This time of year, it feels extra special to give more and take less! The holidays just have that effect on us. Some individuals also take the initiative to give back year round. Meet just a handful of BBB team members whose generosity is more than worthy of a “thank you!" In making the gift of kindness sound easy, they inspire us to do some good everyday.
BookPALS (Performing Artists for Literacy in Schools) is a signature children’s literacy program of the SAG-AFTRA Foundation designed to provide an opportunity for performers, gifted in the art of storytelling, to help develop a love of reading in children and give back to their local communities.
With teachers for parents, Amy has always loved school. In addition to her upbringing surrounded by educators, she has held roles in the field of education and performing arts including an elementary school, library. theatre camps and talent agencies. “Being able to give back to underprivileged children is a gift to me, just as much as it is for them.” Her favorite part of working with BookPALS is being in the classroom reading to the children -- seeing their faces light up when you walk in the room.
Make-A-Wish-Foundation’s mission is to grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy.
Amy’s passion for the performing arts includes time spent with The Walt Disney World Company in Orlando, FL. It was during her time spent as a Disney employee that her heart was truly warmed by Make-A-Wish’s efforts. As a performer she was able to see first hand the absolute magic that this experience creates for families. “To see the faces of not only the wish children light up, but their families as well, is something I will never forget. Being able to shine a bit of hope and help them enjoy happiness and respite from their daily medical routines, drives me to want to involve myself even more.” When Amy moved back to Massachusetts from Florida, she felt this organization was a great way to stay involved and spread a little ‘pixie dust ‘ outside of Disney!
Random Acts of Kindness In addition to regular volunteering with the above mentioned organizations, Amy used a recent vacation to demonstrate 30 Random Acts of Kindness. In celebration of her own 30th birthday, she made others feel special. On the trip to Disney World, she handed out stickers and jellybeans to children waiting in line, lollipops to toll booth attendants, and notebooks to "princesses" hoping for magical autographs from their favorites. Though some of Amy's 30 gestures remained anonymous, most of her efforts involved face-to-face interaction with both guests and park employees. All together it was a simple way to give a little and have it mean a lot.
Bellingham High School Soccer Boosters is a parent-run, nonprofit group that provides support for the boys soccer program.
Joan has volunteered and served as Treasurer of the boosters for the past 5 years. She was motivated to get involved with the group in order to help make soccer a fun experience for her boys. Joan’s favorite part of volunteering for the organization is "being able to provide the players with things that are outside the school's budget like warm-up jackets and hats, team bonding events, additional equipment, a banquet and awards."
Polar Plunge is the best day at the beach all year — and it’s in the middle of winter! Every year Special Olympics Massachusetts’ brrrravest supporters are “Freezin’ for a Reason” when they plunge into icy Atlantic waters. Plungers and Chickens (fundraisers who don’t take the plunge) compete for bragging rights in various team and individual fundraising categories, and are then treated to a big party on the beach with music, food, costume contests and more!
This year is Zinda’s third year doing the Polar Plunge for The Massachusetts Special Olympics, a cause for which she feels fortunate to be part of. Zinda is one of several BBB employees who “take the plunge” at one of 5 beaches in Massachusetts. Through the generosity of its participants and donors, Special Olympic athletes are not asked to pay for programs.
Keefe Tech Boosters is a nonprofit organization run by volunteers serving the communities of Ashland, Framingham, Holliston, Hopkinton and Natick, MA. The boosters raise funds for scholarships for students of Keefe Regional Technical School. The group's Indoor Snack Shack is open after school as well as during evening school classes and special events.
This is also Zinda’s third year with the boosters. During the football season, she is part of a team who run the Outdoor Snack Shack during the games. Though Zinda doesn’t have any children, her nephew attends Keefe Tech and she is a proud Alumni. Last year they raised an impressive $18,000 for scholarships, helped sports teams with their banquet and sweatshirts, bought a prom dress for a student who couldn't afford it, donated to 4 homeless students’ families and gave a gift to the teacher of the year. Zinda finds great reward in giving back to the students, “I am really glad I can help these kids out and I have seen how wonderful they are. They are respectful, caring and always take care of each other.”
Love of the Game runs sports programs that benefit individuals with disabilities. Their mission is to emulate the joys of being a collegiate athlete for those who wouldn't normally get that opportunity. With an emphasis on school spirit, the group provides an outlet for guests to connect, learn, and grow through on-campus sports clinics that are coached by student varsity and club athletes. Clinics are open to individuals with developmental disabilities ages 8+ and are held at the community recreation center on campus at the University of Massachusetts Lowell with tentative spring and summer events planned for Volleyball, Floor Hockey, Soccer and Baseball.
As a student at UMass Lowell, Dan entered an idea into the DifferenceMaker program. Half ‘Idea Hatcher’ and half ‘Shark Tank’, he formed a team around his concept and led it through the competition to win a few thousand dollars in funding. As founder of the program, Dan is involved in the entire process from setting up events to working directly with guests of the program.
Love of the Game’s first clinic took place in October 2015 featuring the Men's Riverhawk Varsity Basketball team who taught guests the game of basketball and made them feel included throughout the event. Dan’s inspiration for his program is his experience with Track & Field. After running at the high school level and currently a Division 1 runner for the University of Massachusetts Lowell, Dan felt athletics provided him with many benefits including mental, physical and emotional toughness, confidence, leadership and time management skills. “I decided that I owed it to life to pay these benefits forward and if I can do it in a very scalable way, all the better!” All eight of Dan’s LOTG teammates are not only athletes but most of them currently play or have played sports at the Division 1 level at their university and are now paying the benefits of sports forward. “Everyone involved in my program from the volunteers, to my co-workers, to the guests are very excited to be there. I get to work very enthusiastic people.”
In addition to running Love of the Game, Dan volunteers at the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Lowell in their athletics program.
Are you or your business considering involvement with a charity? Always do your research before you contribute your time or money to a cause. Visit Give.org for a nationwide list of charities and their reviews. BBB Wise Giving Alliance uses 20 standards to evaluate philanthropic organizations including finances and complaints. For more information you can trust, visit us at bbb.org/boston, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.
Written by Stephanie Benz, Senior Social Media Associate for Better Business Bureau Serving E. Massachusetts, ME, RI & VT.