Who would have known that volunteering your time and giving back could be so therapeutic?? Not only do you have the opportunity to make an impact on others, but you can also learn a lot about yourself through doing it. Around the holidays, many people start to think about different ways to give back, but there is need for help year-round. I challenge everyone this holiday season to think of a cause that you are passionate about and find a way to get involved throughout the year. I promise, you won’t regret it!
Cause that I’m passionate about:
Three years ago, one of my best friend’s mom died of a rare, but progressive brain disorder, called CJD (creutzfeldt jakob disease if you dare try to pronounce it). This disease came out of nowhere. Her mom had knee surgery from a fall while she was dancing, and after recovering, she started losing her balance, then she started forgetting things (which was so unlike her). For months, they visited several doctors, had a variety of different tests done, had plenty of mis-diagnoses and uncertainty in the medical community, until finally they got the diagnosis of CJD. By this point, her mom’s mental and physical state had rapidly deteriorated, and she passed on June 25th, 2012. This disease affects one in a million people in world, and there is not a ton of knowledge about it in the medical community today. It was so hard to watch what my friend and her family had to go through to get a diagnosis and to understand what this disease was doing to her mother. The CJD Foundation provided support for her family as they went through this hard time by connecting them with other families, and also helped them figure out funeral arrangements after her mom passed, as some funeral homes won’t accept CJD patients because of fear of infections even though the guidelines that say it’s safe.
This year the CJD Foundation decided to have their first walk to raise both awareness and money for CJD. When I heard about it, I immediately jumped on board. My friend’s mom was the most giving person I’ve ever met. She was the first person to donate items and help us raise money for our sorority’s philanthropy efforts in college. She attended our friend’s aunts benefit and even though she didn’t know her and brought along a gift for the raffle. I wanted to be a part of this cause to not only raise money so other families don’t have to go through what my friend’s did, but also to honor her mother and pay it FORWARD!
For the Strides for CJD event, there were 10 cities planning an actual walk on October 31st, and several others that were doing it virtually. Each city had a goal to raise $10K before and during the walk. This was a lofty goal considering that there is not a ton of awareness about this disease. At the first Chicago planning meeting we acknowledged that this being the first year doing the walk, we would be happy if 50 people attended. It was amazing how many people ended up helping to raise money for the cause. We had two friends donate their time to lead yoga/bootcamp classes that our friends attended and donated money. A DJ agreed to come run the event because he knew my friend’s mom from her country line dancing days. Businesses donated free services, cool items, and money. It was really humbling to see how many people were also willing to invest in the cause. The day of the event ended up being 40 degrees and rainy, but the show must go on. 164 people ended up registering for the event, and 152 of them came!! There were so many people there to walk in honor of my friend’s mom- many that knew her, and many that did not. We ended up raising over $10K in Chicago, and I’m excited to see what was raised that day nationwide. Here are some pics from the rain-soaked event:
We did it!
ideas for giving back this holiday season:
- Attend/plan a charity event– I went to a Chili Cookoff this weekend at the Arts of Life. My friend volunteers her time there teaching yoga to individuals with disabilities. It’s amazing to see how through art and music each “student” there is able to achieve their goals. My friend’s mom participates in the chili cookoff each year and has become a legend, as she wins a prize every year for her creative and delicious chili, and her brother’s band plays a rocking show! I block this event off every year! http://artsoflife.org/chili
- Deliver food to the homeless– A few years ago, some friends and I were talking about how blessed we were to have a warm home to live in, food to eat, families that loved us, etc. We wanted to give back to the people who are less fortunate than us in Chicago. One Saturday we all went to the store and bought a bunch of lunch meat, bread, fruit, granola bars, and water. We made sack lunches in brown paper bags. We walked along Michigan avenue, drove up and down highway entrances/exits and underpasses, went to lower wacker drive, and handed out bag lunches to the homeless. It was a great way to see the impact of what you are doing first hand and most of the people were extremely appreciative.
- Serve meals for Thanksgiving/Christmas– one year my dad and I served meals for the holidays at a homeless shelter. It was a holiday I will never forget. If this is something you are interested in doing for Thanksgiving for Christmas, make sure to schedule way in advance, as these typically fill up.
- Plan a card party to make cards for sick children or soldiers- there are always different ways to put a smile on someone’s face. Hanging out with friends, drinking wine, and crafting is the perfect way to spend time together giving back- below are some places that you can give the cards to be delivered.
- Give blood- I am scared to death of needles, and would normally not want to voluntarily be poked, but I was inspired by my friend whose son has Leukemia- whenever he needs a blood transfusion, she is always thankful for the person who donated the blood for her son. If you are scared of needles like me, go in thinking about all of the children who have to be poked and prodded every day, and what a difference you taking 30 minutes of being uncomfortable will make. I’m headed to give blood now!