As many of my readers know, I have been very active in the Greater Washington, DC community since shortly after 9/11 when I made a commitment to give back. I started as a simple volunteer through DC Cares volunteering with the Sierra Club’s Inner City Outings, Washington Home and Hospice, Habitat for Humanity, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and others. I got very involved with the Wake Forest Alumni Club as President, The Corcoran Gallery of Art’s 1869 Society as Chair, and joined Junior League of Washington and headed up their happy hours for the Esprit committee. In 2004, I ran for Woman of the Year for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and came in 2nd Runner Up.
In addition to working with existing nonprofits and fundraisers, I got entrepreneurial and started Blondes vs. Brunettes for the Alzheimer’s Association here in Washington, which Sara Allen Abbott and Ryan Triplette have grown into a national fundraiser which is hosted in cities across the United States. Keri Ann Meslar, Jennifer Doherty Faust and I founded The Courage Cup from an annual event that NY State Assemblyman Greg Ball had been running with Tareq Salahi. And in early August 2007, I reached out to the Washington Humane Society and offered to put together a fashion show fundraiser to raise some money for them. We secured the Embassy of France, selected the name “Fashion for Paws”, selected the logo, and got my friends involved. In October of 2007, Tara de Nicolas was hired by WHS to do their PR and Communications, and later took over the planning of the event which now raises $300,000 annually for WHS. I have been served on the Host Committee heading up the silent auction and PR for the American Red Cross’ Oscar Night DC for the past several years, and was Team Coordinator for Katie Rost’s Woman of the Year Campaign for the Leukemia
My point is that I have done a LOT. I’ll be honest it’s draining when it’s combined with a full time job, yet so worth it. I feel my participation in all these organizations has distracted me from The Courage Cup, which is now doing business as Courage for Kids. It’s the one nonprofit that has been both the biggest blessing and the biggest curse to me over the past five years. I’ve gone through so much through this experience — good, bad and very ugly, but I have learned a great deal. It hasn’t been as successful as Blondes vs. Brunettes, or Fashion for Paws, but it’s also faced different challenges.
I’m tenacious and feel that I’ve been called to use this nonprofit to help kids which has meant the most to me after all the charity work I’ve done. Originally, we were supporting the great nonprofit Work to Ride in Philadelphia, but I want to help kids locally and do hands on work with the kids. Perhaps it’s because I have no children of my own, and this is my way to use my maternal instinct. I plan to set aside all other charity projects and focus on running Courage for Kids, which I am making about giving back to disadvantaged kids — at-risk children, homeless children, and children struggling with medical problems.
One cause I’ve always wanted to help is Operation Smile. Having been in a car accident at age 7, and being hospitalized for two months, I know first hand how horrible it is to be disfigured and to have other kids pick on you. I look forward to working with them as they help children who are born with a severe cleft condition, and who are often unable to eat, speak, socialize or smile. I know how transformative reconstruction of my lip was for me, and want to help kids in a similar situation. I remember seeing myself in the mirror for the first time after my accident, and telling myself that one day I would be pretty. When asked to participate in the photo shoot for Vogue’s September issue, I made a commitment to myself to finally find a way to work with Operation Smile. I also know how scary and lonely a hospital can be for a child. My nonprofit has already been working with Children’s Hospital to stock their Dr. Bear’s Closet with special toys and books for kids in their hospital, but I have reached out to get Courage for Kids involved with Operation Smile.
One project we have been working on is our GIVE BACK-pack initiative which provides a backpack filled with school supplies, books, school clothes, and even their very own Build-a-Bear for every child graduating from Bright Beginnings, a preschool and family assistance center for the homeless. Former President of the Junior League of Washington, Constance Christakos has played a huge role in helping us to connect with Bright Beginnings and their CEO, Lisa Mould. This year, Courage for Kids is partnering with Bright Beginnings Child Development Center, a child and family development center located right in the heart of Washington, D.C. that offers a bright start for homeless infants, toddlers and preschoolers, and
their families. Courage for Kids plans to use their GIVE BACK-pack Initiative to send the pre-K class of Bright Beginnings to Kindergarten with school uniforms, sneakers, and backpacks filled with books and school supplies. Courage for Kids estimates that it needs $3500 to cover these costs. A generous anonymous donor has agreed to match the first $2000 in contributions at $0.50 on the dollar to Courage for Kids, which has more than half of the total project cost already committed, and just needs community support to contribute to the last piece.
If you don’t have any children and would like to help send a child in need to kindergarten this fall, please consider making a donation online, or contact me if you would like to donate in-kind. We will arrange for pick up of items, and will have an event soon where you can drop off items.
- $200 - Sends a homeless child to kindergarten with a school uniform, sneakers, and a back pack filled with school supplies and books
- $150 – Clothes a homeless child in school uniform and sneakers
- $50 – Fills a back pack with books and school supplies to inspire and enrich a homeless child’s life.
COURAGE FOR KIDS ACCEPTS THE FOLLOWING IN-KIND DONATIONS:
- washable markers
- glue sticks
- pencil sharpener with cap for shavings
- safety scissors
- children’s books
- colored pencils
- spiral bound notebooks
- coloring books
- construction paper
- Kleenex packs
- hand sanitizer