Thursday, January 31, 2013

How to help your little one make a BIG difference!

It's RELAY SEASON!  In our house, Relay Season falls from January 1st, through mid April- and we literally celebrate it like it is a holiday.  Except, Relay season is better than a holiday, because instead of GETTING- we spend it giving, and raising money to make other people's lives better!  The best part about this time of year for me is seeing how passionate Wes (who is 6) gets about fighting back against cancer.  Being a parent of a little philanthropist takes a lot of creativity.  Mainly, because it is important to teach them that they can do SO MUCH, with the skills and the tools that they have available!  Teaching kids to do good things like volunteering and paying it forward at a young age (and making it fun!) will help them learn that doing good as an adult is NOT a chore, but something that makes you feel wonderful!

Now, not to toot my own horn or anything- but I like to consider myself the guru of teaching kids to have fun while fundraising and giving. Today, I want to share my best tips and ideas for  making fundraising for any event or charity a fun thing for kids!

But first- let me tell you about the amazing benefits of having a child that learns to give at a young age.  Did you know that children who are taught to help others at a young age become more resilient adults?  Why?  Because, they learn that they are not the only ones with problems, and they can bounce back easier from whatever is thrown their way! Volunteering teaches children about passion, and responsibility, and helps them learn to be thankful for what they have.  And, according to a recent study by World Volunteer Web “youth who volunteer are less likely to engage in risky behavior, are more likely to feel connected to their communities, and tend to do better in school.”

Now, in my opinion- leading by example is the key to success.  So, find something that you can all get excited and passionate about.  It makes the experience that much more amazing!  If you are not already volunteering or fundraising- here are a few reasons why YOU should do it from The John Tesh Blog!
  • First: You’ll live longer. Researchers at the University of Michigan tracked over 1,200 seniors for a decade. The result: Those who volunteered on a regular basis were 40-percent more likely to be alive at the end of the study. That’s because volunteering increases the levels of hormones that help cells repair themselves. 
  • The next benefit of volunteering: The “helper’s high.” Dr. Stephen Post is the author of The Hidden Gifts of Helping. And he says just thinking about doing a good deed causes your brain to release the feel-good chemical dopamine. And helping others releases so much mood-boosting serotonin that it’s just as effective as some medications at treating depression.
  • Another good reason to volunteer: You’ll feel better about yourself! In one study, people with multiple sclerosis were trained to provide compassionate support over the phone to fellow MS sufferers. The result? The helpers were more self-confident and reported higher levels of self-esteem.
  •  Finally: Helping others improves relationships. Dr. Stephanie Brown specializes in preventive medicine. And points to research on people who take care of a spouse suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. No matter how challenging things get, if there was love and caring in the relationship to begin with, the caregiver develops even stronger feelings of love and compassion for their ailing mate.
Are you pumped yet?  You should be!  Let's get on to the fun part! 

When working with kids, it is important to include them in every aspect of the fundraising or volunteering.  For us, American Cancer Society's Relay for Life is the perfect fit.  Since Wesley's Poppy died from cancer, and we know NUMEROUS survivors (and even other kids who are fighting cancer!) it is something we can do to feel like we are fighting back!  You want you child to understand WHY they are doing what they are doing- which may seem hard to do with a 5 or 6 year old.  But fear not- as a parent, you know the best way to communicate things with your kids!  Here is a GREAT example from my best friend (who's daughter, Kenzy, is my sons BFF, girlfriend- and in his mind- future wife)
Kenzy - " Momma you mean even kids could have caner"
Mel - "Yes baby even kids can have cancer"
Kenzy - "So we can give our money to all of the kids who are sick and then they will be all better"
Mel - "Do you want to do Relay for Life for kids who have cancer"
Kenzy - " UUmm I think so because kids should not have cancer"

After you talk to your child about what they want to do- get their ideas on how they want to do it!  You will be amazed at the ideas they have!  Kids love to see their ideas come to fruition, and it shows them that they truly CAN do this.

Now, if you are doing an event like Relay for Life- it is time to rally the troops, and ask your friends (and your kids friends) if they would like to join you!  Why?  Volunteering is more fun when you are doing it with the people you love!  Luckily for me, Mel, my best friend, is equally passionate about making a difference for others, and we fuel each others fires when it comes to brainstorming, and fundraising!  We joke that we should have T-shirts that should say "Warning: this momma is in RELAY mode!"  The best thing about this is our passion transfers to the kids, and they start getting REALLY excited about what we are doing together!
Wes and Kenzy working on a Relay poster together

Now, you have a plan- you are excited, and ready to make a difference!  Here are our favorite ways to raise money!

Letter Writing
Sit down with your kiddo, and have them write a letter to potential donors.  It doesn't have to be long or eloquent- just your child's words on why they want to make a difference, and how they are doing it.  Remember to be flexible, and let them have fun with it!  Draw pictures, use stickers- you name it!  Here is the mommy works smarter not harder part- make color copies of the letters, and mail them to every person you send a Christmas card to.  If you are doing Relay For Life- take the letters to your local chair, and they will send them to ACS for mailing- they will cover the postage! 

Here is an alternative method that will help with writing skills!  Mel has Kenzy write one letter a day as "homework"  (she is in kindergarten) which helps her work on sentences, spelling, and letter placement :)

If you are on facebook, instagram, or pinterest- share the letter!  You should be proud of what you are doing- and there is no shame in showing your child's amazing work off! 

It is important to me to make sure Wes properly thanks all of the donors who send him a donation online, or in the mail.  So after school each day, we have a special time where he sends thank you emails, and letters to all of the people who have helped him! 

This is by far Wesley's favorite fundraiser!  Why?  He gets to tell people about what he is doing, hug people all day, and spend time with his friends!  The great thing about selling hugs, is it is something kids can do with the resources they have- their big hearts!  Contact a local store, and find out if they would be willing to let you stand outside of their business to sell hugs.  Chad Nabors of Nabors Shoe Center is always generous about letting us do this, and even posts about it on his stores facebook page to help us get extra attention!  Tell everyone you know what you are doing- you will be amazed at how many people show up for hugs!  Let your child color a poster to hold- after all, this is THEIR big  event! 

A little something we learned doing this in previous years was that a lot of people don't carry cash.  To help this problem, I made the kids cards up on 4 by 6 photo's (which I then cut in half) so that they could hand them out to people who wanted more information, couldn't donate right then, or didn't have any cash on them.  The kids also learn a lot of great lessons while selling their hugs.  How to be polite and respectful when asking for something, saying thank you when given something, and how to deal with rejection when someone doesn't donate. 

A Date With....
Now, I have to say that I can not take credit for this next idea, but it is genius!  My friend Cheryl Smith is a Community Development Director for The American Cancer Society (or as Wes calls her- The BIG Boss of Relay).  After seeing the letter Wes wrote on facebook, she emailed me and said she would donate to Wes if he would go on a breakfast date with her!  He jumped at the idea!  Not only did he get to raise money for his goal, but he got to spend some very valuable time with someone who wanted to hear all of his ideas about raising money, and why he wanted to do it.  His date ended up lasting two hours, and he enjoyed every single minute of it!

Well friends, I just realized that I have written what is the start of a novel! HAHA!  I have so many more exciting ideas to share with you!  Stay tuned for my next post coming soon!  Remember- little kids can make a HUGE difference!  Happy fundraising! 

To find a Relay For Life event near you, please visit !


PS- if you enjoyed this post and would like to help Wes reach his goal of raising $1000 for Relay for Life, please visit Wesley's Relay page!

or to help me reach mine check out my Relay page!

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