Monthly Archives: December 2010

Jason O’Neill

The  Blogunteer recently profiled the Kids Are Heroes organization and has profiled many of their heroes in the past.  Today we profile another hero, Jason O’Neill, a young entrepreneur with a giving spirit!

When Jason was only nine years old, he wanted make a product to sell at a craft fair.  He wanted a product that could make homework more fun.  The idea of the Pencil Bug was born.  With the help of his parents, Jason made his first Pencil Bug.  The bugs caught on very quickly he was soon busy taking orders and making new bugs on a regular basis.  Since then, Jason has also added t-shirts, laminated bookmarks, and greeting cards to his product line up.

But, this isn’t the real reason that the Blogunteer has chosen to profile Jason.  Since he started his business in 2005, he has been making donations to help other kids.  The first charity he selected was the HUGS Foster Family Agency where he lives.  Since 2008, Jason has been donating to Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego, California.  Each quarter he makes a unique donation for the kids in the hospital, including activity bags, toys, board games, crayons, coloring books, books, teddy bears, puzzles, and more!

This past weekend, Jason delivered more bears to the Rady Children’s Hospital!  For a video, please check out Jason’s website.

When asked about why he is involved with the Children’s Hospital, Jason says, “Most people think that I was probably in the hospital for one reason or another and that’s why I chose them.  The truth is, I have always been healthy, never had a broken bone and have never been in the hospital.  But I know there are some kids who aren’t as fortunate and can’t help that they have illnesses or injuries so I thought I could do my part and buy toys, games, books, and other activities for the kids that might help their stay in the hospital not so bad.”

Jason describes the teddy bear collection he started in 2009 as his most rewarding volunteer experience.  “My goal was 250 bears.  By the beginning of November, I had raised enough money (including my own from my Pencil Bugs business) to buy 400 teddy bears.  I thought that was a lot and was really happy.  Then the week of Thanksgiving, I was interviewed on the NBC news station in San Diego.  The very next day, my story hit MSN’s home page and donations started pouring in from all over the world.  Within a week or so, I had raised over $5,000 which allowed me to buy 1800 teddy bears — just a few more than my original goal.  We tied a donation tag on EACH bear with the person’s name who donated money.  It was a lot of work but definitely worth it.”

You can help Jason with his cause by purchasing Pencil Bugs products or his book, “Bitten By the Business Bug” from his website,  You can also follow Jason’s blog or connect with him on Twitter or Facebook to keep up to date with his fundraisers and projects.

Jason not only makes his own donations, he also encourages others to give.  “I think donating is just a part of life. If you can help someone else in some way, then people should.  A lot of people think you need to give a lot in order for it to count so if they can’t, they don’t do anything. I always remind people that even the smallest effort can make a huge difference in someone else’s life and a lot of times, you may not even know how you affect them but it still counts.”

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Posted by on December 21, 2010 in Volunteer Profile


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Friend for Life

Cancer can be scary!  You are not only faced with a life altering diagnosis, but you also need to make treatment decisions, deal with side effects, and much more! 

In 1988, an organization named Friend for Life was born to help persons recently diagnosed with cancer and their loved ones navigate the path through diagnosis, treatment and recovery by pairing them with a trained survivor of a similar experience so they can face cancer with someone who’s been there. 

Friend for Life is located in Baptist Hospital East’s Cancer Resource Center in Louisville, Kentucky.  It began when two cancer survivors who were also friends reflected on how good it was to have the other to talk to even though their diagnosis was different.  With the help of an influential nurse and the passion of these two men, Friend for Life started with just a handful of survivors in 1988.  Now the organization has over 200 survivors representing survival of over 40 different kinds of cancer.

Friend for Life is the only one-on-one network of survivors of all types of cancer in Kentucky and southern Indiana.  There is no cost for their support.  People are matched based on their cancer type, treatment, age, gender, and any other pertinent factors that would help make the most appropriate match.  If there isn’t an exact match available within their organization, they do our best to find a match with other similar organizations.  Even though the organization is based in Kentucky, they provide support to anyone, anywhere in the world, as long as they have access to a phone or the Internet.

How can you help?  Friend for Life volunteers are either cancer survivors or caregivers for someone close to them who had cancer.  Volunteers speak with persons that are newly diagnosed mostly over the phone to help calm their fears.  All volunteers are provided training by healthcare professionals.

Learn more about Friend for Life at their website,, following them on Twitter or on Facebook.

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Posted by on December 16, 2010 in Nonprofit Organization


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Wish Upon a Wedding

Planning a wedding can be stressful!  What colors should I choose, what about centerpieces, can we afford all this?  Well, at least most of us don’t need to worry about living to see our wedding day! 

Wish Upon a Wedding (WUW) is the world’s first nonprofit organization, dedicated to providing weddings for individuals facing a life-threatening illness, regardless of sexual orientation.  WUW also celebrates the courage, determination and spirit of these couples by granting their dream wedding wishes.  According to Liz Guthrie, WUW Founder, “Our hope is that chosen recipients can inspire other couples facing similar situations to find hope and strength.”

There are currently 16 chapters around the United States available to grant wishes.  Each chapter maintains a database of “Wish Granters,” based on 20 different wedding vendor categories.  When a Wish is received in that area, the Volunteer Coordinators will call upon their Wish Granters to donate their professional goods and services, enabling us to provide the Wish Recipient’s dream weddings. The organization will provide everything from the gown to the cake, the flowers to the venue, and the music to the décor. The couple does not have to do anything but enjoy the special day surrounded by those who matter most to them. 

WUW believes that health issues shouldn’t get in the way of someone’s dream to marry their best friend.   Organization Founder, Liz Guthrie, came up with the idea to grant weddings to terminally ill individuals, while she was producing a nationwide wedding giveaway contest. The San Francisco Dream Wedding Giveaway was a community project, where over 40 bay area wedding and hospitality vendors came together to donate a high-end wedding to a deserving couple.  Guthrie felt it was sad that only ONE couple would benefit from the generosity of so many businesses in the wedding industry. She said getting these vendors to donate was really easy, once they knew it was for a good cause. 

Along with the eagerness of the wedding industry to give back, Guthrie noticed several couples entering the contest had been affected by terminal illness.  By starting a nonprofit organization with the wedding industry in mind, she was able to merge these two concepts.  The wedding industry wanted to give back, and there were people in need of our help. Wish Upon a Wedding was born.

You can see a selection of granted and upcoming wishes on the organization’s website. 

The guidelines for receiving a wish are simple.  Applicants must be at least 18 years, legal US Citizens, unmarried,  and at least one individual has been diagnosed with less than three years to live. To receive an application, email or call 877-305-9474.

So, how can you help?

  • If you are in the wedding industry, please visit the Chapter Locations page and fill out a short online form to become a Wish Granter.
  • Cash donations are also needed to cover the cost of bringing in family members for the event, as well as paying for their hotel accommodations.  Sometimes additional funds are needed to cover a portion of a wish.
  • You can attend an event hosted by one of the chapters.  These include launch parties and fundraisers.  For a list of upcoming events visit the website.
  • If you are about to get married, Wish Upon a Wedding accepts donations in lieu of gifts or favors.  See their website for details. 
  • WUW also accepts donations of new and unused products, Airline Miles, & Hotel Room Nights. For a complete list of how you can help please visit the HOW TO HELP section of the website.
  • You can also spread the word about the Wish Upon a Wedding organization to your friends via Facebook and Twitter
  • Or, you could even start a new chapter of Wish Upon a Wedding near you!  See their website for more details! 

To learn more about Wish Upon A Wedding, please visit their website, become a fan on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter.


Posted by on December 14, 2010 in Nonprofit Organization


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Making Music Matters

I was a band geek!  I played clarinet, bass clarinet, and even contra-bass clarinet and I was even in the color guard of a marching band.  My experience with band gave me an appreciation for music as well as some great friendships. 

Recent studies show that students who take part in the arts are more successful on standardized tests and achieve higher grades in school.  Students of the arts learn to think creatively and to solve problems by imagining various solutions and rejecting outdated rules and assumptions.  A report in 2006 by Collegeboard states that students of music continue to outperform their non-arts peers on the SATs.

Some schools can’t afford to offer music and arts programs to their students.  One such school was Stevens Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri.  Only 10% of students in seventh grade at Stevens Middle School scored at or above a proficient level in Communication Arts on the standardized Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) in 2009.  When compared with the state statistic of 51%, the school decided something needed to be done to help their students.  Stevens Middle School was looking for an after school program to engage students in enrichment activities, and Making Music Matters was born.

Co-founder Ken Zheng states, “I have played violin for eight years, and it has enriched my life greatly. I wanted to share that experience with other students. This project is vital because it provides a music enrichment after school program to students who otherwise would not have the opportunity.” 

Making Music Matters believes music is an integral part of a balanced education, so they established a program to teach students violin.  A lesson plans based on the Essential Elements for Strings book was developed by a group of students.  That was also mixed with activities and games that they created.

Making Music Matters offers opportunities for high school and college students to teach younger students music in inner-city schools.  Each week each student’s progress is measured with weekly quizzes. 

Recently, the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra agreed to support and fund the Making Music Matters effort to spread the joy of music. So far, they have donated supplies and agreed to provide students free tickets to Symphony Concerts as a field trip.  Magic Rosin donated cakes of rosin to the students at Stevens Middle School.  Organizations such as Education Exchange Corps and RR Music Labs in the St. Louis area have provided the organization advice about how to best interact with the St. Louis Public School District.

How can you help? 

  • The organization is currently recruiting teen violin instructors. Teachers are selected based on their leadership skills and mastery of violin. These student instructors will volunteer for an hour once a week for the entire semester and meet weekly to discuss the program. Student instructors will gain the important skills of leadership, responsibility, teamwork, problem-solving, real-world communication skills, and conflict management. The instructors will develop their own quizzes throughout the semester for the violinists and will monitor the progress of the students.
  • Volunteers are needed to represent the program at booths and local fairs, distributing fliers at schools and coffee shops, promote involvement in the program, and write articles in school newspapers and church newsletters. 

Making Music Matters is also looking to expand their program to other schools in St. Louis, Missouri area.  According to co-founder Zheng, “By next year, we plan to establish a similar after school program in a different school.  In the future, we are also looking to include other instruments.”

For those in the St. Louis area, tonight, Thursday, December 9, there will be a concert at the school to showcase the progress of students at Stevens Middle School.  They will display what the students learned in one semester of weekly one-hour after school lessons.

You can follow Making Music Matters on their website ( on Twitter, or on Facebook.

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Posted by on December 9, 2010 in Nonprofit Organization


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Paws For A Cause

According to the Humane Society of the United States, each year between six and eight million cats and dogs end up in U.S. animal shelters each year.  There are many people and organizations trying to make a difference – campaigns to spay and neuter your pets, campaigns against puppy mills, and campaigns to encourage shelter pet adoption.  One such organization is Paws for a Cause. 

Paws for a Cause (PAC) began in 2008.  According to Heidi Harden, Adoption Team Coordinator for PAC, “We began with one gorgeous black lab who was left behind by a breed specific rescue.  We brought him in on our own, made sure he had the medical care that he needed and found a home for him.  Since then, we’ve re-home over 350 companion canines.”

In November, the PAC team took a trip to Missouri where they participated with over 45 other rescue organizations from across the U.S. to save as many of the 850 animals as they could from the largest puppy mill auction in the U.S.  The auction occurred because two of the largest puppy millers in the country were put out of business. 

PAC specializes in providing sanctuary for abandoned, stray and neglected dogs through its volunteer network with the ultimate goal of providing safe, loving homes for companion animals throughout Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin.  They are dedicated to raising awareness of the plight of homeless and abused animals and to serve as a resource to the community by providing education and information on responsible pet ownership, including the importance of spay/neuter, positive behavior training, good nutrition and the importance of knowing where your dog came from.

PAC’s companion animals are housed in foster homes where they are provided an enormous amount love along with the medical attention and food that they need to ensure their good health.  In this interactive environment, PAC’s companion animals are evaluated for temperament and personality, and matched with carefully screened forever homes.   Every PAC animal is neutered or spayed.  PAC is an all volunteer organization and has volunteers in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa, but their home base is in New Brighton, Minnesota.

You can help PAC in its mission in a variety of ways.

  • Numerous volunteer positions are available from fostering a dog, home visits and transportation. 
  • They have recently started a new Volunteer Welcoming Committee.  This is a group of online savvy volunteers asked to send welcoming e-mails to new participants.
  • They also have a new education program going into effect this winter to address the issue of puppy mills and how not to find your dog.
  • Monetary donations are also needed to help the organization board the dogs and pay their medical expenses until they can find a forever home. 

You can learn more about these opportunities and more on their website.  In addition, you can search photos of dogs currently looking for foster homes. 

You can follow Paws for a Cause on their website (, via e-mail or on Twitter.

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Posted by on December 7, 2010 in Nonprofit Organization


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Hannah’s Socks

Kids seem to notice so much more than adults do.  There have been times where I am driving down the road and one of my kids notices a bus or construction site that I didn’t realize was there.  Or walking through the grocery store and my child notices a picture of a cow or chicken on the wall that I never even noticed in all the years I shopped there.  Today’s charity was started because a child noticed something…

On a chilly Thanksgiving Day in 2004, 4-year-old Hannah Turner was helping serve dinner to the needy at the Cherry Street Mission in Toledo, Ohio.  In the middle of the hustle and bustle of doing her part to fill plates, she tugged on her mother Doris’ sweater.  “Mommy, won’t his feet be cold?”  Hannah had focused on a man in line wearing shoes that had split open to reveal he had no socks on, and her small face reflected concern.

Doris tried to reassure her: “His shoes will keep his toes warm.” She didn’t know how they could help with all staff focused on the meal, and she didn’t want her daughter carrying a burden.  Hannah — too smart, too big of heart — was unconvinced.  “Mommy, he can have my socks,” she said.

That next day, Doris took Hannah to purchase and distribute socks to local shelters. The following two years, they were able to collect and donate over 100 pairs around Toledo.  Over two more years, and with amazing support from friends and family, they distributed nearly 10,000 total pairs of socks to partner shelters.

Doris and husband Vic quickly discovered that of all the materials donated to shelters, new socks and undergarments are given the least and needed the most. They created Hannah’s Socks with the goal of addressing that problem.

In 2010, Hannah’s Socks has set a goal of collecting and distributing 150,000 pairs of socks.  According to their website as of today they are about 25,000 pair away from their goal…so how can you help?

  • Make a financial donation on the organization’s website.  A $5 donation can provide 7 pair of socks to people in need.  A $50 donation can provide socks, pajamas and underwear to 4 homeless children.
  • Host a neighborhood sock party.  Click here for sock party suggestions.
  • Collecting socks is a great alternative to a gift exchange at your upcoming holiday party.
  • Host a sock drive at your church, school, or workplace.  Hannah’s Socks has a full Sock Drive Packet to help you get started!
  • You can also find a sock drop off spot on their website
  • Donate something from the organization’s needs list.
  • For those in the Toledo area, Hannah’s Socks also has volunteer opportunities.  Please check their website for details.

You can learn more about Hannah’s Socks on their website (  You can also follow them on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

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Posted by on December 2, 2010 in Nonprofit Organization


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