The First Four Minutes

Save A Woman - Save The World!

Dr Phil recommends that every couple spend the first four minutes of their day being kind to each other.  He promises that if you take that first four minutes of every day and make it special you will have a long and happy marriage. 

We have a new delivery driver and he comes from a challenging background.  His family never had much money when he was a kid and his father and mother were both alcoholics – not the funny kind either.  They both went through bouts of substance abuse and each of them spent some time in prison.  They have both remarried a couple of times – to pretty much the same person they left – only changing names but not situations.  He has several siblings – and even more step siblings – all of whom either have or are currently serving prison sentences as a result of learning early…

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JDSA Get’s ‘Dirty’ For March of Dimes

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Team Muddy Vision Serves One Up!

Since 1992 thousands of volunteers across the country have been jumping into mud and stepping up to raise money for the March of Dimes Mudd Volleyball Challenge!  The extra ‘d” stands for dirty, by the way.

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Our First Win!

This year, more than 160 teams and 2,500 folks from Orlando to Albuquerque got their hands, hair, ears, shirts and shoes muddy!  Each volunteering their time to help improve the health of babies everywhere by preventing birth defects, infant mortality and premature birth.  Nearly $200,000 is raised each year to fund research programs and raise awareness for educational programs.  All in an effort to save babies!

JDSA's team - Muddy Vision!

And…………………GO!

This is the third year we’ve participated in the event.  The first, however, as JDSA!  Team Muddy Vision, as we called ourselves, not only raised some money for March of Dimes, but we even managed to win a few games.  Two, to be precise.  Which is two more than we’ve won in all three years combined.  We had a little trouble against Mudtown Abbey and This Mudd’s For You!  But we did squeak past Serves You Right! and Splash Mob!

Every day, babies are born fighting for their lives, and every day March of Dimes helps them win!

Check out marchofdimes.com to find out how you can Just DO Something…Anything!

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Just Splashing Something…Anything!

Confessions of A Fanatic Listmaker

I don’t know why this blog grabbed me the way it did. Maybe it’s because my Bucket List is still active. I’m always changing it, but I don’t have the heart to actually delete it. But now…well, Irish Katie’s got me thinking. Ok, Irish. You’ve got our attention now. We’re following. What’s next???

Irish Katie

I intentionally deleted my Bucket List.

There.  I said it.  Spreadsheet Katie, list-maker Katie, has decided to live her life without a Bucket List.

*gasps!*

Now don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against Bucket Lists.  For many, it’s a way for them to set their goals.  It helps people remember some very cool things they want to do and accomplish in life.

However, I’ve been thinking on some things lately … and for myself, I have decided to do away with the Bucket List.  Part of me has been debating my personal need for one.  I wonder how I would feel if I didn’t get some of the things done on that particular list.  I wonder how I would feel if I KNEW I might never get to them.  Would I be disappointed?

I don’t think I would feel like I let myself down.  Again, it has always been…

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¿Quienes Somos?

Somos estudiantes de 3° año medio, del Colegio el Roble de Santo Domingo, V región Chile.

Nuestro proposito es defender a los animales, y escribir acerca de la penalizacion del tema.

El grupo esta conformado por Yikai, Rodrigo, Matías, Anita, Matías T.

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CNN’s Continuing Series – America’s Worst Charities

After a year-long investigation, Anderson Cooper exposes a group of charities who’ve been ripping off donors for years. Thanks to CNN, the Tampa Bay Times, and the Center for Investigative Reporting for such AMAZING work!

America’s Worst Charities – From CNN & the Tampa Bay Times

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A year-long investigation by the Tampa Bay Times and the Center for Investigative Reporting ranks these U.S. charities as the five worst, based on money blown on soliciting costs, according to the latest 10 years of available tax filings. Click through the gallery for more details.

Editor’s note: CNN has partnered with the Tampa Bay Times and the Center for Investigative Reporting to showcase the results of their year-long investigation to identify America’s worst charities.

(CNN) — The worst charity in America operates from a metal warehouse behind a gas station in Holiday, Florida.

Every year, Kids Wish Network raises millions of dollars in donations in the name of dying children and their families.

Every year, it spends less than 3 cents on the dollar helping kids.

Most of the rest gets diverted to enrich the charity’s operators and the for-profit companies Kids Wish hires to drum up donations.

In the past decade alone, Kids Wish has channeled nearly $110 million donated for sick children to its corporate solicitors. An additional $4.8 million has gone to pay the charity’s founder and his own consulting firms.

No charity in the nation has siphoned more money away from the needy over a longer period of time.

But Kids Wish is not an isolated case, a yearlong investigation by the Tampa Bay Times and The Center for Investigative Reporting has found.

Using state and federal records, the Times and CIR identified nearly 6,000 charities that have chosen to pay for-profit companies to raise their donations.

Then reporters took an unprecedented look back to zero in on the 50 worst – based on the money they diverted to boiler room operators and other solicitors over a decade.

America’s 50 worst charities

These nonprofits adopt popular causes or mimic well-known charity names that fool donors. Then they rake in cash, year after year.

The nation’s 50 worst charities have paid their solicitors nearly $1 billion over the past 10 years that could have gone to charitable works.

Until today, no one had tallied the cost of this parasitic segment of the nonprofit industry or traced the long history of its worst offenders.

Among the findings:

— The 50 worst charities in America devote less than 4% of donations raised to direct cash aid. Some charities gave even less. Over a decade, one diabetes charity raised nearly $14 million and gave about $10,000 to patients. Six spent no cash at all on their cause.

— Even as they plead for financial support, operators at many of the 50 worst charities have lied to donors about where their money goes, taken multiple salaries, secretly paid themselves consulting fees or arranged fund-raising contracts with friends. One cancer charity paid a company owned by the president’s son nearly $18 million over eight years to solicit funds. A medical charity paid its biggest research grant to its president’s own for-profit company.

— Some nonprofits are little more than fronts for fund-raising companies, which bankroll their startup costs, lock them into exclusive contracts at exorbitant rates and even drive the charities into debt. Florida-based Project Cure has raised more than $65 million since 1998, but every year has wound up owing its fundraiser more than what was raised. According to its latest financial filing, the nonprofit is $3 million in debt.

— To disguise the meager amount of money that reaches those in need, charities use accounting tricks and inflate the value of donated dollar-store cast-offs – snack cakes and air fresheners – that they give to dying cancer patients and homeless veterans.

Over the past six months, the Times and CIR called or mailed certified letters to the leaders of Kids Wish Network and the 49 other charities that have paid the most to solicitors.

Most declined to answer questions about their programs or would speak only through an attorney.

Approached in person, one charity manager threatened to call the police; another refused to open the door. A third charity’s president took off in his truck at the sight of a reporter with a camera.

Kids Wish has hired Melissa Schwartz, a crisis management specialist in New York City who previously worked for the federal government after the 2010 BP oil spill.

Schwartz said Kids Wish hires solicitors so its staff can focus on working with children, not on raising donations. According to its 2011 IRS filing, the charity has 51 employees. Schwartz also said donors who give directly to the charity instead of in response to solicitations ensure that 100% of their pledge will be spent granting wishes.

She declined to answer additional questions about Kids Wish’s fund-raising operations, saying the charity “is focused on the future.”

Charity operators who would talk defended their work, saying raising money is expensive especially in tough economic times.

“No parent has ever turned me down for assistance because we got our money from a telemarketer,” said David Thelen, who runs the Committee for Missing Children in Lawrenceville, Georgia. The charity is No. 13 on the Times/CIR list.

Identifying the 50 worst

To identify America’s 50 worst charities, the Times and CIR pieced together tens of thousands of pages of public records collected by the federal government and 36 states. Reporters started in California, Florida and New York, where regulators require charities to report results of individual fund-raising campaigns.

The Times and CIR used those records to flag a specific kind of charity: those that pay for-profit corporations to raise the vast majority of their donations year in and year out.

Search for charities that have been disciplined

The effort identified hundreds of charities that run donation drives across the country and regularly give their solicitors at least two-thirds of the take. Experts say good charities should spend about half that much – no more than 35 cents to raise a dollar.

For the worst charities, writing big checks to telemarketers isn’t an anomaly. It’s a way of life.

The Times and CIR charted each charity’s performance over the past decade and ranked them based on the total donations diverted to fundraisers, arriving at the 50 worst charities. By this measure, Kids Wish tops the list.

Tracking donations diverted to fund-raising is just one way to rate a charity’s performance. But experts called the rating fair and said it would provide a unique resource to help donors avoid bad charities.

Doug White, one of the nation’s foremost experts on the ethics of charity fund-raising, dismisses the argument made by charities that without telemarketers they would have no money.

“When you weigh that in terms of values, of what the charity is supposed to be doing and what the donor is being told in the process, the house comes tumbling down,” said White, who teaches in Columbia University’s fund-raising management master’s degree program.

Share your tips on suspicious charities

Collectively the 50 worst charities raised more than $1.3 billion over the past decade and paid nearly $1 billion of that directly to the companies that raise their donations.

If that money had gone to charity, it would have been enough to build 20,000 Habitat for Humanity homes, buy 7 million wheelchairs or pay for mammograms for nearly 10 million uninsured women.

Instead it funded charities like Youth Development Fund.

The Tennessee charity, which came in at No. 12, has been around for 30 years. Over the past decade it has raised nearly $30 million from donors by promising to educate children about drug abuse, health and fitness.

About 80% of what’s donated each year goes directly to solicitation companies.

Most of what’s left pays for one thing: scuba-diving videos starring the charity’s founder and president, Rick Bowen.

Bowen’s charity pays his own for-profit production company about $200,000 a year to make the videos. Then the charity pays to air Rick Bowen Deep-Sea Diving on a local Knoxville station. The program makes no mention of Youth Development Fund.

In its IRS tax filings, the charity reports that its programming reaches “an estimated audience of 1.3 million.”

But, according to the station manager, the show attracts about 3,600 viewers a week.

Bowen, who runs the charity out of his Knoxville condo, declined to be interviewed. He defended the practice of hiring his own company with the public’s donations.

“We just happened to be the low bidder,” he said.

Good vs. bad charities

America’s worst charities look nothing like Habitat for Humanity, Boys and Girls Clubs or thousands of other charities, large and small, that are dedicated to helping the sick and needy.

Key questions to ask someone requesting a charitable donation: 

• What is the full name of the charity? 

• Do you work for a paid fundraiser? 

• How much of my donation actually goes to charity? 

• Will any local programs directly benefit? If so, how? 

• What is the website address of the charity?

Well-run charities rely on their own staff to raise money from a variety of sources. They spend most of their donations on easy-to-verify activities, whether it’s running soup kitchens, supporting cancer research, raising awareness about drunken driving or building homes for veterans.

The Times/CIR list of worst charities, meanwhile, is littered with organizations that exhibit red flags for fraud, waste and mismanagement.

Thirty-nine have been disciplined by state regulators, some as many as seven times.

Eight of the charities have been banned in at least one state.

One was shut down by regulators but reopened under a new name.

A third of the charities’ founders and executives have put relatives on the payroll or the board of directors.

How states failed to regulate charity scams

For eight years, American Breast Cancer Foundation paid Joseph Wolf’s telemarketing company to generate donations.

His mother, Phyllis Wolf, had founded the Baltimore-based charity and was its president until she was forced to resign in 2010.

While she ran the charity, her son’s company, Non Profit Promotions, collected $18 million in telemarketing fees.

Phyllis Wolf left the charity after the payments to her son attracted media attention in 2010. The charity has since stopped using telemarketers, including Joseph Wolf’s.

Phyllis and Joseph Wolf did not respond to several calls seeking comment.

How to help: CNN’s Impact Your World

The nation’s worst charities are large and small. Some are one-person outfits operating from run-down apartments. Others claim hundreds of employees and a half-dozen locations around the country. One lists a UPS mail box as its headquarters address.

Several play off the names of well-known organizations, confusing donors.

Among those on the Times/CIR list are Kids Wish Network, Children’s Wish Foundation International and Wishing Well Foundation. All of the names sound like the original, Make-A-Wish, which does not hire professional telemarketers.

Make-A-Wish officials say they’ve spent years fielding complaints from people who were solicited by sound-a-like charities.

“While some of the donations go elsewhere, all the bad public relations that comes with telemarketing seems to come to us,” said Make-A-Wish spokesman Paul Allvin.

Donors who answer calls from the 50 worst charities hear professionally honed messages, designed to leverage popular causes and hide one crucial fact: Almost nothing goes to charity.

When telemarketers for Kids Wish call potential donors, they open with a name you think you’ve heard before.

Then they ask potential donors to “imagine the heartbreak of losing a child to a terminal illness,” according to scripts filed with North Carolina regulators in 2010.

Kids Wish, the callers say, wants to fulfill their wishes “while they are still healthy enough to enjoy them.”

They leave out the fact that most of the charity’s good deeds involve handing out gift cards to hospitalized children and donated coloring books and board games to healthy kids around the country. And they don’t mention the millions of dollars spent on salaries and fund-raising every year.

The biggest difference between good charities and the nation’s worst is the bottom line.

Every charity has salary, overhead and fund-raising costs.

But several watchdog organizations say charities should spend no more than 35% of the money they raise on fund-raising expenses.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation of Central and North Florida is one of dozens of Make-A-Wish chapters across the country.

Last year, it reported raising $3.1 million cash and spent about 60% of that — $1.8 million — granting wishes.

The same year, Kids Wish raised $18.6 million, its tax filing shows. It spent just $240,000 granting wishes — 1% of the cash raised.

 

 

Reprinted with permission of Tampa Bay Times, Inc. and Center for Investigative Reporting.

The Ugliness of Human Trafficking

We spent the day with Anna Rodriguez – the founder and Executive Director of the Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking. She explained the importance of funding and continuing education for one of the world’s fastest growing crimes – Modern Day Slavery. Here’s her story…

Free Heart Screenings Are Saving Lives

Each year thousands of healthy kids suffer sudden cardiac arrest and death due to heart conditions that have gone undetected. Many have no prior history of heart disease and are stricken without warning. The real tragedy is that many of these deaths could have been prevented with a quick, affordable, safe, non-invasive and painless test known as an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG).

To help prevent disabilities and death from sudden cardiac arrest, Saving Young Hearts provides free heart screenings that can detect risk factors and conditions associated with sudden cardiac arrest. The heart screenings include a heart health questionnaire, blood pressure reading, heart sound check, electrocardiogram and in some cases, a limited echocardiogram. The results are reviewed by board certified cardiologists.

Social Discussion spent the day with the Saving Young Hearts volunteers at one of their free heart screenings at Timber Creek High School in Orlando, Florida.

Interested in future heart screening events? Please visit the Saving Young Hearts website: http://savingyounghearts.org

Gay Athlete in the NBA? Yea…It’s a BIG Deal!

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I’m not really into sports. By birth I’m a Cardinal’s fan. St. Louis bequeaths that to anyone born within a twenty-mile radius of Busch Stadium. Growing up, I played soccer and tennis, and was a better-than-average baseball player. So much so, I tried out for the Cardinals when I was 17. I’m a writer today, so that tells you just how well that whole “baseball thing” turned out for me.

The fact I don’t play fantasy sports, or lose my mind when my team doesn’t win, doesn’t mean I’m bitter about not having played in the major leagues. I’m more than alright with having never stared down a 90 mph fastball. Life moves fast enough for me these days. I do find occasional enjoyment in sports. Mostly, it’s by reading about the abysmal performances of over-paid athletes. Athletes, who promise a salivating fan-base their intentions are always driven by “love of the game” as opposed to monetary gain. Tiger falling apart on the back-nine will keep me glued to an otherwise stodgy game of golf. And I always feel a bit of satisfaction when I see how poorly Albert Pujols is performing in an Angel’s uniform. I’ve never met Mr. Pujols. I hear he’s a nice guy. But since he left St. Louis for the west coast, as a Cardinal’s fan, I think I’m supposed to dislike him. Maybe just a little bit.

Even with my lack of athletic knowledge, I recognize when a sports figure lands on the front page of the news cycle something important just happened. More often than not, the player in question just died in a tragic accident, or signed another contract that would double the GDP of most countries. But a few weeks ago a sports figure caused some “breaking news” and it had nothing to do with money or police involvement. The story was about a basketball player who decided to come out as a gay man.

I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.” writes Jason Collins in an article for Sports Illustrated. And with those words, Collins shook up the world of sports and popular culture. That admission makes him the first male athlete in the history of American sports to come out while still being an active player. And while many wondered why this was even news…I wondered why it took so long. 

I think the answer can be found in some of the backlash Collins has received.

Chris Broussard, an ESPN analyst from Outside the Lines was outside the lines of sanity after telling an interviewer Collins can’t be a “real Christian” because of his sexual orientation. To Broussard’s credit, he recently wrote that the NBA is “ready” for the first out player. But in that same essay, he said he’d be, “a little uncomfortable” to shower with a gay teammate.

A guy from Nebraska, on an NPR call-in show, brought up the issue of gay athletes in the shower, too. Claiming he, “wouldn’t feel comfortable showering next to a gay man, either.”

Why is it when a straight person talks about a gay athlete the conversation always comes back to the shower? And why is it they always assume that person would look at them? A little optimistic, I’d say. Couldn’t they just be looking for the shampoo?

Leroy Butler, formerly of the Green Bay Packers, tweeted four little words, “Congrats to Jason Collins.” And that Tweet cost him an $8,500 speaking engagement at a Wisconsin church. The church, telling him he was in violation of the “moral clause” in their contract.

While some may vilify Jason Collins for his coming out. I welcome it. And as a straight man, I have no problem welcoming it with open arms. Minnesota Vikings punter, Chris Kluwe did. He’s been an outspoken proponent of gay rights for sometime now. Kobe Bryant supported Jason Collins. So did Bill Clinton and President Obama.

But cyberspace and the locker room are two very different places. Jason Collins knows this. He also knows that silence is a holdout against progress. Minorities have always had to fight for equality. Women’s suffrage and Civil Rights. But we have a black president now. And women can not only vote, they continue to shatter glass ceilings while stomping on the shards. And we are all better off because of it.

Don’t like any of this? That’s ok. There’s a bubble you can escape to to shield yourself from the uncomfortable prejudice that justifies your existence. It’s called your home. But I have to warn you, gay people are everywhere. It’s not just fashion designers and Hollywood actors.  It’s everyday people in every sector of our population.  Maybe…just maybe…there might be one living next door to you.  But don’t worry.  They have their own showers.  

I read…it MUST have been in a GOP publication of some kind…that homosexuals not only have suggestive mind control over heterosexuals in warm shower water, they also produce a highly sophisticated telekinetic hypnotic power that changes ones musical tastes. That’s how they get you, you know. They start with Cher – harmless and innocent. Then it’s on to the Village People and Barry Manilow. Once you’ve memorized the moves to YMCA and the lyrics to Oh, Mandy, there’s no turning back. You may as well just get that mani-pedi, curl up in a papasan with a good book, and learn to knit.

So was it justifiable for the media to have lavished such attention on Jason Collins for merely being gay? Yes. Absolutely. Why? Because this story goes beyond the basketball court. Being the first male athlete to come out as a gay man isn’t something that should be relegated to a Trivial Pursuit question. It’s a big, damn deal. Because somewhere, in some town, there’s some kid who’s not only gay, but has more athletic talent than I ever had. And he’s watching what’s happening with all of this. Wondering if the proponents are right…that is does, really get better. I may not know much about sports. But I do know Jason Collins is saying to that kid – and others like him – that it does. And that just saved some lives.

A Birthday for a Blind Girl Who Barely Moves

A sweet story about children with disabilities and Found Sound.

JustWaitAndSee

Sarah has her birthday parties planned until she is 7 years old. This year, she planned bowling, next year when she’s six, she wants her party at school. And when she turns 7, she’s planned a craft party at Michael’s in their special birthday room. Easy. What do I do for Catherine, though, who is blind and can barely move?

Planning parties for Catherine is tough. I want them to be relevant to her and fun for her, and that’s hard to know. I always have to manage Brian’s question of “Why are we doing this again?” And I’m left to wonder, “Who do we invite?” Mostly, though, I struggle with figuring out how to make it relevant and enjoyable for her. I succeeded in that when she turned 3 and we had a pool party and rented the therapy pool at Severna Park Community Center. They did an…

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