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1/10Craziest Fundraising Events
Blue Star Parachuting

You’re never too old to jump out of a plane for money. That’s what Marjorie Bryan, 83, and Marianna Sherman, 82, did—for a good cause. The Lima, Ohio, great-grandmothers parachuted from a plane more than 10,000 feet in the air to raise funds for the local Blue Star Moms chapter, an organization of women whose sons and daughters have served in the military. More than 200 people came out to the June event to watch the jump, reports ABC News. Proceeds benefitted the Lima Veterans Food Pantry. [Gallery by Heather York.]

2/10Craziest Fundraising Events
Tazing for a Cause

Each year, the Richland County Sheriff’s Foundation in Columbia, South Carolina, holds a charity golf tournament to raise funds to buy equipment and support families of deputies killed or injured in the line of duty. During this year’s event in September, sheriff Leon Lott (who famously dropped charges in the Michael Phelps marijuana case) volunteered to be tazed—at a rate of $1,000 per second—to, ahem, sweeten the pot. The owner of a local restaurant won the bidding and got to shock the sheriff for two seconds, reports The Augusta Chronicle. The $2,000 raised was earmarked to support one of Lott’s deputies, a single dad suffering from cancer, with bills piling up for doctors, home repairs, and school supplies for his three daughters.

3/10Craziest Fundraising Events
Video Gaming for Good

What do you get when Canadian comedy team LoadingReadyRun plays a never-released video game created by magicians Penn & Teller, live, on the Internet, for hours on end? Desert Bust for Hope is the world’s longest Internet-based fundraiser, earning over $825,000 so far for Child’sPlay, a nonprofit that provides toys and books to children’s hospitals. The video game has players drive an unreliable bus on a strip of highway between Tucson and Las Vegas, where nothing much happens. The troupe plays as long as donations roll in, performing crazy stunts live—holding a tree pose for 90 seconds for $36; shaving all their body hair for $50,000—to keep things interesting. This year’s event was held in November.

4/10Craziest Fundraising Events
Pink Ribbon Zip-Lining

Does the thought of strapping into a harness and speeding along a thin wire strung through tall trees fill you with terror? No? Okay, hotshot, try it totally nude (or at least topless)! That’s what 84 women in British Columbia did to raise funds for breast cancer research. “I’m okay with being naked,” one brave zipper told Castanet.net. “If someone can face breast cancer bravely, we can face a little bit of nudity.” Sponsored by the ZipZone Adventure Park in Peachland, British Columbia, zip-lining was free for the women who each raised at least $100 for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. The event this June raised $15,000. The oldest participant, at 73, was a breast cancer survivor of 23 years.

5/10Craziest Fundraising Events
Goat-Raiser for Families

If you live in Helena, Alabama, you know Molly, the infamous garden-marauding goat. And if you wanted to keep her out of your lawn this year, all you had to do is pay $5 to Aaron’s Staff. The organization provides free care to children with disabilities and has a flair for creative fundraising. For some extra fun, Aaron’s Staff invited contributors to submit names of friends to get goated. Letters went out to these contacts warning them to buy the so-called goat insurance or else... Of those who ignored the warning, one name was picked this November to whom Aaron’s Staff delivered Molly. The lucky winner—er, loser—accepted with good humor.

6/10Craziest Fundraising Events
Anti-AIDS Breast Squeeze

Step 1: Get in line and show your ID (please be 18). Step 2: Make your donation. Step three: Sanitize your hands. Step 4: Squeeze the bare breasts of a female volunteer. Repeat as necessary. And don’t forget to smile for the camera—this is being televised live! Call it shocking, call it offensive, call it exciting, the Breast Squeeze event hosted by Japan’s Paradise TV this August was the most popular attraction of its “Erotica Will Save the World” fundraiser, reports Rocket News 24. Known for its “wacky, perverted programming,” the channel enlisted the help of 10 adult-video actresses in its 24-hour interactive fundraiser to benefit STOP!AIDS, an organization that promotes awareness, treatment, and prevention.

7/10Craziest Fundraising Events
Repelling for Military Families

Not to be outdone by their neighbors in Helena, 60 residents of Huntsville, Alabama, repelled down the side of the 12-story Times building to raise money for the local YMCA this June. The two-day event, called Over the Edge, raised more than $70,000 for the Heart of the Valley Y, according to the Huntsville Times. The money is used to support military families in a variety of ways.

8/10Craziest Fundraising Events
Cow Pie Bingo Benefit

Combine one hungry cow, some bales of alfalfa, a field chalk-marked like a bingo card, and a few hours to let nature take its course, and what do you get? Cow patty bingo! In Columbia, Missouri, the popular fundraiser has run for over 20 years, garnering over $100,000 for the Food Bank of Central and Northeast Missouri, reports the Columbia Daily Tribune. Cheri and Adron Perry, local café owners, hosted the September event through the Perche Creek Yacht Club with a cow provided by the University of Missouri Dairy Farm. Attendees buy squares on the field then dine on free beer and chicken wings as they wait, crossing their fingers that “poop happens” in their squares.

9/10Craziest Fundraising Events
Take Part

After hearing about so many people doing so much good all year long, it’s only natural to want to jump in. There are 925 million undernourished people in the world today. Find out five great ways that you can step in and contribute to the fight against hunger in America and abroad.

10/10Craziest Fundraising Events
More Great Reading

Shopping for holiday gifts can be stressful and expensive, even wasteful. Instead of buying gifts this year, give your relatives and loved ones a homemade creation. Check out these 9 Easy, Homemade Food Gifts.

#GiveBack
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    1/12Most Generous States
    #10 North Carolina: 5.9%

    Some of the recipients of North Carolina’s generosity are its churches and religious charities, such as the Billy Graham Evangelical Association and the Inspirational Network, both based in Charlotte. But North Carolina’s charity dollars are also going to its institutes of higher learning, including Duke, University of North Carolina, and Wake Forest. What’s more, the Charlotte metropolitan area ranks sixth in generosity among America’s biggest metropolitan areas. [Gallery by Alison Singh Gee; Percentages in slide titles were calculated by The Chronicle of Philanthropy and refer to the average amount of discretionary income donated by households in each state.]

    2/12Most Generous States
    #9 Georgia: 6.2%

    Georgia clearly keeps its underprivileged in mind. Of the nation’s 400 biggest charities, 16 make their home in the state. Its capital, Atlanta, is known as a huge philanthropic city; major charities such as the American Cancer Society, Habitat for Humanity, the Boys & Girls Clubs, and CARE are headquartered here.

    3/12Most Generous States
    #8 Arkansas: 6.3%

    This Deep South state has high religious participation, just like its Bible Belt neighbors, and like them many of its citizens donate to their churches. Arkansas also hosts such charities as Heifer International, a popular organization that provides livestock to people in developing countries. What’s more, the William J. Clinton Foundation and the University of Arkansas are big recipients of donations from AK.

    4/12Most Generous States
    #7 Idaho: 6.4%

    The Potato State boasted the highest rate of new charities founded between 2000 and 2010. As it turns out, Idaho residents are generous with both money and their time. Not only did Idahoans donate 6.4 percent of their discretionary income to nonprofits, but 32 percent of the state’s residents also report volunteering (much higher than the 26 percent national average).

    5/12Most Generous States
    #6 South Carolina: 6.4%

    The state whose motto is “While I breathe, I hope,” is helping fuel hope for the less fortunate. In this Southern state, 6.4 percent of discretional income is handed off to charity, much of it likely going to religious organizations. Christian Blind International, the University of South Carolina, and WelVista, which provides access to prescription medications to the uninsured, are among the biggest charities in this state.

    6/12Most Generous States
    #5 Tennessee: 6.6%

    Tennessee has dubbed itself the “Volunteer State,” which speaks to its high donation rate too. Memphis is home to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, one of the largest charities in the country, as well as Ducks Unlimited, which raised $155 million last year and is one of the nation’s largest environmental groups. Tennessee is also a proud Bible Belt state, and people with strong ties to religion generally donate generously to their congregations.

    7/12Most Generous States
    #4 Alabama: 7.1%

    Alabama has three bastions of higher education to attract donations: the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Tuscaloosa and Auburn University. However, it’s another Bible Belt state, so a lot of that 7.1 percent goes to churches, as well.

    8/12Most Generous States
    #3 Mississippi: 7.2%

    This highly religious state is another Bible Belt member—seeing a trend yet? Yes, organized religion leads to organized giving! The University of Mississippi is also a big recipient of donations.

    9/12Most Generous States
    #2 D.C.: 7.7%

    Though not a state, the District of Columbia is home to many of America’s high-profile charities, including the Smithsonian, the Red Cross, and the Special Olympics. “The culture of philanthropy is evident here,” says The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s Assistant Managing Editor Peter Panepento. “People are exposed to these big organizations on a day to day basis, and feel inspired to donate at black tie events and other giving opportunities, too.”

    10/12Most Generous States
    #1 Utah: 10.6%

    Panepento says it’s not a surprise that Utah ranked number one. Utah has a huge population of Mormons, who typically tithe 10 percent of their income to the church. Indeed, Utah’s typical household charitable contributions totaling 10.6 percent of discretionary income is nearly 3.5 percentage points ahead of its nearest rival, D.C.

    11/12Most Generous States
    TakePart

    A new study by the National Center on Family Homelessness has found that child homelessness rose 38 percent from 2007 to 2010. Find out what you can do in your state.

    12/12Most Generous States
    More Great Reading

    For the first time ever, new data details just how many students are not graduating high school in each state. Check out our story High School Graduation Rates Revealed: The 5 Best and Worst States.

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    1/7Susan Sarandon’s Gift Tips
    Question #1

    What are your favorite kinds of holiday gifts?
    A: Gifts that are handmade. I used to make all my gifts until I had children and became overwhelmed. This year my daughter has begun making her presents, and I am very moved.

    2/7Susan Sarandon’s Gift Tips
    Question #2

    Does your family have any gift-giving traditions?
    A: On birthdays I always tied a string to the bedroom doorknob, and when the birthday child awakened, they followed the string to find their presents hidden under cushions, in drawers, in the oven, in the washing machine, and up in the trees.

    3/7Susan Sarandon’s Gift Tips
    Question #3

    What Heifer International animal would you donate for Giving Tuesday and why?
    A: I love giving chicks to families with small children; I guess because I always called my kids my chicks!

    4/7Susan Sarandon’s Gift Tips
    Question #4

    Can you talk about what it means to give chicks through Heifer, how it benefits the recipient of the animal?
    A: All the animals are given to families appropriate to their habitat and need. Heifer makes sure that the family understands how to assure that the animal thrives and how to use and sell the animal’s products—in this case, eggs—so the family itself can thrive. When that animal has offspring, the family passes on the gift to another member of the community, improving the bonds between the family and giving the donor a sense of pride.

    5/7Susan Sarandon’s Gift Tips
    Question #5

    You've been involved in global causes for a long time. Why did you get involved with Heifer?
    A: I believe Heifer spends their money honestly and wisely. In each country a person indigenous to that location is the facilitator for the Heifer donation. They know the customs and needs of the people there better than an outsider.

    6/7Susan Sarandon’s Gift Tips
    Take Part

    Through Heifer International, give the gift of self-reliance for a family in need. Buy a flock of ducks, a llama, or even a water buffalo in the name of one of your loved ones who will receive an honor card. The animal is then donated to lift a family out of poverty. Gift an animal now.

    7/7Susan Sarandon’s Gift Tips
    More Great Reading

    The way people talk, you’d think you can only do one: make money or make change. Find out about the six top companies that do both.

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    1/11Organ Donation Stories
    Chris Klug

    Liver recipient. On July 28, 2000, I had a liver transplant. I’d been diagnosed nine years earlier with Primary Sclerosing Cholangitits, a rare degenerative bile duct condition. The hardest part was the waiting game. I wore a pager and carried a cell phone as backup in anticipation of receiving “the call” informing me that a liver was available. When the call came, I was relieved, but scared of not surviving the surgery. I was back on the World Cup Circuit four months later. Six months later I stood atop the podium in Olang, Italy. A year and a half later I was competing in my second Olympic Games, where I won a bronze medal and fulfilled a lifelong dream! I will forever be grateful and humbled for my second chance.

    2/11Organ Donation Stories
    Amanda Roche

    Living kidney donor. After one of my mom’s kidneys was treated for cancer, she had about eight well months—just long enough to enjoy two family weddings (mine and my brother’s) before starting dialysis. I had already begun talking with my husband about wanting to be her donor. His words were, “If it were my mother, I would do it in a heartbeat. It is what you do for family.” Plus, when does a child get to repay the gift of life we receive from our parents? After our transplant took place, my kidney instantly began working for my mother on the operating table, and when she woke up, she said she felt better than she had in 30 years. My choice of live donation was the second greatest experience of my life (my daughter being my first, of course!).

    3/11Organ Donation Stories
    Wyatt Brownson

    Liver recipient, 10 years old. Wyatt David Giovanni Brownson was born in 2002 on Earth Day. Two months later, he began a relationship with the Children's Hospital Colorado when he was diagnosed with biliary atresia. After treatment that year, Wyatt lived a mostly normal life until early 2012, when his liver function declined and he went onto the organ transplant list. It was a scary three-month wait, but on May 22 Wyatt received his life-saving transplant. He is recovering well. Wyatt enjoys fishing, skiing, playing video games with his buddies and watching movies with his family. He was raised as a vegetarian but decided that was ridiculous last year when he tasted steak. –Wyatt’s Mom, Dot

    4/11Organ Donation Stories
    Dylan Peters

    Donor, 18 years old. Dylan shared the same passion for snowboarding as Chris Klug, founder of the Chris Klug Foundation. He was an ambitious, nationally competitive snowboarder who won the U.S. Snowboard Association Junior Men’s Slopestyle National Championship in April 2010. It was at Nationals that Dylan met Chris Klug and was inspired to be an organ and tissue donor. One week after Dylan’s 18th birthday, in April 2011, he was in a fatal car accident. There was never any question that he would be a donor. He was able to donate five organs and all possible tissue. Dylan’s story has changed numerous people’s minds about organ donation in our communities. –Dylan’s mom, Sue

    5/11Organ Donation Stories
    Morgan Wilkensen

    Kidney recipient, 11 years old. In 2006, Morgan was diagnosed with atypical hemolitic uremic syndrome, which causes kidney failure. He was six. He endured long stays at the hospital and countless treatments, including dialysis. When he finally returned to school, he struggled with more health complications. At home he had to be hooked up to a machine every night. He felt horrible, but was tough and a fighter. The day after his seventh birthday, he was placed on the transplant list. Morgan was successfully transplanted with a kidney on July 19, 2007. He felt amazing afterward and has been healthy ever since. We just celebrated his fourth transplant anniversary this past summer. –Morgan’s mom, Karen

    6/11Organ Donation Stories
    Jill Morton

    Kidney recipient. In 2003, I was dying of kidney failure when a woman I did not know traveled across the world to donate a kidney to me. A single mom of two young sons, I was grasping for life. Someone told me to start praying every day. Three weeks later the Mayo Clinic told me an unknown donor wanted to give me her kidney. I was at the lab when a woman who looked like me introduced herself as Vicki and explained that she was my donor. I said, “How can I ever thank you?” She said, “Don't thank me. Thank God.” Friends forever. It’s been nine years. Now Vicki has lymphoma and needs a stem cell transplant. I am being tested to donate back to her. We are a match. If she needs me, it is my turn to travel across the world to help her.

    7/11Organ Donation Stories
    Heather and Don Schwabe

    Heather received a liver from her living husband Don. Heather was 40 years old and a mother of two children when she was diagnosed with bile duct cancer in August 2009. Treatment for this deadly disease includes radiation, chemo, and finally a liver transplant. On the morning of January 7, 2010—17 years to the day we met—Heather successfully received a unique gift in the form of a live liver donation from me. The donation has allowed Heather to return to living a full, normal life, including keeping up with two teenagers, involvement in several local charities, and realizing a lifelong dream of starting a successful business that helps women build a wardrobe to help them look and feel their best. –Don Schwabe

    8/11Organ Donation Stories
    Dillon Egger

    Donor, 18 years old. Dillon was a true friend to so many. He was the love of our lives. He was a rock for his mom. He was his dad’s buddy. He was a confidant for his younger sister. He was the pride and joy of his grandparents. He was a special little brother and a super fun uncle. His aunts, uncles, and cousins thought the world of him. We all miss him immensely, but we are happy to know he was able to help so many. When Dillon earned his driver’s license, he designated himself as an organ donor. Dillon had just graduated high school when on July 29, 2009 he died from injuries sustained in a car wreck. Dillon made a life-saving difference in the lives of many people, men and women, of varying ages, because of this sacrifice. –Dillon’s mom, Debbie

    9/11Organ Donation Stories
    Chris Neal

    Heart recipient. I was born and raised in New England, the youngest of seven kids. In my youth I enjoyed camping, climbing, sled-dog racing, sailing, scuba, and outdoor activities. I followed my brothers into construction at an early age and continued for 30 years. One day while sailing I dislocated my ankle. This accident was a blessing in disguise. A hospital stay revealed a heart condition (dilated cardiomyopathy). Real estate, massage, and yoga became my new careers. Pacemakers carefully monitored care, and meds kept me going for 11 years. Then I was put on the heart transplant wait list. On the last day before a mechanical heart surgery was scheduled, I was blessed with a donor heart.

    10/11Organ Donation Stories
    Take Part

    Over 116,000 people are anxiously waiting for a life-saving organ donation. There’s so much misinformation about being an organ donor, but nothing is so powerful as the fact that your life can give life. Get the real information and sign up in your state.

    11/11Organ Donation Stories
    More Great Reading

    Swedish doctors have performed what they say are the first mother-to-daughter live donor womb transplants that could allow infertile daughters to bear children. While considered a medical milestone, some say the procedure may prove to be an ethical minefield. Click here to read more.

    Watch

    NFL star inspires local high school


    George Wilson of the Buffalo Bills gives back this season with a visit to a Buffalo high school. He says, "Sometimes kids feel lonely thinking that they're the only ones who believe in their dreams."
    Share This

    NFL star inspires local high school


    George Wilson of the Buffalo Bills gives back this season with a visit to a Buffalo high school. He says, "Sometimes kids feel lonely thinking that they're the only ones who believe in their dreams."
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    1/20World’s Best Gift Guide
    Musana Bead Earrings

    In one of the Ugandan dialects, the word “musana” means “sunshine”—and do these earrings bring it! Handcrafted with recycled, rolled paper by women artisans in rural Uganda, each colorful pair has a personality all its own. The earrings are just one of many distinctive, affordable pieces sold by BeadsforLife, which provides entrepreneurial training to help its women members lift their lives out of poverty. $16. Buy here. [Gallery by Heather York]

    2/20World’s Best Gift Guide
    Chocolate Collection

    Good for you, good for the planet, good for others—never has chocolate been so guilt-free! The first and only organic, fair-trade, bean-to-bar chocolate operation in North America, Theo Chocolate even uses green energy to power its factory. Their Partner Bar Collection, featuring four chocolate bars—cherry chili, vanilla nib, sea salt, and milk chocolate—support four charitable partners: the Jane Goodall Institute, the World Bicycle Relief Fund, the Eastern Congo Initiative, and the CC Farmland Trust. $19. Buy here.

    3/20World’s Best Gift Guide
    One Hope Wine

    Drink and be merry, knowing every toast you make will bring cheer to a cause you support. One Hope Wines donates half of all its proceeds to charity, with each one assigned a different vintage: fight autism with a bottle of cabernet sauvignon; support our troops with a zinfandel; combat AIDS with a California merlot; help defeat breast cancer with a chardonnay. Salut! $18. Buy here.

    4/20World’s Best Gift Guide
    FeltLink Vase Holder

    Flowers and herbs, pens and pencils—arrange them all in style with this clever felt vase holder handmade by San Francisco artist Kate Frankel, who donates $5 of each sale to La Casa Des Las Madres, which works in the Bay area to prevent violence against women and children. $30. Buy here.

    5/20World’s Best Gift Guide
    TOMS Silver Hearts Shoes

    A little bit of sole—and glitter!—goes a long way. With every purchase of a pair of Toms shoes, the company’s One for One program will give a new pair to a child in need. So far, they’ve donated over 2,000,000 pairs of shoes around the world. Check out their grown-up shoes (and cool sunglasses) too. $34. Buy here.

    6/20World’s Best Gift Guide
    DOSTI Soccer Ball

    With over 3.5 billion fans, soccer is the world’s most popular sport. So how could you go wrong with this high-quality soccer ball made by DOSTI, a company started by two Afghan women—with the help of Bpeace—to bring independence and strength to other women in their country. Each ball is meticulously stitched by hand, then silk-screened with DOSTI’s Doves in Flight insignia. DOSTI means “friendship” in Dari. $45. Buy here.

    7/20World’s Best Gift Guide
    Washer Bowl

    When you see a handful of old washers, do you think: fruit bowl? The inventive women artisans of Noah’s Ark International in India did. They create these beautiful black metal bowls using old washers too rusted to be used otherwise, cleaning and powder-coating them to a soft polish. The bowls are brought to the U.S. by fair trade company Ten Thousand Villages, which was voted last year as one of the world’s most ethical companies. $34. Buy here.

    8/20World’s Best Gift Guide
    Monster Dolls

    What’s the difference between these little monsters and the popular Ugly Doll? For one thing, these stuffed toys aren’t ugly. Also, every time you purchase a doll, you help marginalized workers in the highlands of Peru earn a living wage. Handknit by women artisans using 100 percent cotton yarn, these soft snugglers are brought to the U.S. by fair-trade company Global Goods Partners. $30. Buy here.

    9/20World’s Best Gift Guide
    Same Sky Wrap Bracelet

    Adorn your wrist in color and texture—and help HIV-positive women in Africa as they lift themselves and their families out of poverty. Same Sky is a fair-trade company created to help Rwandan women who survived the genocide, who are often infected with HIV and left to support their children alone. The collective expanded to Zambia in 2011 and offers a full line of jewelry. One hundred percent of the proceeds are used to buy materials and employ more women artisans. $30-$40. Buy here.

    10/20World’s Best Gift Guide
    (RED) Clocky Alarm Clock

    Wake up and help fight AIDS with this special-edition Clocky by Nanda Home, which donates 5 percent of the proceeds to Global Fund. What’s up with the wheels? When the alarm goes off, the clock jumps off your nightstand and runs away, beeping to make sure you’re up and at ’em. $39. Buy here.

    11/20World’s Best Gift Guide
    Engraveable Harmonica

    You just never know when you’re going to get your harmonica mixed up with someone else’s harmonica, which is why Giftback.com offers three lines of personalized engraving on this genuine, 10-hole Hohner made of high-polished stainless steel. With every harmonica you buy, Giftback.com donates 10 percent of the purchase to a charity of your choice. $25. Buy here.

    12/20World’s Best Gift Guide
    Escama Pop Top Clutch

    What do you get when you cross traditional Brazilian crochet work with recycled aluminum pull tabs? A signature aesthetic in accessory design—a textured weave that resembles silvery fish scales—created by Escama, meaning “fish scale” in Portuguese. Handmade by artisan groups in Brazil who are integral members of the enterprise, Escama’s clever handbags and jewelry promote sustainable development through fair trade; they feel good in your hand, and your heart. $46. Buy here.

    13/20World’s Best Gift Guide
    Jonathan Adler Ear Buds

    Too darned cute! That’s what your giftee will say when she receives these ear buds designed by Jonathan Adler. With back-up buds to fit every ear shape and size (and a few patterns to choose from), these little bobs might just make earrings obsolete. Purchase them through Gifts That Give, and they’ll donate $4 to a charity of your choice. $20. Buy here.

    14/20World’s Best Gift Guide
    Global Mamas Doggie Tie

    Finally, your search is over! We guarantee you will not find a gold and white star-patterned necktie for your dog anywhere else but here. It’s just one of many unique products sold by Global Mamas (through Trade for Change), a network of six original members that now helps 627 women artisans in Ghana with financial and managerial support to market their goods and make a living wage. Slip this tie over Rover’s collar; he’ll feel a lift in his step, and so will you. $10. Buy here.

    15/20World’s Best Gift Guide
    Mother-Daughter Aprons

    We didn’t think the Global Mamas could top their distinctive doggie ties, but they come close with these mother-daughter aprons that you might want to show off outside the kitchen, with their distinctive batik pattern and halter necklines. With adjustable ties at both the neck and waist and a roomy front pocket, they’re practical too. They’re featured on 12 Small Things, home to a host of other lovely accessories and home goods that support causes around the world. $22. Buy here.

    16/20World’s Best Gift Guide
    RxArt Coloring Book

    What happens when 50 of today’s most celebrated living artists unleash their inner children? Coloring books of unparalleled sophistication called Between the Lines, which are full of original line drawings that will delight aspiring artists of all ages. The book is a creation of RxArt, a nonprofit dedicated to the healing power of art; proceeds support the installation of original artwork in hospitals and healing centers around the country. Bonus: The book comes with a series of vibrant designer stickers! $20. Buy here.

    17/20World’s Best Gift Guide
    Give for Youth

    Running out of time, running out of ideas, or just can’t commit? Whatever your reason, there’s no shame in giving the Give for Youth gift card. Give for Youth is a global micro-giving site, and a gift card from them gives your recipient the power to help fund global projects by young people all around the world—from orphan care in Nigeria to role model speakers for girls in Liberia to safe drinking water in India. Buy here.

    18/20World’s Best Gift Guide
    7 Rings of Peace Pendant

    The founders of From War to Peace had a mission: To “turn weapons meant to destroy us into art that restores us.” How? By recycling the copper missile cabling of dismantled nuclear weapons (buried deep in the soil of America’s heartland) and using the alloy to create jewelry with meaning. The seven circles of this pendant symbolize the seven continents and the unity of all faiths and nations into a world without war. 20 percent of the sales are donated to peace and social justice organizations. $30. Buy here.

    19/20World’s Best Gift Guide
    Take Part

    There really is no good way to wrap a flock of chicks, a vegetable garden, or a year of school. So let the experts at Heifer International, OxFam Unwrapped, and the International Rescue Committee do it for you. On their websites, you can fund all these worthy projects in the name of an honoree. They’ll send a beautiful card letting that person know about your gift—and theirs.

    20/20World’s Best Gift Guide
    More Great Reading

    Food shopping happens a lot more often than once a year, so where you spend your dollars has a big impact on the industry. TakePart's acclaimed food journalists fanned out across America to name the best, local stores with sustainable, organic, humane, and unprocessed food. Check out our nationwide guide!

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    1/10Lottery Winners Who Gave Back
    Jim Dancy

    Kalamazoo, Michigan
    When Jim Dancy matched all eight numbers on his Club Keno card to become a $10,000 winner, he told MLive that he remembered the words of a close friend: "Think of others first and stop and think what life is really about." So he picked up the phone and called the Kalamazoo United Way and donated the entire amount to the organization. “I know the needs in the community are great right now, so for me it was the right thing to do,” he said. (Year: 2009) [Gallery by Heather York]

    2/10Lottery Winners Who Gave Back
    Janice Willis

    Marion, Indiana
    After winning $100,000 playing the Hoosier Lottery’s Taxes Paid game, Janice Willis contacted one of her favorite country music stars, Gene Watson, to perform a benefit show. A retired painter of fishing lures, Willis produced and promoted the sold-out show herself. According to AOL, all proceeds benefited her favorite local charity, Help the Hopeful. During the concert, Watson dedicated one of Willis's favorite songs to her. It's called "I Don't Need a Thing." (Year: 2012)

    3/10Lottery Winners Who Gave Back
    Hilda Floyd

    Nampa, Idaho
    When Hilda Floyd’s friend told her she’d matched all the numbers on her lottery ticket, she thought it was a practical joke. Days earlier, she told KTVB another friend had given her a phony winning raffle ticket as a prank. She held her excitement until she confirmed the numbers on the 10 o’clock news and found her $1 million lottery prize was for real. Hilda took care of a few expenses for herself and her family, then donated the rest of her winnings—90 percent—to her church and charitable organizations. “Giving it away excites me more than anything else,” she said. (Year: 2011)

    4/10Lottery Winners Who Gave Back
    Les Robins

    Fond du Lac, Wisconsin
    About four hours before the Powerball drawing in his hometown of Fond du Lac, Les Robins ran an errand and grabbed a ticket on a whim, reported CNN. The odds of winning were around one in 54.9 million. Les beat those odds and won $11 million. A junior high school teacher, Les knew exactly what he wanted to do with the money: He founded Camp Winnegator, a low-cost camp for children aged six to 16 that sits on 226 acres of land he purchased and outfitted with stables, a gym, a pool, and a miniature golf course. A family foundation sustains the camp, named after Lake Winnebago and Les’s beloved University of Florida Gators. (Year: 1993)

    5/10Lottery Winners Who Gave Back
    Sheelah Ryan

    Orlando, Florida
    Sheelah Ryan was 63 years old when she won $55 million in the lottery. Marriage proposals started streaming in, but Time reported that Ryan stayed focused and used her winnings to set up the Ryan Foundation to direct funds to build low-cost housing for seniors, pay rent for single mothers on the verge of eviction, help poor children afford operations, and even rescue stray cats. "I thank God every day that I have the ability to help others, not that I won,” Ryan said. Though Ryan passed away in 1994, her foundation lives on through her estate. (Year: 1988)

    6/10Lottery Winners Who Gave Back
    Steve & Carolyn West

    Medford, Oregon
    After winning $340 million in a Powerball lottery, Steve and Carolyn West made some of their personal dreams come true. According to People, they traveled with family, purchased a home, and splurged on an original 1912 Edison opera phonograph to add to Steve’s record player collection. A year later, they formed the West Family Foundation, through which they donate $1 million every year to local schools, family organizations, law enforcement, and Christian organizations. (Year: 2005)

    7/10Lottery Winners Who Gave Back
    Jacki & Gilbert Cisneros

    Pico Rivera, California
    Gilbert and Jacki Cisneros couldn’t decide where to go for dinner. Gil didn’t want to pay for parking at a Mexican restaurant, so they picked up barbeque takeout instead. Gil’s frugality paid off. While waiting, he used the parking money he saved to buy ten Mega Millions lottery tickets, and days later was the beneficiary of a $266 million windfall. Reported MSNBC, the couple decided to give back to their working-class Latino neighborhood with a $1.25 million gift to the Hispanic Scholarship Fund and went on to establish the Cisneros Foundation to help every household in Pico Rivera achieve a college degree. (Year: 2010)

    8/10Lottery Winners Who Gave Back
    Anonymous

    Port Jefferson Station, New York
    When Pastor Bert Crabbe of True North Community Church received a call from one of his congregants requesting a home visit, he was expecting the worst; such requests don’t usually involve good news, he told Lottery Post. This time, the news couldn’t have been better. The church member, asking to remain anonymous, handed the pastor a winning Ba Da Bling lottery ticket for $3 million. That amount translates to over $100,000 per year for the church until 2028. Pastor Crabbe built a new facility for his congregation, then earmarked the money for charitable organizations around the world, including Love146, dedicated to ending human trafficking, especially among children in Southeast Asia. (Year: 2008)

    9/10Lottery Winners Who Gave Back
    Take Part

    Hurricane Sandy has caused widespread devastation up and down the eastern seaboard. The Red Cross has already been effective at providing assistance for those in the region. Thousands have sought shelter with them since the storm began, and they’re currently accepting donations to provide shelter and emergency supplies to evacuees.

    10/10Lottery Winners Who Gave Back
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    HGTV’s Vern Yip Creates Magical World for UNICEF Snowflake Ball
    There’s a lot more to HGTV’s design guru Vern Yip than what you see on your television screen. This November marks the fourth year he’ll be designing the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Snowflake Ball, which has raised $16 million in the past seven years to improve the lives of children in 190 nations. Here Vern tells us about his 2012 event design, his experiences with children in Mongolia this year, and how his own childhood shaped his commitment to design and philanthropy.
    Q:
    Tell us about your most recent designs for UNICEF, your inspiration, and your thoughts as you were creating.
    A:

    I’ve been very blessed these past three years to be asked to design the UNICEF Snowflake Ball. This year’s ball will be my fourth. Each year, the goal always remains the same: Keep the focus on the children. The children are the reason why so many people turn out for the Snowflake Ball and why so many support UNICEF’s lifesaving work around the world. I was lucky enough to go on a UNICEF field visit this year to the country of Mongolia. It makes such a lasting impression to go and see UNICEF’s work on behalf of the world’s most vulnerable children firsthand. I’m sure my interactions with the children of Mongolia will never leave me.


    My goal behind this year’s design was to transport the entire room into the field so that each person in the room could try and experience what I experienced on my field visit. Large screens will surround the central room and visually highlight some of the 190 countries UNICEF works in, showcasing communities and children who have benefited from UNICEF’s work. At each table setting, a handmade wool place mat from Mongolia made by a women’s commune will bring a tactile dimension to the evening along with UNICEF feed-bag material sewn into slipcovers for the backs of each dining chair. Central to each table will be a collection of candle hurricanes featuring images of children from around the world that UNICEF has touched. My hope this year—just as it is every year—is to show how wonderful and worthwhile every child around the world is, and how critical and important UNICEF’s role is in helping the neediest.


    MORE: 14-Year-Old Pakistani Schoolgirl Activist Recovering From Assassination Attempt

    Q:
    Does your family have a tradition of giving back during the holidays? If yes, tell us about it.
    A:

    My family has a tradition of giving back year round, whether it’s the holidays or not. My mom raised me with some very basic principles: Help someone if you are able to and always try to do the right thing. Those basic principles have stuck with me and continue in my own family now that I have two young children that I’m trying to raise the best way I know how. My mother passed away over six years ago and upon her passing, my sister and I set up a scholarship in her name at the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults. Each year, we get to award the Vera Yip Memorial Scholarship to a young adult whose life has been impacted by cancer and who is still trying to pursue a higher education.

    Q:
    What about UNICEF’s work specifically made you want to work with them? Is there a particular program you love?
    A:

    My parents fled communist China during the Cultural Revolution and made countless sacrifices moving to the U.S. when I was two months old. They moved here so that my sister and I could have access to top-level medical care, plentiful and nutritious food, running water, and most importantly for them—education. When I go back to China, I see so many faces that look just like mine, but plowing fields or toiling in jobs characterized by hard physical labor with minimal pay, and am reminded that I am one of the lucky ones. What separates me from those faces that are similar to mine is that I was given a chance. I was afforded an opportunity to thrive and I seized it. Millions of children around the world never reach their physical and mental potential because they don’t have access to the basic things that most of the children in the U.S. have access to. For this reason, I decided to start working with UNICEF.


    UNICEF doesn’t care about political instability in a country, remoteness of a community, the affiliated religion of a people, or the sex of a child. What they care about is the vulnerable children around the world and how to get to them so that help is on the way. When I first started working with UNICEF, 26,000 children a day were dying needlessly because of an inability to access a basic vaccine, dearth of essential medical care, improper nutrition, or lack of access to water. Four years later, that number of needless deaths has dropped to 19,000 a day…which is still a ridiculously high number. UNICEF won’t stop till that number is zero, and I will work with them until we collectively reach that goal. This year, the U.S. Fund for UNICEF is participating in #GivingTuesday, on November 27. For every dollar donated to UNICEF for a measles vaccine from now until #GivingTuesday, an anonymous donor through the U.S. Fund for UNICEF will match it, $1 for $1, up to a maximum of $15,000.

    Q:
    When you were a child, what were your interests? Were you already interested in design?
    A:

    My interests have always been design-centric, even as a little boy. When I was in kindergarten, I thrived whenever we were allowed to paint or draw. In fact, my teacher pulled my parents aside and asked them to consider sending me to a magnet school for the arts, but my parents hoped that I would be a doctor, so I continued to get a broad-based education in the public school system. I never gave up my passion for design and built countless houses and buildings with my plethora of Legos. At age seven, I designed a remodel for one of the bathrooms in our family home that my mom then had built. She was always supportive of my efforts and I’m grateful for all that support to this day. At age nine, I designed an entire addition to the house that my mom then had permitted and built. At eleven, I designed my own bedroom furniture (I had always wanted furniture made out of stainless steel and glass) and my mom had that built too. Now that I have my own two children, I think about all the parenting skills I absorbed from my incredible mom. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned from her is to nurture your children’s natural interests (as long as they’re productive) and to support their curiosity. You never know what might happen. They might end up making a career out of it.

    Q:
    What do you wish everyone knew about the children UNICEF serves?
    A:

    In the past five years, I’ve traveled to over 45 countries and have had the opportunity to spend time with children in each of these very disparate countries. What I’ve learned through all of this time spent on the road is that the world’s children have far more in common than what makes them different. In fact, the children that UNICEF serves are much more like the children that live in your own home or in the homes of your relatives, friends, and neighbors than you might initially think. They thrive on love and are developmentally sensitive to access to healthcare, nutritious food, clean water, and education. Provided these basics, they thrive much like most of the children we know and are familiar with. Without them, they’re permanently impacted in a devastating way. Sometimes they’re so impacted, that they don’t survive. At the end of the day, all of us are so much more alike than we are different. If there is one thing we should all be able to agree on, it’s that the world’s children are the future and that we should work together to allow them to develop to their fullest potential.



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    The World’s Best Gift
    Most gifts are enjoyed temporarily, but presents given through Heifer International have long-term benefits to recipients on both ends. Each meaningful donation helps those in need transition into self-reliance. Click below to pick the perfect gift.
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      Give Back
      Spread the spirit of giving this holiday season by sharing our story "8 American Lottery Winners Who Spread the Wealth." http://on-msn.com/SJkVRR
      Give a Gift, Change a Life
      Giving back can be as simple as buying your holiday presents from “The World’s Best Holiday Gift Guide” and sharing it with your community. You’ll spend the same but the benefits will multiply. http://on-msn.com/TbT53I
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      1/6Debra Messing Gives Back
      Launch of New Start

      PSI Global Health Ambassador Debra Messing cuts the ribbon at the U.S.-funded New Start counseling and testing center in Mongu, Zambia. The center will provide voluntary HIV counseling and testing, male circumcision, sexually transmitted infection diagnosis, and reproductive health services to residents of Western Province for the first time. In 2007 Western Province was classified as a higher-prevalence area with an HIV and AIDS infection rate of 17.3 percent.

      2/6Debra Messing Gives Back
      Prevention Measures

      Messing watches as health workers at the U.S. and Gates Foundation-funded YWCA in Lusaka, Zambia perform a male circumcision procedure. Male circumcision is proven to reduce the risk of female-to -male transmission of HIV by up to 60 percent. When combined with other prevention methods, an individual’s risk of contracting HIV becomes dramatically reduced.

      3/6Debra Messing Gives Back
      Support System

      Messing takes part in the Make Positive More Positive campaign at an HIV support group in Lusaka, Zambia. The campaign has two goals: to reduce stigma and discrimination around HIV; and to drive one million people to be tested for HIV and AIDS so they may know their status and take appropriate measures to keep themselves and their partners healthy.

      4/6Debra Messing Gives Back
      One Person at a Time

      At a support group for people who recently tested positive for HIV, Irene (top left) told Debra that she has faced incredible stigma and discrimination since being diagnosed. Many members of her family and friends abandoned her. She says this support group is helping her keep a healthy outlook on life so she can be a better mother for her two children. Reducing stigma and discrimination not only improves quality of life for everyone, but it also contributes to people getting tested sooner and can help dramatically decrease an individual’s risk of spreading HIV.

      5/6Debra Messing Gives Back
      Take Part

      "Like" Make Positive More Positive's campaign on Facebook or follow Make Positive More Positive on Twitter, and the organization will donate an HIV screening kit to someone who needs it.

      6/6Debra Messing Gives Back
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