nancy in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. She shares her story that starts on Easter Sunday with potato salad. Make sure to check the sidebars. Nancy and her friends and family delivered 150 cards, some with tuck-ins.

4. Newest Batch of Cards 4 Cancer by Kim in Austin, Texas. She has been collecting cards long enough that an Etsy artist donated almost a dozen. She has several other posts that recognize contributors here, here, and here.

5. Only 10 days left until Cards4Cancer Day by Christine in Ottawa. In addition to her reminder after collecting 100 cards, Christine's entire blog is dedicated to creating more good news stories ... because there are not enough when you have advanced cancer.

6. Cards for Cancer by Tania. After sharing her plans with her S.M.A.C. students, they worked together to raise more than 500 cards for their local cancer center. She sumps up their contributions with recognizing their big hearts.

7. Paper Greeting Cards Designed for Patients And Survivors by Minny, an American romance novelist in the Netherlands. While found on Squidoo, the post still goes a long way in describing cards specifically for cancer fighters and survivors. But what makes this story really stand out are all the other ideas to support cancer patients.

8. New Cards for Cancer Update by Terica in North Carolina. Although Terica will deliver the cards on Monday, her post today goes a long way in sharing a striking collection of cards. Many of them include very creative use of pressed flowers.

9. A Huge Success by Mimi in Northport, Florida. To help, she hosted a card creation party at her studio from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in order to create more than 400 cards. She provided food and beverages all day long.

10. Cards4Cancer by Paula from Massachusetts. You might notice we included one of Paula's cards up top to accompany the post. Make sure you visit her blog to see several more made with a mixed medium approach. They are lovely additions.

A special thanks to all the team members at Spirit Jump and for Jason Teitelman at Bloggers Unite and BlogCatalog for spearheading this effort. It was an event well done.

Maybe one day I'll share a few of my own stories for those left behind. Just not today. Instead, I'll leave you with one parting photo from Geoff Livingston, who recently raised funds for cancer research with a new tattoo.

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Tuesday, March 2

Helping Others: Sustainability Is Critical

There seems to be a near frigid reaction toward new relief efforts in Chile. The quake killed 700 people, left two million people homeless, and caused widespread devastation across the country. Chile needs immediate assistance, but there seems to be a near tragic lack of empathy in the United States.

Fewer Americans are thinking about Haiti too, where yet another crisis looms. According to UPI, only 40 percent of the homeless population there has received tents, tarps or shelter tool kits. It's a significant issue as most temporary shelters are ill-equipped for the rainy season.

Are Action Plans Matching Attention Spans?

At first, I was inclined to join others in wondering when United States action plans started to match attention spans. But in doing the research, it became apparent that there is a different problem. By helping everyone, our country is struggling to help anyone.

When you consider approximately 16 percent of our population is employed by the local, state, and federal government; 8-13 percent employed by the nonprofit sector (depending on the state); 10 percent are unemployed; and 13-17 percent are falling below the poverty line; it becomes pretty clear that we're running low on people who can help. So what can we do?

The Gift Of Sustainability And Succession.

One of the best aspects of BloggersUnite is its ability to bring together diverse bloggers for a common cause and then direct them and their readers toward organizations already doing the work. Doing so helps maximize the impact with minimal means. It also doesn't compete for limited nonprofit resources.

Let's consider Haiti as an example. While I didn't have a hand in the Haitian campaign (Jason Teitelman organized it) beyond lending participatory support, he did a fine job in helping people help Haitians. There are hundreds of posts. Here are a few...

PSA: Superheroes Needed — Apply Here at Entrepod.
Atlanta Haitian Group Galvanizing Support at Execumama Online.
Action Summary at Pawcurious.
Have you moved on yet? Haiti hasn't by Berkman for BloggersUnite.
Lapli ap tonbe... at Real Hope for Haiti Rescue Center.

All of those posts have specific calls to action and support existing and sustainable programs. It's also why I liked one story that went deeper than a post. It was created by Gylon Jackson of San Antonio, Texas.

We interviewed him several weeks ago for our business giving blog. And we learned for Jackson, a post wasn't enough.

He developed an online campaign, including a blog and two social networks, to provide action in an effort to collect 100,000 pairs of lightly used shoes — an idea that promises to last much longer than the dollar equivalent of the donation.

A week ago, Shoes for Haiti Now shipped 900 pairs. There is still more work to be done, but Jackson tells me they have 2,000 more pairs of shoes ready to ship in mid-April. Stay tuned. I'll revisit this story again.

The Measure Of Sustainability Exceeds The Investment.

Incidentally, the Haitian earthquake isn't my first experience helping people in Haiti. In 2001-02, I worked with Kenneth Westfield, M.D., in improving upon his longtime support for Friends of the Children of Lascahobas (Haiti) to develop a sustainable art fundraising event.

The program, while no doubt overshadowed by the earthquake, has thrived, expanded, and earned additional support. As a best practice, it demonstrates how short-term investments can lead to long-term sustainability.

It's also how we've been able to provide support to scores of nonprofit organizations since 1991. Our support is often a short-term investment with an emphasis on long-term sustainability. Without sustainability, programs have a propensity to unravel, especially as they become too reliant on a single donor.

Developing Sustainable Actions Takes Patience And Planning.

Nobody wins when contributions require too steep a sacrifice. Volunteers tend to become burned out. Donations dry up. And organizational objectives shift from long-term sustainability into jumping from the last crisis to the next crisis, degrading the ability to help anyone with every new commitment.

If you want to make sustainable investments, individual and organizational giving works best when it's planned.

Set aside a comfortable amount of time and/or money for giving every month, and save a small percentage of those funds for unplanned events such as Haiti or Chile. In choosing organizations, favor those that have long-term sustainability elements for individual empowerment or succession. (Keep in mind, some worthwhile organizations may not have an empowerment element, given the nature of their cause.)

This will allow you to maximize your contributions. And, for some, the lesson need not only apply to donations and volunteer work. The concept works on that micro or macro level. All that is required is your ability to balance selfish and selfless.

After all, working too many hours tends to diminish productivity. Engaging children in too many activities can jeopardize quality time as a family (especially among working parents). Allowing government to fund too many external programs limits its ability to fund local programs.

Reversed, with each level of our infrastructure investing at comfortable levels, then maybe companies, organizations, and government might be in a better position to help without confusing cause marketing and social responsibility. Or maybe nonprofit organizations would work harder to empower and not enable. Or maybe we can find alternative solutions that still allow our generosity to shine through, like sending shoes to Haiti.

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Tuesday, November 17

Fighting For Preemies: Bloggers Unite

"A bear and a hare have been to the fair. But not the hippopotamus." — Sandra Boynton, But Not the Hippopotamus

Every morning, well before sunrise, I would place Boynton's book next to my cell phone so I wouldn't forget it. It didn't really matter if some of the other Boynton books we kept might have read more upbeat. The story seemed to fit.

As other babies were being born to wide-eyed parents and heading home to be bundled in blankets, doted over by grandparents, and set free to start their adventures, our daughter had taken a detour. Every day was a fight for life inside the Summerlin NICU.

No one really knows why there weren't any warning signs on the first morning. My wife had simply noted that our daughter's kicking, which had started earlier than expected, had suddenly tapered off. Initially, the sudden change was almost dismissed, given that we hadn't even entered a kick counting stage of pregnancy. Instinct over intellect proved to be wiser.

It only took a few hours in the hospital to discover the truth. Our daughter was dying, and even the specialist who had been called in seemed uncertain as to why while listening to the amplified throb of her heartbeat, steady and strong, except every ten minutes or so when it would slow and drift quietly under the hastened pace of the hospital.

"When that happens, make a noise or do something to excite her. We can't let her drift off before your doctor arrives."

The task seemed easy enough, especially after surrendering to the gravity of the situation. Telling my son, after noticing the entire day had drifted away to indecision, when I picked him up from summer camp to take him to his grandparents so I could make it back, was more difficult. The excitement of having a sister in three months was all he could talk about.

"Well, I need to tell you something," I said during the car ride. "Your mom might have the baby today and there is a problem..."

She might not come home from the hospital for awhile. She might not come home at all. "She will," he said with certainty.

She wouldn't come home for three long months. As I was running up to the doors of the hospital, my cell phone buzzed with the news. Our doctor had arrived and they were prepping my wife for an emergency Caesarean. There was barely enough time to scrub.

Our daughter was born 2 pounds, 13 inches, at just under 28 weeks. Just a few days earlier, the survival rate would have been reduced to a coin toss. The odds are a bit better today, but there are no promises. If there were, they wouldn't change the location of the incubators to prevent visiting parents from becoming attached to neighboring early newborns. Too much can go wrong. Too much does go wrong.

For parents, having premature babies is best described as being like a Ferris wheel. Some days you leave the NICU with the anticipation they will be released in a matter of a few days. That can all change in a day. Or in an hour. Or in seconds, sometimes while you're sitting bedside (incubator-side) reading a story so they can become familiar with the sound of your voice. And you learn to step aside for the nurses.

And you learn to have patience in adversity, when real courage might mean standing firm as opposed to flying off to parts unknown. And you learn that every treatment carries a potentially permanent consequence. And you learn that tolerance for transparency carries a certain quota because people do not generally want to know the truth. They mostly want to know that everything will be all right so they can marvel at the resolve or maybe faith.

Over the course of the next three months, our daughter almost died or almost had permanent damage while undergoing 28 medication administrations; on and off respiratory support, ranging from ventilators and high air flow nasal cannulas; and 48 different medical procedures, ranging from phototherapy and blood transfusions to upper GIs and a lumbar puncture. She overcame two organism infections and five staph infections, with the worst of it being an infection that had adhered to her ankles and required surgery.

At the end of Boynton's book, the hippopotamus eventually is asked to join the other animals in their fun activities and adventures. Even after being discharged, there would be prolonged procedures, medications, and side effects. And even when the worst seems to be over, it's never really over. And yet, we're blessed.

"A bear and a hare have been to the fair. But not the hippopotamus." — Sandra Boynton, But Not the Hippopotamus

At the end of the detour — made amidst a gubernatorial primary, business expansion, and non-profit obligations — you come to realize the experiences we have are not a byproduct of the environment in which you reside or merely timing of events or even the perception of other people. Good or bad, experiences are what you make of them, wherever you are or whatever you're doing.

Of course, we can influence all those other things to some degree. And that is what I might ask you to consider today.

While the why behind the cause of our daughter's premature birth will never be solved because we did everything right, many preterm births can be prevented with prenatal care. It's important because every step you take can help reduce preterm birth, which accounts for more than one million of 13 million stories that don't end like our daughter's story or the analogy I made with Boynton's book.

Education will provide a means to solve part of the growing challenge. The rest comes from generosity and vision, as the numbers above only reflect a success rate of infants born preterm including 36 weeks. For babies like my daughter and those under 26 weeks, the success rate relies almost exclusively on medial research funded by people like us and you through the March of Dimes.

For those who already have helped, thank you. We're grateful, because it made a difference.

Wednesday, November 11

Making Promises: Veterans Day

I met a boy on the ship coming over to Vietnam. He was a good guy from the state of Missouri. He was my friend. We lived in the same tent together, went into the An-Khe together, and spent most of our free time together. I got to know this boy well and he was my best friend. His name was Dan Davis.

On Monday morning, the 15th of November, he died in my arms of two bullet wounds in the chest. He said, "Ken, I can't breathe." There was nothing I could do." — excerpt from a letter from Kenneth Bagby, 1st Battalion, 7th Calvary, 1965

Forty-seven years prior, on the "eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month" in 1918, armistice was signed between the Allies of World War I and Germany at Rethondes, France. The promise of armistice was peace, after a different generation of veterans prayed that their sons and daughters would never have to see the horrors of war.

In Belgium it is known as a Day of Peace. In France, Jour de l'Armistice. In the United Kingdom, it remains a day of remembrance. In Australia and Canada, people still wear red poppies and pause for a moment of silence at the eleventh hour. In Germany, Volkstrauertag remains a national day of mourning. And in the United States it was renamed Veterans Day to recognize and honor all veterans who served.

And yet, despite such promises made every year on this day, armistice continues to be a promise the world cannot keep. And children become solders. And soldiers are sent away. And when they return, sometimes only their mothers, families, filmakers, and bloggers remember them.

This Veterans Day is different for me. It is different because I recently had the opportunity to meet Phil Valentine, director/producer, and Michael Bedik, director of photography, who created Who Will Stand, a documentary that examines the experience of a dozen physically and/or psychologically wounded American soldiers who have returned from war. After watching this film, it reminds us that not only was the promise of armistice broken, but so too is the promise of doing everything possible for the men and women who have served.

This promise is broken to such a degree that some people even suggested that the documentary not be seen because it was too political, uncomfortable, and reveals some shortfalls in the system meant to care for veterans. I disagree. While it might be easier for the current administration to not hear the needs of veterans, we can be thankful people like Valentine and Bedik have given them a forum to be heard. They need to be heard.

“The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help them or concluded that you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.” — Colin Powell

Are you listening? We're listening. Not only to filmmakers like Valentine, but people like Toby Nunn, Ron Portillo, and Dana F. Harbaugh, author of Pearls of Honor: Their Duty to Remember, who served two overseas deployments aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ranger (CV-61) and participated in Operations Earnest Will, Desert Shield, Desert Storm, and the Defense of the Kurdish Peoples. People who have a great respect for servicemen and women.

• The Soldierʼs Project helps provide free counseling and support to military service members who have served or who expect to serve in the Iraq and/or Afghanistan conflicts and to veterans of those conflicts.
Defending Freedom raises awareness and support for servicemen and women with its Defending Freedom wristbands.
Blue Star Mothers provides support for active duty service personnel, assists veterans organizations, and is available to assist in homeland volunteer efforts.
The Wounded Warrior Project raises awareness and enlists the aid of the public in meeting the needs of severely injured servicemen and women by providing direct services that honor and empower wounded warriors.
U.S. Vets provides housing, counseling, job assistance, and hope to thousands of homeless veterans each year.
Soldiers' Angels is an international, volunteer-led organization supporting America's men and women in uniform that supports more than 30 projects.

To that end, Veterans Day doesn't need to be confined to a single day of recognition or remembrance. Rather, it can be the day that you ask yourself if you are doing something, anything, for the men and women who have already done something for you, regardless of the country where you live. Good night and good luck.

Friday, October 16

Spotting Trends: Seven Myths About Blogging

Today at BlogWorld New Media Expo 2009 in Las Vegas, BlogCatalog will release excerpts from a research study “An Analysis of the Blogosphere: Its Present & Future Impact,” which was conducted by SPECTRUM Brand Strategy Group, LLC (SBSG). The finding are based on a compilation of interviews with influential bloggers; a quantitative survey of BlogCatalog members; and a qualitative discussion moderated by the SBSG research team.

“What we have found is that many of the standing theories embraced by social media experts are not necessarily based on the experience represented by the majority of independent bloggers,” said Tony Berkman, president of BlogCatalog. “In some cases, the SBSG study seems to suggest that many social media experts are isolating themselves from the greater population of the blogosphere.”

Seven Trends In Social Media Related To Blogging

1. Who are bloggers? While many people speculate younger audiences dominate blog authorship, the reality is that they are dominated by “digital immigrants” (Generation X and Baby Boomers). “Digital natives” (Generation Y and younger) are still exploring how they might best use blogs.

2. Will Generation Y follow these leaders? While there is an educator/student relationship, there is also an increasing divide between A-list “digital immigrants” and the greater population of the bloggers, especially younger content creators. As A-list bloggers have become less accessible, the majority of newer bloggers are looking for better solutions and different connections.

3. Do A-list bloggers have better insights? There is no correlation between A-list bloggers providing better insights
than novice or undiscovered bloggers. In fact, as A-list bloggers become more comfortable and complacent with some tactics, the study suggests new, novice, and undiscovered bloggers tend to take more risks that lead to innovation.

4. Is new media replacing traditional media? The vast majority of bloggers have no intention of becoming citizen journalists. It is more likely that content creators, citizen journalists, and journalists will become increasingly interdependent and not competitive with each other.

5. Can people trust blogs? Among bloggers, trusting other bloggers is not an issue. As readers, bloggers are
generally more suspicious of corporate blogs and traditional media than of other bloggers, even those who remain anonymous. There is also an increasing need for more human oversight over algorithms in discovering quality content.

6. How do bloggers measure success? Bloggers clearly and consistently identify their content as opinion communication and the authors aim to receive recognition and readerships. While corporations are interested in measuring a return on investment, most bloggers are more concerned about affirmation and engagement.

7. Will micro-blogging and social networks replace blogs? Most bloggers see micro-blogging and blogging as an interdependent activity, with micro-blogging, especially Twitter, being used to market blog content. They change where the discussion takes place, but thought leadership occurs on blogs.

There are more conversation topics to be found in excerpts being released today. There are additional points to be found in the full study, which is still being compiled.

Additional Points of Interest At BlogWorld

BlogCatalog is also handing out information on two upcoming Bloggers Unite events in November — Veterans Day: Who Will Stand on Nov. 11 and Bloggers Unite: Fight for Preemies on Nov. 17. Please save the dates and dedicate a blog post for both important causes.

If you are attending BlogWorld and have questions about either event, look for me Friday morning or Saturday afternoon, after I finish my class at UNLV. Or, look for our communication manager Hadley Thom, who will also be frequenting the BlogCatalog booth between sessions.

Who wouldn't be with Clive Berkman passing out special treats for attendees. He cooked the chocolate at my home last night; I highly recommend it.

Friday, October 9

Attracting Attention: Who Will Stand For Veterans

Veterans Day might be a little less than a month away, but I'm not always certain we need to wait for a national holiday to think about veterans. After all, our servicemen and women do not confine their sacrifices to once or twice a year. The various organizations that support them don't either.

It's one of the reasons I signed on to assist the producers of Who Will Stand to host an event at on Veterans Day, Nov. 11. The online event, Veterans Day: Who Will Stand features five nonprofit organizations that could use some additional support this year. All of them were included in the film.

In addition to covering the plight of physically and/or psychologically wounded soldiers after they have returned from war, the independent documentary highlights why veterans' programs and nonprofit organizations are so vital to supporting the services provided by government. Having learned more about them, I can safely add U.S. Vets and Soldiers' Angels, which I've written about before, here and here.

Five Nonprofit Organizations Featured In Who Will Stand

The Soldierʼs Project helps provide free counseling and support to military service members who have served or who expect to serve in the Iraq and/or Afghanistan conflicts and to veterans of those conflicts. The services are completely confidential and are not reported to any government agencies.

Defending Freedom raises awareness and support for servicemen and women with their Defending Freedom wristbands. One hundred percent of the proceeds go to military charities to support the troops and their families. More than 673,000 wristbands have been sent overseas.

Canines for Combat Wounded provides service dogs for servicemen and women injured in combat. Beyond providing companionship, the dogs are specially trained to work with the soldiers according to their needs, helping them live longer, happier, more rewarding lives.

Blue Star Mothers provides support for active duty service personnel, assists veterans organizations, and is available to assist in homeland volunteer efforts. The organization consists of mothers who have or have had children honorably serving in the military.

Wounded Warrior Project raises awareness and enlists the aid of the public in meeting the needs of severely injured servicemen and women by providing direct services that honor and empower wounded warriors. They also advocate for legislation to provide critically-needed services to family caregivers of severely wounded warriors.

At the helm of this event, which includes a special showing in Las Vegas, is director/producer Phil Valentine. Valentine, who began his career as a television scriptwriter in 2000, is a seasoned filmmaker, having produced films that include Gags, Siren, and The Las Vegas Abductions.

Wednesday, September 30

Encouraging For Nonprofits: Lee Aase & Mayo Clinic

The Mayo Clinic is a nonprofit organization and internationally renowned group medical practice headquartered in Rochester, Minnesota. And, according to U.S. News & World Report, it is ranked second only to Johns Hopkins.

As a leader in the medical community, it's no surprise that the Mayo Clinic has become a leader in social media. We even used its program as an example for hospitals in southern Nevada to consider, given Las Vegas-area hospitals' lack of presence online.

The Mayo Clinic is a fine example, especially since Lee Aase, manager of syndication and social media for Mayo Clinic, has accepted several interviews to share the benefits of developing social media programs for hospitals and nonprofit organizations. In addition to video, you can learn more about their program here and here.

According to Aase, the comparatively low cost and ease-of-use make social media an important communication component for every nonprofit communication plan. It is a sentiment recently shared by Seth Godin, who noted nonprofit organizations have been too slow to adopt social media and criticized them for placing too much emphasis on the "non" portion of nonprofit.

While Godin raises some good points, his logic is flawed. The lack of being among the top 100 anything online (Twitter or otherwise) is not an indication whether or not nonprofit organizations have effective social media programs. It only means that the potential target audience is less than everyone whereas Ashton Kutcher, Ellen DeGeneres, and Britney Spears have a larger slice of the potential to reach everyone.

Several nonprofit organizations do have fledgling social media programs in the works, including the March of Dimes, which will be partnering with this November for Bloggers Unite: Fight For Preemies. There is also an independent filmmaker that we will be working with over the next three months to support several important causes related to veterans. (Details on both of these efforts will be released next week.) They won't show in the lists, but they will meet objectives.

What I Learned Speaking At NANO

Still, the March of Dimes and the filmmakers seem to be the exception. After taking a cursory look at the online presence of the top 20 nonprofit organizations (by funding) in southern Nevada in preparation for speaking to a handful of nonprofit executives at the Nevada Association Of Nonprofit Organizations (NANO), we discovered that with exception to the Nevada Cancer Institute, most nonprofit organizations here are largely nonexistent online.

They either have no social media program or have what can best be described as small pond social media efforts. A small pond social media effort usually consists of 100 to 200 people on a popular social media platform (regardless of where their supporters are engaged). The organization has a dialogue with its small group. There is nothing wrong with that (although some greatly diminish their ROI).

The United Way of Southern Nevada, for example, has several social media accounts consisting of a relatively small collection of advocates on each. They engage participants on these accounts, but none of these participants seem to have become advocates or evangelists who actively share United Way content beyond the small pond. And, when measuring online presence, it creates the illusion that they have a non-existent program.

In contrast, the Mayo Clinic excels in maximizing the adaptive nature of social media. For example, one of the many proven points that Aase shares in the Ragan video is how the Mayo Clinic employs social media as a media relations outreach tool and/or uses it to refocus media exposure that the clinic receives. The concept is one of several excellent communication tactics that have opened up via social media.

This touches on something else I learned from NANO members. Many nonprofit organizations may not be ready to engage in social media. The reasons may be varied, but the reality is that many do not know how to develop or manage a communication plan let alone a social media program. Most are best served only when they have the help of a communication champion.

Specifically, the communication learning curve for someone like Aase and the learning curve for a nonprofit administrator or executive director are not the same. And what seems easy to me, Aase, or Valeria Maltoni, is a completely new skill set to non-communicators. The same holds true for businesses.

For me, it has changed the way I present social media content threefold. First, social media is best viewed as an environment where people congregate as opposed to a medium unto itself. Second, the experiences people have with individual communication online are significantly different from organizational communication. Third, "dive in" advice tends to leave organizations with the "now what?" dilemma, especially for non-communicators.

Tuesday, September 8

Recognizing Literacy: A Student Success Story

As seen through the eyes of people who can read.

In 1990, Tommy Gray could not fill out a job application, draw money out of his bank account, or purchase groceries without easily identifiable pictures. Today, he can accomplish all these tasks that most take for granted. In fact, Tommy not only reads and writes, but actively supports the program that continues to teach him how to read — Computer Assisted Literacy in Libraries (C.A.L.L.).

“When you learn one word, it’s like someone giving you a hundred dollars and saying you don’t have to pay it back,” Tommy said. “It makes you that happy.”

A recent recipient of the Nevada Literacy Coalition’s “Outstanding Student Award,” Tommy has appeared in newspaper articles promoting the program, regularly attends C.A.L.L. support network meetings, and frequently teaches others how reading will not only help them secure a job but change their lives. He is one of several hundred students benefited by Southern Nevada Literacy Coalition member programs.

As seen through the eyes of those who cannot.*

In 1990, Ypzzu Htay, Las Vegas, vpilf mpy goaa out a kpn sqqaovayopm, ftse zpmru piy pg jod nsml svvpimy, pt qitvjsdr htpvrtord eoyjpiy rsdoau ofrmyogsnar qovittrd. Ypfsu, jr vsm svvqzqaqsa saa tatst tssas tast zqst tsat aqt atsmtta. In asvt, Tqzzy mqt qmay ttsas sma wtqtts, mut svtqvtay suqqqtts tat qtqatsz tast vqmtqmuts tq ttsva aqz aqw tq ttsa — Vqzquttt Sssqstta Aqtttsvy qm Aqmtstqts (C.A.L.L.).

“Watm yqu atstm qmt wqta, qt’s aqat sqztqmt aqvqma yqu s aumatta aqaasts sma ssyqma yqu aqm’t asvt tq qsy qt msva,” Tqzzy ssqa. “Qt zsats yqu tast asqqy.”

A ttvtmt ttvqqqtmt qa tat Nevada Aqtttsvy Vqsaqtqqm’s “Qutstsmaqma Stuatmt Swsta,” Tqzzy ass sqqtstta in mtwsqsqtt sttqvats qtqzqtqma tat qtqatsz, ttauastay stttmas C.A.L.L.suqqqtt mttwqta ztttqmas, sma attqutmtay ttsvats qtatts aqw ttsaqma wqaa mqt qmay ataq tatz stvutt s aqm mut vasmat tatqt aqvts. At qs qmt qa stvttsa aumatta stuatmts mtmtaqtta my Squtattm Nevada Aqtttsvy Vqsaqtqqm ztzmtt qtqatszs.

*Based upon readers tested at CASA Skill Level A or ESL 2, as presented in the Southern Nevada Literacy Day Dinner by Copywrite, Ink., circa 1999

As seen through the eyes of those who want to make a difference.

Please visit and read a few posts from the hundreds being submitted by bloggers at or search for more than 250,000 posts that have already been published today. A special thanks to the Price Group, Great Advertising, Clever Ads, APPLE Partnership, the City of Henderson, and other sponsors for their early support.

Wednesday, September 2

Uniting People: International Literacy Day

"Teaching children and adults to read, write, and comprehend is not only our essential duty and investment in America's future; it is also an act of love." — John Corcoran

If you are unfamiliar with the name, John Corcoran is an extraordinary man who graduated from high school and college to go on to become a secondary school teacher before becoming a businessman. What makes his particular story extraordinary is that Corcoran never learned to read. You can read his entire story here.

"It was not uncommon for me to find almost half of my students unable to read past a third-grade level. I couldn't teach them to read, but I could help them learn as I had learned." — Corcoran

I had the pleasure of meeting Corcoran while serving on the board of the Southern Nevada Literacy Coalition, which was a leading coalition comprised of literacy providers and business communicators. He was humble, almost soft-spoken, but extremely articulate in presenting his story as well as how many children and adults masterfully hide their inability to read.

"For all those teaching years, I avoided facing the real problem in their lives and my own, revealing one of the shortcomings of progressive education." — Corcoran

While some progress is being made in the United States, the National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL) estimates one child in four grows up not knowing how to read and more than 40 percent of adults only possess level one reading skills (which makes them marginally functional). Illiteracy can also be directly linked to crime, health care costs, and poverty.

"The link between academic failure and delinquency, violence, and crime is welded to reading failure." — United States Department of Justice

While not reporting on the tiered literacy system, the United Nations estimates 776 million adults lack even minimum literacy skills worldwide. And, according to United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), it is widely held that in modern societies "literacy skills are fundamental to informed decision-making, personal empowerment, active and passive participation in local and global social community." (Stromquist, 2005, p. 12)

This Sept. 8, in recognition of International Literacy Day, which was established by UNESCO, thousands of bloggers are joining and the APPLE Partnership in cooperation with Barnes & Noble;; the City of Henderson (Nevada); Copywrite, Ink.; FedEx; PBS&J; and Wal-Mart to dedicate a post, instant message, or news release related to International Literacy Day.

The APPLE Partnership, along with its sponsors, was chosen in part for its ability to provide a worthwhile example of how communities can develop public-private partnerships to improve literacy, but there are other examples around the world. On Sept. 8, we're dedicating several posts that speak to the issue of literacy. We hope you join us with the intent to help people who can read appreciate the severity of the challenge and guide them toward supporting programs that make a difference locally and globally.

"In this era of widening disparities, literacy brings not only greater self-esteem but also opportunities to those who have been disenfranchised, marginalized and neglected: neo-literates acquire greater capacity and skills to raise their income levels, build sustainable livelihoods, gain access to health and educational services, and engage in the public arena." — Koïchiro Matsuura, director-general of UNESCO

Monday, June 29

Uniting For Iran: Bloggers Unite

News organizations may be restricted inside Iran but various reports still manage to make headlines, ranging from militiamen "carrying out brutal nighttime raids, destroying property in private homes and beating civilians in an attempt to stop nightly protest chants" to several British Embassy employees being targeted and detained.

The turmoil began as a national disturbance shortly after the polls closed on June 12. It continues to escalate as protesters reject reports that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who assumed office in 2005, earned more than 60 percent of the votes cast. The election was rigged, they say. More than 2,000 Iranians have been arrested and hundreds more have disappeared since.

"We have enjoyed so much freedom for so long that we are perhaps in danger of forgetting how much blood it cost to establish the Bill of Rights." — Felix Frankfurter, Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, 1939-1962

Not everyone. People from around the world are uniting for free elections in Iran. Some are sharing their thoughts on blogs and social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. Many of them are asking their readers, followers, and friends to visit Amnesty International or other human rights groups to take action.

But even those who do not take direct action can have an impact as elected officials and government leaders around the world look toward social media to gauge public sentiment. Members of the media do too. Since June 12, social media has hastened the shift of some administrations from painfully dismissive to cautiously concerned.

Of course, not everyone agrees. Sure, Matt Sussman was only penning satire, but not all detractors do.

"I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations." — James Madison, Virginia Convention, 1788

Madison might have been talking about the United States in the late 1700s, but the sentiment can easily be transplanted to today. Sometimes, I think people forget what it was like five or ten years ago when the most action any member of the public took over political unrest was grumbling at a television set.

Does it matter? Of course it matters. It matters just as much as the groundwork laid by Gandhi through the Satyagraha in India. While the exact reasons for the British departure is more likely related to the creation of the Indian National Army and the revolt of the Royal Indian Navy, the foundation for such events and the global perception of British occupation was set much earlier.

Does it matter? The Guardian reports, maybe so. We tend to agree. Silent acceptance and excuse against any action are most often the preferred means of oppressive governance. It's so much easier to rule when the people do nothing, believing themselves unfit.

"Many politicians are in the habit of laying it down as a self-evident proposition that no people ought to be free till they are fit to use their freedom. The maxim is worthy of the fool in the old story who resolved not to go into the water til he had learned to swim." — Lord Thomas Macaulay, politician, essayist, poet and popular historian, 1800-1859

Monday, May 18

Sharing Quietly: Bloggers Unite For Hunger And Hope

In Fernley, Nevada, the Fernley High School National Honor Society hosted a spaghetti dinner that allowed families to enjoy a meal for free or with an optional donation. Sixty families were served, and $300 donated to Heifer International.

In Elizabethtown, Kentucky, 70 students hosted a “llama mama” picnic, which capped off a series of events to raise money for Heifer International. They raised $3,270, which was matched by an unnamed donor. It's enough money to benefit 25 families.

In Kearney, Nebraska, a local third grade elementary class became inspired by "Beatrice's Goat," which is based on a true story. They raised almost $900 to help families purchase farm animals, like goats, with Heifer International.

Small contributions add up to surprising results.

They might never know of each other's donations, but all they all understand a common cause with Heifer International and programs like it. The same can be said for approximately 10,000 bloggers who shared stories, contributed funds, and encouraged programs with Bloggers Unite: Hunger and Hope, a joint initiative to raise awareness about world hunger and the hope provided by various organizations.

First Place.Bloggers Unite for Hunger and Hope At Home by Sarah Andrews. Although she serves as communication director for Meals on Wheels, the story about her grandfather who was homeless between the ages 10 to 17, is personal.

Second PlaceBeyond Feeding The Hungry: SAME Cafe of Denver by Karen Degroot Carter. In addition to sharing an inspirational story about the SAME Cafe, she reminds her readers that world hunger is always closer than we think.

Third PlaceWhy Mia Farrow Isn't The Only Hungry One from the Share Yoga blog. The post provides some insights, and then goes on to define karma yoga and the purpose of selfless service.

These three and thousands of other blogs — So there we were, Tripletly Blessed And Loving It, Ben Spark, Caffeinated Traveller, A Writer's Words, An Editor's Eye, Double Latte Mama's Blog, and Popview — were all among those that dedicated space to the issue of world hunger and means to make a difference. And while each shared their unique perspectives, thousands helped introduce hundreds of thousands to Heifer International.

Generosity has a surprising way of connecting people.

According to Nielsen, Heifer International received ten times the awareness on April 29 during its Pass On The Gift campaign. Does it make a difference? Watch the interview with Elizabeth Bintliff on "The Colbert Report."

Who's to say what contribution is too small or how far it might go? One post? One day? One dollar? One pig? If we all thought in "can't," then maybe goats would have never arrived in Zambia and pigs will still be needed in Tanzania. Fortunately, someone thought "can" and created the connections that make it happen.

For the students mentioned above, they've taken their first steps toward a lifelong legacy of giving. For the bloggers we've highlighted here, their stories can inspire for months. And for people like Lyell (pictured above) who can count on one time support, they have an opportunity to improve lives for generations. It just goes to show that generosity doesn't come in sizes as much as it comes in unseen connections.

"Real generosity is doing something nice for someone who will never find out." — Frank A. Clark

Saturday, May 2

Living With Arthritis: 300,000 Kids

There are approximately 300,000 children in the United States that have some form of arthritis, which is diagnosed almost anytime between the ages of 2 and 16. The are several types of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA) ranging from systemic JRA, which affects the whole body, to oligoarticular JRA, which affects four or fewer joints.

My daughter was diagnosed last year. She has juvenile rheumatoid arthritis in both ankles, one hand, and some limited range of motion in other joints. Still, we're grateful she was diagnosed, as Nevada is only one of nine states in the U.S. that doesn’t have a pediatric rheumatologist.

Arthritis and

When you consider all of the causes, ranging from AIDS to World Hunger, arthritis doesn't really register on a large scale. But social media, unlike SEO, is not all about the numbers. It's about engagement, connecting people with common interests whether those interests are altruistic or something as simple as a celebrity. It's about how information and action spreads.

For example, it helped one blogger find a greater forum for reporting on Arthritis Walk Atlanta, which was held today, or a few more bloggers interested in writing about Juvenile Arthritis and Kelly Rouba's new book, in which she shares her own story and the stories of various kids, teens and young adults who suffer from arthritis.

Awareness is extremely important for kids and parents because the earliest symptoms are so easily dismissed or misdiagnosed. Very often, the symptoms only include a light rash and swelling around a single joint, not all that dissimilar from a common sprain or suspected bug bite. In fact, last year, even Jennie Garth, a former "Beverly Hills, 90210" actress, shared how a "mysterious illness" afflicted her 2-year-old daughter. Eventually, after significant emotional distress, they learned it was JRA.

I learned about Jennie Garth's story and Kelly Rouba's book through BloggersUnite, which reaffirms some of the decisions we recently made for our own daughter. And perhaps, some parent with a child who has a mysterious illness will learn about JRA here too.

JRA and Treatment

Given that our daughter was born three months premature, the sudden diagnosis of JRA was a surprise. After all those months in the hospital and regiment of medications once she was home, the last thing any parent wants to learn is that the light of the tunnel (when all things seem normal and the medications phased away) is that there is another tunnel at the end of the light.

For us, it was the not-so-easy to make decision regarding Enbrel, a tumor necrosis factor (TNF) blocker that blocks the action of a substance your body's immune system makes. In other words, the trade off of taking Enbrel can make you more prone to getting infections. In other words, if your child even has a hint of a cold, you have to immediately stop treatment. (The alternative was methotrexate, which is primarily used for chemotherapy.)

Still, since Enbrel is a relatively new treatment for kids, we took a one-day trip to the Mattel Children's Hospital at UCLA to meet with Dr. Deborah McCurdy, who is the head of the pediatric rheumatology department there, for a second opinion. After the exam, she spent more than an hour with us, carefully and conscientiously weighing our options and noting that without treatment our daughter's overcompensation could lead to lifelong complications such as a curved spine.

Our daughter has been receiving injections for about three weeks now, and has already shown dramatic improvement. Normally, the expectation to see signs of improvement is six weeks. We're grateful, and hope sharing this might help another parent some time.

Is there any other takeaway? I think so. If there is a common theme with all these stories, it is that you don't have to be afraid. As fear is always related to something that hasn't happened, it only stands in the way of taking action. So for parents whose children face JRA, learn as much as you can, seek out second opinions, and never let fear immobilize you from taking the next step.

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