7 Kids' Charities That Make It Easy to Give Back This Season
Are you generous with your time and money? If you're like most Americans, you probably are.
According to a recent report by the Charities Aid Foundation, 61 percent of Americans said they volunteered or made financial contributions to a charity organization last year. Overall, that made the U.S. the second most generous nation in a global survey involving 145 countries (Myanmar came out on top with 66 percent of charitable residents).
But with the holiday season in full swing, it can be tough to find the time to not only identify new charities but to actually organize your giving. To help you out, we've pulled together a list of organizations that support kids both across the ocean and in your own backyard. And some are even creating innovative ways for you to assist in their mission.
Didn't think your foodie Instagrams could make a difference? Want your holiday shopping to do good? These groups make it possible to incorporate charitable giving at whatever level that works for you.
Help At-Risk South African Kids Get Healthy Meals
Charity: The Lunchbox Fund
The Mission: To teach South African schoolchildren about healthy eating by providing a rotating menu of nutritionally fortified foods. The organization's secondary focus is female empowerment, and it employs previously out-of-work women from local communities to help prepare and serve the food.
The Impact: Simply put, when kids are well fed, they have more energy and are better able to focus on other things -- including their schoolwork -- enabling them to create new lives for themselves.
"We've seen children who rely on The Lunchbox Fund as their sole food supply experience major academic success," says Sophie Barnett, the organization's digital coordinator. "A recent program graduate completed high school with honors and matriculated to college on a full engineering scholarship."
The Lunchbox Fund launched 10 years ago, and in 2015 it provided 2.6 million meals to children in early childhood development centers, primary and secondary schools, and after-school homework assistance programs in townships and rural areas across South Africa.
"The program now feeds 13,000 children per day," Barnett says. "Our current goal is to reach 50,000 children by 2017."
How You Can Help: Because meals are only 25 cents each with 100 percent of proceeds going toward the mission, each of your donated dollars provides four meals for a child in need.
You can donate money through their site, and use social media to support the cause. Using the organization's app, Feedie, you can take a picture of your meal at a participating restaurant across the U.S., Europe, Asia and South Africa, and the eatery will donate a meal to a child via The Lunchbox Fund.
Now that's a "foodstagram" you can feel good about.
Help Find a Cure for Childhood Cancer
Charity:Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation
The Mission: To raise funds and awareness for childhood cancer research and empower people -- especially kids -- to make a difference.
Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation began in 2000 when 4-year-old Alex Scott, a cancer patient, wanted to create a lemonade stand to raise money and help find a cure for all children with cancer. Although Scott died in 2004, the project grew and continues to help children nationwide today.
The Impact: The organization raises money to help fuel cancer research and has given more than 500 research grants to over 100 organizations. One child who benefited directly from the organization is Zach Witt, who had an aggressive type of cancer that didn't respond to chemotherapy. After receiving treatment partially funded by an ALSF research project, doctors found the medication that helped Zach become cancer-free.
"Within two days, he was up and running around the hospital," says Elizabeth Romaine, the foundation's director of communications and PR. "In the last several months, he's been able to return to a normal childhood -- he's even playing baseball."
How You Can Help: The idea is simple: Support in any way you can.
You can follow Alex's example and host a lemonade stand to raise money. Or, If you're athletically inclined, you can join Alex's Million Mile, where people walk, run or bike to help reach the goal of a million miles traveled in the name of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in September.
Want to think -- and raise money -- outside the box? Romaine encourages it.
"There's an attorney in New Jersey who calls himself 'The Caveman' -- for one full calendar year, he won't shave or cut his hair," she says. "He started in January, and so far he's raised just under $5,000. He's creating a visual reason to have the conversation."
Help Kids, Parents and Teachers Use Technology to Succeed in School
The Mission: To enable students in grades K-12 to thrive by offering special websites, videos, games, mobile devices and laptops for academic exploration. The goal is to leverage tech to improve interactions between students, teachers and parents, and increase engagement and learning.
The Impact: The nonprofit's free online platform, PowerMyLearning Connect, helps drive personalized instruction and self-directed learning, complete with fun games and activities.
"We now have registered users from more than 40 percent of U.S. public schools, a figure that's tripled over the past two years," says CEO and co-founder Elisabeth Stock. "Teachers and parents continue to be the individuals who have the greatest impact on a child's academic success, and using technology to make them more effective is our secret sauce."
How You Can Help: Financial gifts are always welcome, but you can also donate new or used laptops to the program.
"We launched our #BelieveInFamilies campaign so more low-income families can support learning at home using the transformative power of technology," Stock explains. "We've already served more than 60,000 families in high-poverty communities, and we hope this campaign will help us bring in enough financial support to reach another 5,000 families in 2016."
Give New Shoes to Kids Who Need Them
Charity:Shoes That Fit
The Mission: To help children attend school in comfort -- and with dignity -- by giving them shoes to wear.
The Impact: Since its humble beginnings in 1992, the organization has reached 1.4 million children around the country.
"Last year we helped more than 90,000 kids in more than 2,000 schools and 46 states and D.C. -- all with one office in California and about six staff members," says Lee Kane, the charity's program manager.
How You Can Help: Shoes That Fit recently kicked off its holiday campaign to provide 20,000 pairs of new athletic shoes to schoolchildren this winter. Through Dec. 24, supporters can purchase a $10 giving card from their local Nordstrom or Nordstrom Rack, which will go toward buying a pair of sneakers for a child in need.
And if you want to go beyond a cash donation, Kane notes that supporters can replicate the program in their own community on a smaller scale. "We help match groups with nearby schools, and they go out and buy shoes directly for those students," Kane says.
Feed America's Hungry Children
Charity:No Kid Hungry
The Mission: To end childhood hunger across the country by making sure all kids get nutritious food.
The Impact: One in five children in the U.S. struggles with hunger. Share Our Strength's No Kid Hungry initiative, which began in 2006, is tackling that problem in many ways, like connecting kids with programs that provide breakfast at school and summer meals.
"We want to make breakfast part of the school day," explains Clay Dunn, the program's interim chief communications and brand officer. "In the past, kids who wanted breakfast would have to arrive at school early, and there was a stigma attached -- the 'poor kids' were going to the cafeteria."
Now breakfast is served directly in the classroom, and all the kids eat together.
The Los Angeles Unified School District, which is the second largest in the country, recently finished its three-year rollout of the program, and breakfast is now available to every kid in the school system. The East Coast is up next.
"Earlier this year we got a commitment from New York City to offer breakfast to every elementary school student over the course of next year," Dunn says.
How You Can Help: You can donate online, and for every $1 you give, No Kid Hungry can offer as many as 10 meals to children.
And if you're feeling political, you can take things to the next level. The organization is currently lobbying Congress to change the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act, which governs most child nutrition programs like school breakfast, lunch and summer meals. Their hope is to increase children's access to nutritious food even when school is not in session.
Help Kids Whose Parents Are Deployed With the National Guard or Reserves
Charity:Our Military Kids
The Mission: To provide grants for sports, fine arts and tutoring to the children of deployed or severely injured National Guard and Military Reserve members.
The Impact: While the organization has been helping military children for 11 years, this past one has been especially successful. "Through October we've been able to give out more than 3,000 grants and more than $1.2 million," says AnnaMaria Gallozzi, the charity's communications associate. "We've seen an increase in dance, martial arts and gymnastics grants allowing children to be active in their communities."
Not only do the children get to participate in enriching activities, but the organization's annual survey found that 92 percent of families saw an improvement on the child's stress and anxiety.
How You Can Help: With 93 percent of each donation going directly to help a child in need, a financial contribution made to Our Military Kids can go a long way.
And if you're looking to do extra good while holiday shopping, sign up on Amazon Smile to donate a percentage of what you spend to Our Military Kids. You can also donate via eBay for Charity, which lets sellers donate a portion of their sales, and buyers support the organization by shopping.
Bring Playgrounds and Activities to Kids Everywhere
The Mission: To make sure children can participate in active play wherever they are -- especially if they're in underserved areas. Best known for building playgrounds, KaBOOM! also focuses on creating opportunities for kids to "play along the way" -- like adding a hopscotch outline at a bus stop, for example.
The Impact: Since its launch in 1996, KaBOOM! has built more than 2,700 playgrounds across the country, including three new playgrounds in Baltimore as part of its Play More B'More initiative this past October. "We want to help bring back hope and pride in communities there," explains Amy Levner, the program's vice president of communications and marketing.
In 2015, with the help of thousands of volunteers and donors, they've created new play opportunities for more than 1 million kids.
How You Can Help: Of course one easy way is to donate money to help support their efforts around the country. But to really up the ante, consider setting up a donation party, or ask that friends donate to the cause in lieu of getting a gift. "We also love to get community help and support on playground builds," Levner says.