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Open Heart Magic

Open Heart Magic

“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”   ~Roald Dahl

Young children are surrounded by magic.  Magic beans and carpets in fairy tales or the magic hug from a parent that can make things all better.  However, for kids in the hospital, they may stop believing in magic because their parent cannot just make it better.  Today’s organization is bringing magic to kids in the hospital. 

In November of 2003, Mike Walton was a commodities trader who decided to become a volunteer at Rush Children’s Hospital in Chicago, Illinois.  He performed close-up, slight-of-hand magic for patients.  Soon he realized that magic offered the perfect vehicle to help kids by getting them involved with an interaction that excited and interested them.  Mike developed techniques to harness the excitement associated with magic to help kids heal and feel better.  Each trick allowed the kids to learn new skills and rediscover their sense of fun and laughter.  The kids also conquered feelings of sadness, fear, and isolation that are common during a stay in the hospital.  These are all things that help the children heal. 

After some encouragement from hospital staff, patients, and patient families, Mike launched Open Heart Magic with a mission to use the therapeutic power of magic and laughter to energize and strengthen seriously ill children in Chicago area hospitals and to aid their healing.  They strive to reach young patients one-by-one regardless of their disease, medical situation, or physical ability so that all children may benefit from this engaging and entertaining therapy. 

With the launch of Open Heart Magic, Mike trained the first set of volunteer Hospital Magicians.  These volunteers had no background in magic, but were interested in helping kids in hospitals.  He took them through a 12 week course which is now the basis of the Introductory Training at the OHM Magic University.  In 2004, Open Heart Magic became an officially registered 501c3 nonprofit organization.

The organization excels as engaging kids that have been difficult to reach and those who may not be able to participate in other activities due to their physical or medical restrictions.  They recently launched a new magic program that allows them to even visit those children staying in isolation to protect them from infection.  They are able to visit these children who are restricted from most visitors to show them the transforming power of magic, laughter, and joy.  

How can you help?
Open Heart Magic has several opportunities to help their cause.

  • You can volunteer as a Hospital Magician.  You can find the volunteer application on their website.
  • Run on the Miles for Magic Charity Running Team in the Chicago Marathon, Half Marathon or other race or personal challenge.  You can learn more about their Miles for Magic program at
  • You can also join the Open Heart Magic Professional Board to help promote awareness of the organization and serve as a catalyst for their growth.   You can contact Ryan Walsh at to learn more about this opportunity. 
  • You can also make a donation through the Open Heart Magic website. 

You can learn more about Open Heart Magic on their website,  You can also connect with them on Facebook and Twitter.

Related Posts: Sweet Dreams for Kids, Camp Get-A-Well-A, and The Monday Life

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Posted by on November 1, 2012 in Nonprofit Organization


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The Monday Life

The Monday Life

Mondays have a bad reputation.  It is the sign for many of us that the weekend is over and we have to go back to school or work.  Today’s organization might just change your mind about Monday by giving you something to look forward to on your Monday.

On Christmas Eve 2009, Joey McMahon’s grandfather passed away.  Joey was living in New York at the time and working a job he enjoyed, but the passing of his grandfather reignited a desire to do something to help people.  Joey moved back to North Carolina and started working on an organization in honor of his grandfather. 

The Monday Life uses the concept of crowd-funding to get as many people involved as possible.  The organization asks donors for $1 each Monday to raise funds to support their mission of helping hospitalized children feel better and heal faster by improving their patient environments.  They raise money to fill children’s hospitals with art, light, color, music, technology, massage, games, animals and fun.  They are a 501c3 nonprofit based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and partnered with six hospitals around the United States: Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Seattle Children’s, Children’s Hospital Colorado, UNC Children’s Hospital, Duke Children’s Hospital, and Miami Children’s Hospital.  

The goal of The Monday Life is to spread awareness and get as many people involved as possible. They also wanted to make sure that anyone can help.  One dollar is reasonable for almost anyone to give toward the cause.  One dollar isn’t the upper limit, some choose to donate more. 

The organization’s website lists some scientific research on each type of environment improvement that they promote.  For example, art therapy offers a distraction from pain and illness, reduce stress, provide coping skills, and offer social benefits.  The article refers to recent data suggesting that art therapy programs may result in shorter hospital stays, less need for medication, and fewer complications for patients.  Music therapy can also serve as a distraction as well as reduce pain and anxiety, and provide emotional support and comfort.

Recently, the organization started allowing hospitals who they have not officially partnered with to set up their own fundraising sites that target a particular need such as adding an art or music therapist, purchasing iPads, or other items to improve the environment for patients.   They are also working with new technology to let patients in hospitals interact with each other via tablets, smartphones, and social media sites to help provide social support and entertainment.

How can you help?

  • The easiest way to get involved is to setup a reoccurring donation through their website.
  • You can also designate your reoccurring donation toward a specific partner hospital here.
  • You can even setup a fundraising page to help fundraise for any hospital that is in your area.  The Monday Life will set everything up and help with promotion, they just need approval from the hospital.

You can learn more about The Monday Life on their website,  You can also connect with them on Facebook and Twitter or sign up for the weekly e-mails.

Related Posts: Camp Get-A-Well-A, Kid Flicks, and Sweet Dreams for Kids

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Posted by on October 30, 2012 in Nonprofit Organization


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The Cancer Poetry Project

The Cancer Poetry Project

I come across organizations to write about in a variety of ways; random searches, suggestions, my own experiences, and happening upon them, to name a few.  Today’s post falls into that “happening upon them” category.  I actually saw someone mention the Cancer Poetry Project on a chalk board at a local coffee house and after looking into it, I decided that it would make a great story for The Blogunteer.

When Karin Miller was expecting her first child, her husband was diagnosed with cancer.  This took Karin on an emotional roller coaster and she turned to writing poetry to help sort out her feelings.  After her husband went into remission and her daughter was born, she kept writing poetry.  One morning she woke up with the idea of creating a poetry book written by a variety of people who have been touched by cancer.  She told me that “it felt like a calling.”  

The Cancer Poetry Project book was published in September 2007.  The profits from the book go toward cancer organizations.  The two of Karin’s favorite organizations that have been supported by the book are Gilda’s Club and Cancer Legal Line.  Karin is currently working on a second volume to be published in early 2013 which will include about 140 poems selected from over 1,000 submitted poems.  The top 12 poems chosen received a cash prize plus each were able select their favorite cancer organization to give a donation in his or her name. 

Every poem in both volumes is followed by a brief bio of the poet including who he or she wrote the poem about and why the situation moved them to the write the poem.  Karin mentioned, “I like to provide context for each poem.”  She also mentioned that readers often tell her how much it means to them to understand the stories behind the poems. 

One poem was written by a woman who met her current husband after her children suggested she meet their friend’s dad.  He had also just lost his spouse to cancer.  They met to talk, eventually fell in love, and now have been married many years.  One poem included in the second volume was written by a five year old boy about his mother’s breast cancer. 

Many poems included have been written by people who have never written poetry until a cancer diagnosis of their own or a loved one.  Karin states, “It’s so exciting to call someone and let them know they’re going to be a published poet.”  A few poets have gone on to get publishing contracts or be featured on Garrison Keillor’s A Writer’s Almanac. 

You can help spread the word about this collection of poems by buying a copy for yourself or in memory of a loved one.  You can also have a copy sent to a favorite clinic, hospital, physician, or nurse.  Poetry offers a great addition to the lobbies and waiting rooms of hospitals.  Reading the poems in this book helps people feel not so alone during their diagnosis, treatment, and recovery.  Readers, even those who have never read poetry, are sometimes surprised to find poems that resonate so well. 

You can learn more and purchase the current book, The Cancer Poetry Project, on their website,  You can also purchase the book on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  You can also connect with The Cancer Poetry Project on Twitter and Facebook.

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Posted by on October 25, 2012 in Other


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Cookie Cart

Cookie Cart

A while back today’s organization visited my workplace to sell cookies.  The cookies were delicious, but had no impact on my desire to write about this great organization.

Cookie Cart began in the early 1980s as an extension of Mercy Missionaries when Sister Jean Thurerauf recognized the need to get youth off the streets of North Minneapolis.  She wanted to keep the youth away from crime and engage them in creative, educational, and empowering activities.  Sister Jean reached out to youth in the neighborhood to invite them into her home for help with schoolwork and to learn to bake cookies.  Word spread quickly of her generosity and commitment to the local community and before long her home no longer accommodated the growing number of young people and the large number of cookies they baked.  Supporters of her efforts stepped in to answer the call for the growth of the project.  They furnished a pushcart to allow the youth to begin selling their cookies throughout the North Minneapolis community.  In 1988, Cookie Cart registered as a 501c3 nonprofit and moved its operations to a bakery on Emerson Avenue North.  In 1996, they moved again to their current location at 1119 West Broadway Avenue in the heart of North Minneapolis.

The organization’s mission is to provide teens with lasting and meaningful work, life, and leadership skills through experience and training in an urban nonprofit bakery.  For over 23 years, Cookie Cart has helped thousands of youth build the foundation to become successful employees and attain their life goals.  They are the largest year-round employer of teenagers aged 15-18 on the north side of Minneapolis.

The organization has several programs:

  • The Bakery Program offers hands-on job training in a nonprofit bakery.  The young people in the program prepare, package, decorate, and sell cookies while learning basic employment skills.
  • The 360 Degree Program, is an advanced work readiness program that builds upon the bakery experience and prepares youth to transition to jobs in the mainstream workforce.  In this program, participants work in small groups and one-on-one with adult staff to identify areas of interest for potential careers.  They prepare resumes and cover letters, learn about job search tools, and practice interview skills.
  • The Customer Service Training Program allows youth employees to learn the concepts and skills required to provide positive service to customers.  The core to this training is interpersonal communication skills.
  • The National Career Readiness Certificate Program (NCRC) is an assessment and certification issued by ACT that measures skills that employers believe are essential to job success.  These skills include applied mathematics, reading for information and locating information.  This nationally recognized credential indicates that the individual has the foundational skills necessary to be a successful employee.

In 2011, Cookie Cart hired and trained 120 youth to work the equicalent of over 15,000 training hours.  This exceeded their annual goal by 18%.  They also provided customer service training to 47 youth employees and conducted 49 sales and promotional events to give youth employees opportunities to hone their skills.  In addition, they educated 61 youth through the 360 degree program.

How can you help?

Cookie Cart has a variety of volunteering opportunities for both individuals and groups.  Please contact If Meggie McCauley at or 612-521-0855 x 112 if you are interested in volunteer opportunities with the Cookie Cart.

  • You can assist with cookie production by scooping dough, decorating, and assembling bakery boxes with the youth in the program.
  • You can also use your skills and knowledge to assist the youth employees identify areas of interest and potential careers.  You can help them prepare resumes, cover letters, and learn about job search tools and interviewing skills.  Your assistance will help the youth gain a better understanding of the workforce.
  •  Cookie Cart also allows you to customize your volunteer experience by providing youth with more insights into your expertise.  This may be a corporate tour, personalized workshop, or an interactive field trip.  They would love to hear your ideas to help give their youth a well-rounded experience.
  • You can also donate through, order cookies through their website, or visit their retail bakery.

You can learn more about the Cookie Cart organization on their website,  You can also connect with them on Facebook and Twitter.

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Posted by on October 23, 2012 in Nonprofit Organization


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