Giving Back This Season

Ever since I not-so-long-ago posted about doing your holiday shopping through ebates (you can get a kick-back from what you spent, woot woot), I’ve been feeling a twinge of guilt. Okay, maybe more than a twinge.

I’m all about saving money, and even making it…not in a greedy way, but in more of the “looking for ways to live a simple, debt-free life with my family” kind of way. It is what it is. So, while I stand by the post I wrote, I also wanted to bring up a couple of other less materialistic/selfish ways to shop online this holiday season.

Online Shopping = Opportunity for Charity

Amazon Smile is something that Dave and I are trying to remember (that’s the hard part) to use these while doing our Amazon shopping this season. You can select an organization to support (we’re assisting Helping Animals Live Organization, or as it’s locally known, HALO) and that’s pretty much it. You shop through instead of and they’ll donate an amount (I have no idea how much, honestly) to your selected charity when you purchase a product that qualifies for a donation. There are almost one million charities to choose from, too, and you can change your organization at any time.

It’s a bummer that everything’s not eligible for a donation, but every little bit helps. Especially when it comes to saving, protecting, and caring for wayward animals. Or, at least, that’s where our hearts live. 

Goodshop (and Goodsearch) is another system that we use to try to give back while shopping online, but you can actually raise money in other ways. If you search, game, or even grab coupons from Goodshop, you’re doing good at the same time. There are over 100,000 organizations to select from, from the Sierra Club to Toys for Tots and tons in between. Every time you search through them rather than, say, Google, it donates a penny to your cause. Every time you search and shop through their plentiful list of stores (why, hello, Target! Yo, Kohl’s! How you doin’, Old Navy?), a percentage of your purchase will get go towards doing good in the world. Oh, and you also get some pretty cool coupons and codes (similar to ebates, actually) while you’re at it.

I’m sure there’s more to the site (and accompanying app) than that, but that’s the general idea of the thing.

Closer to Home

This time of year, we also look locally to try and give back, too. We take part in my school’s “Giving Tree” (we buy an article of clothes and a toy for needy kids on Christmas and bring in food – I don’t know why, but I always buy a full meal, sans the meat – for a needy family). Last year, we brought donuts and coffee to our local police department before heading to be with our families on the holiday, and Hadley got an awesome cop bear out of the deal (we really didn’t want anything in return).

I have a thing about giving to a Salvation Army bell ringer, even when we’re not in NYC (which, um, we’re not very often). There’s just something so festive and heart-warming about it, aside from the fact that I used to volunteer. We also like to find out what our local humane society is lacking and do a drop-off. We’ve also been known to stop by local “Stuff the Bus” drives with an unused toy or two.

Wow. Just when you think you’re not doing enough, you type it out and realize you’re doing more than you thought. I guess I feel a little better about the ebates post! But, still, it’s just super important for us to do all that we can (and all we can afford to do) to help others out, especially at this sometimes tough time of the year. We especially focus on talking to our little man, who is slowly but surely catching on to the concept that it’s better to do good and think of others.

It’s also been said plenty of times before, but there truly is something wonderful in the feeling you get when giving to others. 

What things, big or small, do you and your family do to give back? 

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Alright. I’m blogging about this for two reasons. One, to remember that I took part in a timely fad for, yes, a good cause (like looking back and saying you took part in “Hands Across America” or something). Two, to add a few things to the video I made.

So, by now I’m sure everyone (except maybe my mom) has heard about the ALS Challenge, and probably been tapped to do it by a friend or two. Of course, the time came and I couldn’t feign societal outcast any longer. But, I had to look into it further to decide whether I was one of the many skeptics out there, or if it was really important enough to do. You can search the internet and find a slew of people who argue for either side, and I was just slightly to one side before being forced to consider doing it.

Watching my friends post videos stating, in essence, who tagged them and the three individuals they’d be torturing back, followed by a dump of icy cold (sometimes not so much) water over their heads, had me kind of shaking my own head. My issues were thus:

a) Is it really raising awareness if no one even says WTF ALS even IS?
b) How much is it helping the cause if the point is to take part in a viral campaign that’s about AVOIDING paying to help research/treatment efforts?

It seemed to be a popularity thing. A fad. A chance to lightheartedly piss off one’s friends. The point of the thing was moot.

BUT…then I got tagged by my brother-in-law. He’s a guy who, while we joke our butts off together quite a bit, I respect. A lot. Not only would I be tortured for NOT doing it, I respected him too much not to at least consider it.

So, I decided to do it a tad differently. Just a bit.

I researched. Of course, the internet is such that, these days, you can find a million “valid” explanations on how to do something “the right way.” Yeah, no. Since this wasn’t an organization-based campaign to begin with, there was really no accurate way. Some said that the point was to raise money even if you dump the ice water, just in smaller denominations ($10 or $20, depending on what you read). No matter what, if you didn’t do it, you had to spend $100.

All of this left a yucky taste in my mouth. Many of my friends and family are budget-conscious folks. A good cause is great, but dipping into the grocery funds ain’t. Forcing someone to give $100 or $50 or even $20 if they have a family to support just isn’t the way to get help. I much prefer saying, “give what you can, if you can.” 

And saying “no” just makes you a hardass; not a team player. Y’know, the kids who got made fun of in school. Neither’s the best situation.

So, I did this:

Notes: I enjoy talking to folks, really, but when my nerves get up, my lisp gets a-goin’. And “ums” get used generously. And, um, degenerative. Yes. I know.

But, more importantly, I’m trying to bring some awareness to the thing. Aside from stating the definition of ALS (poorly, but still) and the official website for donations (is anyone else waiting for some fake ALS sites to pop up and start making a false profit on this thing??), I make it clear that I am ALSO making a donation, and invite anyone to do so, as well. The ice water was really just for fun, to avoid familial harassment, and to prove that I’m a tough broad.

A couple of facts that I had hoped to state, but I knew I’d ramble and the thing would be wicked long:

There are over 30,000 individuals in America alone living with ALS. Once receiving a  diagnosis, the life expectancy is 5-6 years, tops. There is only one medication to treat ALS, and it only extends one’s life by mere months. There. Is. No. Cure. Oh, and this disease doesn’t discriminate; young, old, white, black, fit, unhealthy. It’s not genetically passed. It’s like winning some horrific lottery. “Hey, ya never know.”

I kid you not. Check out for more sad but true information.

Oh, and to learn more about Lou Gehrig, I greatly suggest watching “The Pride of the Yankees”. Sure, there are tons of great books out there, but there’s nothing like watching Gary Cooper portray the real man, being brought down by this crippling disease in his prime. It’s heart-breaking and true.

Back to our regularly scheduled programming… Oh, and do tell me what you think of the challenge in the comments! Did you take part? Are you hoping to? Do you think it’s a superficial masking of truer fundraising efforts? Let’s chat!