Monthly Archives: October 2010

Kari Ulrich

Volunteers are compelled to make a difference for a variety of reasons.  One fairly common reason is an illness or disease that has impacted your life.  Sometimes this is because a friend or family member received a diagnosis or maybe even you received a diagnosis for yourself.  Today’s volunteer profile is of a woman who is making a difference for others who are impacted by the same diagnosis she received. 

In 2007, Kari Ulrich was diagnosed with a disease called Fibromuscular Dysplasia (FMD).  At the time there was not a lot of information for patients and she found out very quickly that most doctors had very little knowledge (if any) regarding FMD.

According to, “FMD is an uncommon disorder characterized by abnormal cellular growth in the walls of medium and large arteries. This abnormal cellular growth may lead to a beaded appearance of the affected artery and narrowing (stenosis) in some cases. Most cases – 60 to 75 percent – occur in the renal artery, the artery leading from the abdominal aorta to the kidneys. Approximately 30 percent of cases involve the carotid arteries, the arteries in the neck that connect the heart and the brain. FMD also can affect the arteries to the legs or, less frequently, arteries in other parts of the body. In many cases, there is FMD found in multiple arteries of the body.” 

Since her diagnosis, Ulrich has helped others impacted by this disease. She helped a young girl named Ashleigh Botha from South Africa who had a very progressive form FMD get the help for her disease at Cleveland Clinic.  Ashleigh was only 16 at the time.  Ulrich states “I found her love of life inspiring.”

Last year Ulrich met Jennifer Moreen, who at 39 had a heart attack from undiagnosed FMD, once again she inspired by her positive attitude with what she had faced at such a young age.  Ulrich continues, “Jennifer also lives in Minnesota, so I asked Jennifer if she would like to start a support group with me. She agreed and we both decided along with the support group aspect of the group we wanted an educational component.”  So the Midwest Women’s Vascular Advocates (MWVA) began, with their first meeting being held in April 2010.

MWVA gives support to women who have been diagnosed and their families.  They offer opportunities to learn how to they can improve their quality of life through peer support and an educational component with qualified speakers from the health care community.  They do not provide medical advice or medical information.  Ulrich explains, “One of our main goals is to make people feel welcome and safe to share their experiences.  Our feedback from our participants has been overwhelmingly positive.”

Ulrich goes on to describe the reason she volunteers, “To give is the greatest gift of all.  Volunteering gives you an opportunity to change lives and I have personally found that volunteering has always given back to me double in what I have contributed.” 

To learn more about Midwest Women’s Vascular Advocates, visit their website at or connect with them on Facebook.  You can also connect with Kari Ulrich on Twitter.  You can also read Ashleigh Botha’s story at

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Posted by on October 28, 2010 in Volunteer Profile


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Hands for Harvest

I’m a wanna-be gardener.  The few times I have made attempts I either get one plant that overtakes the garden or I can’t tell the weeds from the real plants until it is too late.  I do enjoy the fall when boxes of cucumbers, tomatoes and squash appear in break rooms at work.  I take a few while appreciating the work others went through to achieve the harvest and then thinking…maybe I will try a garden next spring.

Maybe next spring, instead of making a wasted attempt at a garden of my own, I will help out Hands for Harvest.  This organization builds community and provides fresh produce for local food shelves by growing, cultivating, and harvesting crops on a volunteer farm.  In 2010, the farm was located in Green Isle, MN (just a bit west of the Twin Cities metro area). 

Hands for Harvest began as the senior year internship project for Travis Dahlke and turned into a non-profit organization.  Individuals and groups, from ages 3 to age 75, have volunteered with them.  They began in 2009 and harvested over 12,000 pounds of potatoes on just one acre of donated land.  This was accomplished with a minimal budget and over 200 volunteers. 

In October 2010, co-founders Travis Dahlke and Nathan Dahlke received the Service Award from Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, MN for their work with Hands for Harvest.

How can you help?

  • In the spring, you may contribute seed potatoes or contact them for other needed donations.
  • They also depend on volunteers to plant in the spring and harvest and box up produce in the fall.  Co-founder Travis Dahlke says, “The donation of your time is the most valuable resource you can contribute!  Please consider volunteering with us today!!” 
  • Hands for Harvest is looking for opportunities to grow crops in and around the Twin Cities metro area.  If you have an open lot from a ¼ acre to an acre in size that you would be willing to donate, please let them know!

You can learn more on their website,, via e-mail at, or by phone at 952-594-0820.  You can also follow them on Facebook.

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Posted by on October 26, 2010 in Nonprofit Organization


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Can Do Canines

On the semi-complicated field of pet wars, it seems you are either a dog person, a cat person, or – like me – a lover of all animals big and small.  You may love some animals less than others – mice, for instance, when they are crawling around in your attic (gross!) or bears when you are camping in the north woods (yikes!).  But when it comes to helping those with limited mobility, hearing or sight impairments, diabetes, prone to seizures, and many other disabilities, it’s time to give the dog camp two thumbs… err… paws up!

Since its inception in 1989, Can Do Canines has been creating partnerships that improve and sustain quality of life for people and their canine partners.  Over the past two decades, Can Do Canines (of New Hope, Minnesota) has placed more than 300 assistance dogs in the arms of disabled clients within Minnesota and the four surrounding states.  Their organization’s mission is, “dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for people who are disabled by creating mutually beneficial partnerships with specially trained dogs.” 

 Note that these partnerships are mutually beneficial.  While Can Do Canines can train pet dogs, most of the animals they train are donated by breeders and area animal shelters.  According to Can Do Canines, 14% of all Minnesotans live with an impairment (physical or emotional) that leads to a decreased quality of life and increased medical expenses.  While there is a definite need for increased mobility and independence among those with physical and emotional impairments, those needs must be balanced with safety.  Consequently, limited insurance plans and limited finances may make owning a trained dog a cost-effective solution.  As an alternative to high-priced medical treatments, not only can trained dogs be lighter on the pocket book, and provide safety and independence, but they can be emotionally uplifting to people with disabilities as well.

These dogs, however, do more than heal emotional scars, and help people with sight impairments navigate streets, sidewalks, and shopping malls.  Can Do Canines can train dogs for just about any quality of life challenge.  They can train “Hearing Assist Dogs” to assist people that are deaf or hard of hearing; they can train “Mobility Assist Dogs” to do a wide array of tasks from alerting family members to a person’s need for help to retrieving dropped items and serving as a brace to assist with standing or walking; they can train “Diabetic Assist Dogs” that alert their partners when their blood sugar is getting low; they can train “Seizure Assist Dogs” that can retrieve phones or find help for people afflicted with seizures; they can train “Autism Assist Dogs” that prevent children with autism from dashing into dangerous terrain or situations, as well as provide tactile stimulation for the child; and they can train “ Facility Based Assist Dogs” that provide physical, verbal, and emotional therapy.

The obvious financial and emotional benefits would make Can Do Canines a booming business, but they offer their trained animals to clients free of charge.  Through donations from individuals, corporations, foundations and community organizations, Can Do Canines helps dogs from animal shelters find homes, people with disabilities find mobility and independence, and both find friends.  This is one mutually beneficial relationship that even a cat lover could give two paws up!

You can help Can Do Canine’s mission by donating money or in-kind donations.  Learn more about making a donation and view their current wish list on their website.  You can also purchase a children’s book about service dog Ally.  You can also review their website for current volunteer opportunities. 

Learn more about Can Do Canines (formerly known as Hearing and Service Dogs of MN) at their website or becoming a fan on Facebook.

This post was written by Brent Pearson….Blogunteer supporter and husband.

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Posted by on October 21, 2010 in Nonprofit Organization


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Posing for Pink

Many people I know are uncomfortable with their bodies.  When a group picture is taken we fight for the back row or we may ask “does this outfit make my fill in the blank look big”?  Well, there is a group of women who have bared it all to raise money for the cause they are passionate about…a cure for Breast Cancer.

Posing for Pink is a breast cancer group based in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area.  They have come up with a unique way to fundraise and honor to those diagnosed with breast cancer; an implied nudity calendar. The calendar features Susan G Komen for the Cure 3Day Walker and Crew members, breast cancer survivors, and family and friends who have been touched by breast cancer.

The organization was started by two sisters in honor of their mother who is the breast cancer survivor and pays tribute to all those affected by breast cancer.  The calendar features local women who were photographed in the classic pin-up girl calendar style.  The photos are tastefully done and show the beauty of the female form as well as each girl’s individual beauty.  Net proceeds from calendar sales benefit Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure™ which invests in breast cancer research and community programs.  Today, Komen for the Cure is the world’s largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists fighting to save lives, empower people, ensure quality care for all and energize science to find a cure.  

Posing for Pink co-founder Diana Yund describes the reason behind the organization: “In January of 2007 I was having lunch downtown with my Mom when her phone rang and our lives were forever changed.  She had breast cancer.  My sister and I took turns caring for our mother through surgeries (yup, there were a lot of surgeries) and chemo & radiation treatments.  While sitting in the chemo room I saw a commercial for the Breast Cancer 3Day walk and decided to participate.  By the time I entered closing ceremonies that August my mother had completed her last radiation treatment and I had raised over $2,200 for breast cancer.  The next year my sister decided to join me in the walk.” 

In 2009 Yund was brainstorming for a way to raise money for the walk and give something back to the donors.  A friend mentioned the movie “Calendar Girls” and they had their idea!  Yund continues, “I decided to form a local group, Posing for Pink, to create, produce, print, and sell breast cancer calendars to raise money for breast cancer.  I had a budget of zero dollars but I had something better than money at my disposal: a bold idea, great family and friends, a worthy cause, and I wasn’t taking no for an answer.”

Now, near the end of 2010, the group has produced two breast cancer calendars which have raised roughly $15,000 for breast cancer, and are currently in the planning stages for a 2012 calendar.  What is even more amazing…they did it within budget!  “The entire calendar, from the hair-and-make up, to the photographer, graphic designer, to the printer and paper have been donated by local artists and business. That’s right – we did it on a budget of zero dollars. 100% of our breast cancer calendar price goes to Susan K Komen for the Cure,” according to Yund.

So, how can you help? 

  • You can start by purchasing a calendar at  You can even pick up a “vintage” 2010 calendar from the website too!  Then you can tell all your friends about these women who “wear Pink or nothing at all.”
  • If you are brave, you can also appear in an upcoming calendar.  The group does request that you participate in other cancer awareness events and activities in addition to your calendar appearance.  
  • Local businesses and artists have the opportunity to donate their time and talents to the calendar through photography, graphic design, costumes, hair-and-make-up, printing, and hosting fundraising events. 

Yund continues, “Today, I am happy to report that my mother is almost a 4 year breast cancer survivor, Posing for Pink has raised over $25,000 in four years in the fight against breast cancer, and in August of 2011 I will be walking in my 5th Breast Cancer 3Day walk in San Fran with my sister.”

Learn more about Posing for Pink on their website, follow them on Twitter, like them on Facebook, or e-mail them at  You can learn more about Susan G Komen for the Cure at and the Breast Cancer 3Day at

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Posted by on October 19, 2010 in Nonprofit Organization


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Project Boobies

We are continuing a theme of organizations related to cancer for October with an organization with a catchy name….Project Boobies! 

Project Boobies has a twofold mission:

  • The first mission is to raise awareness of charity Kokolulu Farm and Cancer Retreats, a unique non-profit organization that helps cancer survivors win the mental battle with cancer. 
  • The second mission is to sell breast cancer shirts to raise money for Kokolulu and raise awareness of early detection.  Up to 50% of the profits from the t-shirts are donated.

According to founder Rob Schmidt, “With Project Boobies, we’ve developed a new line of shirts that are geared to spotlight the need for people to be aware of their bodies to catch breast cancer early and make a difference.”  The logo was actually created using the hands of Schmidt’s 14 year old daughter.  The breast cancer ribbon tied around the finger is a reminder to conduct your self-exams and mammograms to promote early detection.  Schmidt continues, “We left our motto of I Grab A Feel so Cancer Can’t Steal open ended because breast cancer steals something different from everyone so we wanted the person wearing or seeing our shirt to define what is stolen from them.” 

How can you help?

  • Visit to make a direct donation to Kokolulu Farm and Cancer Retreat, learn more about breast cancer or to learn more about self exams.
  • Visit to buy a logo shirt to spread the word about the importance of early detection!
  • Check out some shirts autographed by Model/Actress Cassandra Lynn available on their auction page.
  • Help connect Project Boobies with additional celebrities willing to sign a few shirts.
  • Visit the Kokolulu website to learn more and spread the word!

Support Breast Cancer Awareness month by “grabbing a feel!”

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Posted by on October 12, 2010 in Nonprofit Organization


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Be Bold Be Bald

Many cancer organizations are founded by the family of someone touched by cancer.  Recently I came across an organization that was founded by co-workers of someone who lost his battle with cancer.

In 2007, the co-founder of the marketing company Small Army, Mike Connell passed away from cancer.  After witnessing Mike’s heroic, two year fight, they were inspired to continue that fight in a way that would truly represent the boldness of Mike and his ideas.  The Small Army for a Cause organization was born!

In 2009, Small Army for a Cause brought boldness to life with their 1st Annual Be Bold, Be Bald! event. Participants included sororities, fraternities, offices, and individual supporters all around the United States. The event raised nearly $100,000! 

On October 22, 2010 we can all Be Bold, Be Bald again!  When you sign up for this unique event, Small Army for a Cause mails you a bald cap and a t-shirt to wear during the day.  You request donations from others to help support the cause.  Supporters get to choose where their donation is sent.  This year proceeds will benefit the following cancer research organizations: LiveStrong, the Jimmy Fund Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Prostate Cancer Foundation, and the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation.

How can you be involved?

  • Sign up to participate in this year’s event!  October 11 is the last day to sign up without having to pay for expedited shipping on your kit. October 17 is the last date to sign up!
  • Donate to an individual or team (may I suggest my team)
  • Promote the event on Facebook, Twitter, or via e-mail to friends

Learn more about the Be Bold, Be Bald event by visiting their website, join Small Army for a Cause on Facebook, follow them on Twitter, or check out their YouTube channel.


Posted by on October 8, 2010 in Nonprofit Organization


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Isaac’s Journey…Where Hope Begins Foundation

Childhood Cancer is #1 disease killer of those younger than 20 years of age.  Cancer in children most often forms in the parts of their bodies that are still growing and changing, such as their blood system, brain, and kidneys.  In general, childhood cancers behave differently than adult cancers.  One in every 330 Americans will develop cancer by the age of 20.  Of those 12,500 diagnosed, almost 3,000 will die. 

While great advances have been made in cancer research over the past two decades, only one new cancer drug has been approved for pediatric use.  Only 3% of the National Cancer Institute Budget goes toward Pediatric Cancer Research and in 2005, the American Cancer Society provided only 1.85% of dollars spent on research to pediatric cancer.

It doesn’t take long to find personal stories of families impacted by childhood cancer.  One of those stories is about a young boy named Isaac Matthew Lieser.  He was diagnosed in 2007 with Neuroblastoma.  He fought through many rounds of treatment and hospital stays, but passed away in January 2008.  That same month, the Isaac’s Journey Foundation was founded.  You can read Isaac’s story here.

The mission of the Isaac’s Journey…where HOPE begins Foundation is to educate and raise awareness of Childhood Cancer and help fund research projects.  Isaac’s Journey Founder, and Isaac’s mother, Linda Lieser says “We HOPE to change cure rates for our future generation as every advancement in curing childhood cancer has come through research.” 

Since the Foundation began over $45,000 has been raised to sponsor an endowment chair with the University of MN to fund STRICTLY Childhood Cancer Research.  In 2010 they hope to donate another $30,000 or more towards the fund! 

Another important vision of Isaac’s Journey is to find a corporate sponsor (or sponsors) that will display the Gold ribbon symbol on their products giving the visibility to childhood cancer that it deserves in hopes to educate all people across the world.

Isaac’s Journey has many interesting opportunities to help their cause, including:

  • Chili Feed Fundraisers
    • Click here for pictures from the 2010 Chili Feed!
    • The 2011 Chili Feed is planned for March 26, 2011.
  • Run, Bike, Rollerblade HOPE Run
    • The 2011 Run is July 16, 2011 – watch the website for details.
  • Blood/Marrow Drives
    • Isaac’s Foundation looks forward to and will continue to sponsor and support future blood/marrow drives when the required minimum attendance is met.  Please contact Linda if you would like to help make a drive possible.
  • Cookbook Fundraiser
    • Order their great NEW Cookbook here
  • Stuck-For-A-Buck
    • The foundation is currently looking for schools to sponsor a “Stuck for a Buck” to sponsor Isaac’s Foundation. Last year, students raised over $1,000 combined with many having the opportunity to ‘stick’ faculty to support Childhood Cancer Research. Schools interested in joining us in this fun and exciting event can email Linda.
  • Poster Contest
    • In September a poster contest was held in honor of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.  Watch for the winners to be posted on their website.
  • Purchase hats, shirts or other items from their online store.
  • Make a donation online.
  • Visit and support their current sponsors.
  • You can also contact Isaac’s Foundation to volunteer for any of their events.

Linda says, “Your support and contributions make all the difference in Isaacs Journey and are greatly appreciated.  Whether you are participating in one of our fundraising events or volunteering to help make it a success, your voice in raising awareness and educating others of the effects of Childhood Cancer are crucial.”

Not only is Linda the founder of this amazing organization, she also competed in the 2010-2011 International Queen of Hope Pageant.  The Queen of HOPE Pageant ™ is an international fundraising and volunteer organization working to benefit cancer awareness and research.  Starting in 2010, the pageant went from solely recognizing Breast Cancer to recognizing multiple cancers, including Childhood Cancer.  Linda won the very first Gold Ribbon Crown in honor of Isaac’s Foundation when she was crowned, Mrs. Worldwide Queen of Hope in July 2010. 

Learn more about Isaac’s Foundation at their website,  You can also e-mail the Founder, Linda Lieser, or call them at 320-249-3993.  They are located in Central Minnesota but they support others internationally.


Posted by on October 6, 2010 in Nonprofit Organization


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