Matt and I owe a lot to our siblings. After all, we couldn’t be Uncle Matt and Auntie Julie without their assistance!
Being that we don’t have kids, we occasionally get referred to as DINKs (double income, no kids) but I prefer to think of Matt as a PUNK and myself as a PANK (professional uncle/aunt, no kids). We love our nephew and nieces and feel grateful to get to play a role in their lives as they grow up. We hope that as they get older they will come to us for guidance on questions they don’t feel comfortable asking their parents, will lean on us when they need another set of shoulders and will always remember that we have their backs (and best interests in mind). Our world wouldn’t be the same without them. It’d definitely be way too quiet!
So in honor of Nick, Kaitlinn, Rayna, Isabella, and Riata (in chronological order), we are choosing to dedicate our 17-21st Days of Giving to the five organizations below.
Occasionally babies pop into this world sooner than scheduled. When this happens, it takes solid expertise to help the babies finish their development. It also takes a dedicated team to help the parent(s) through an incredibly stressful time. I always thought that the nearest NICU unit was in the Twin Cities, so thank you to Derek G. for telling me his happy-ending story about his son who arrived too soon and was helped out at the Duluth hospital. It completely blows my mind that babies as small as one pound can be saved and go on to live normal lives. How many families have been saved from tragedy by this NICU and others throughout the country?
What could make a parent feel more hopeless (and perhaps helpless) than having their child diagnosed with cancer or another devastating disease? St. Jude is the patron saint of hopeless causes and is the saint that Danny Thomas chose to pray to as a young man for guidance in his life. Mr. Thomas vowed that if he got his act together, he would build a shrine to St. Jude. He did get his act together, became a famous entertainer, and he never forgot his promise. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is the result of this promise and treats, on average, 5900 children every year. The overall survival rate for childhood cancers has gone from less than 20% in 1962, the year St. Jude’s opened to 80% today thanks in part to the research that has been conducted there. Every child deserves to have hope and every family deserves to watch their children grow older.
The more brains, the better, especially when researching the prevention, treatment and cures for childhood cancers. The Children’s Cancer Research Fund provides funding to the University of Minnesota specifically for those purposes. Their focus is on pioneering research initiatives that lead to larger studies, including clinical trials for brain tumor vaccines. If you can handle crying right now, I highly suggest you read this story about a little girl named Chloe who beat her leukemia and grew up to win the 2006 American Quarter Horse Youth Association world championship in barrel racing. With four little nieces that love horses, Chloe’s story hit way too close to home. Supporting the Children’s Cancer Research Fund allows researchers to develop new treatments, such as the umbilical cord blood transplant that saved Chloe’s life. Not every kid will grow up to be the person who finally cures cancer, but this organization helps make it possible for more children to have a chance to grow up to be that person.
This next organization is going to cause a few people to raise their eyebrows and there will be a few people who will feel squicky, but this cause is too important to young women for me to ignore and not discuss (especially with four very important girls in my life!).
There are few things more important to me than educating young women throughout the world. An educated woman has freedom. Freedom to choose her own path in life, freedom to not have to stay in a destructive relationship, freedom to be herself. Huru is the Swahili word for freedom and Huru International strives to grant young women in Africa freedom by providing a very simple object to them that many of us usually don’t think twice about – sanitary napkins (aka pads). Lots of folks don’t like to think about or discuss menstruation – too bad. Menstruation is a fact of life, but let’s face it, it’s not one we get excited about for obvious reasons.
So imagine being a young woman trying to go to school so that you can improve your life and escape a future of poverty, but once a month you have to miss school for several days all because you have your period and no sanitary way to deal with it. For $25, Huru will give one young woman an equal opportunity at schooling by providing one kit in a backpack that includes reusable sanitary napkins (good for one year), underwear, soap, a storage bag and educational materials.
So women menstruate. So what? That definitely isn’t enough reason for us to not be educated just like those who don’t!
Since 1980, the Make-a-Wish Foundation has granted 215,899 wishes. That number increases by 1 every 40 minutes! Wishes are granted to children that have been diagnosed with life-threatening medical conditions (it’s a myth that they are all terminal according to the website). The wishes vary from trips to fire station bedrooms to seeing snow to anything you can imagine. It’s not a hard concept to “get behind”. We all have dreams and wishes and we’ve all played the games of “bucket lists” and “if you won the lottery what would you do first?” When a family faces the prospect of losing a child, they deserve an escape from that pain and stress. The child deserves the purest joy they can experience. Make-a-Wish makes that happen. Let’s help them make that happen.
Note: These are the 17th-21st posts in a series of 31 highlighting donation opportunities this holiday season.