11 charities to support this giving season

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People, like my family, are helped by your kindness.

After working of years in the nonprofit sector, sitting on multiple nonprofit boards and volunteering thousands of hours at various organizations, I often have people ask me about charities to volunteer at and donate money to. I usually tell them that it’s where their hearts point. We all have our reasons to help certain charities – obviously being a cancer survivor and losing my dad to cancer drive me to work with cancer-related charities that help others affected by the disease. I’m also a big animal lover, especially horses, and I’m obsessed with reading. These types of nonprofits catch my heart the quickest.

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Today is #GivingTuesday, a day focused on supporting charities. For the past several years, it’s been celebrated on the Tuesday after our U.S. Thanksgiving. It serves as an opportunity for nonprofits to remind people of their mission and need for donations and volunteers.

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Nonprofits rely heavily on individual giving to help provide their programs and services to those in need. Some nonprofits are funded only by individuals, people like you and me who are committed to helping others. Gifts to nonprofits are tax-deductible (unless otherwise noted), so it’s a win-win for all. If you really want to make a donation to help others this holiday season, I listed some organizations that I support currently and through the years (links to each charity provides more information). Any amount makes a difference to a charity.

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LIVESTRONG – This organization has been supporting cancer survivors and caregivers for 20 years, providing Navigation Services to guide you through all chapters of cancer (from diagnosis to treatment and after), fitness programs at the YMCA, awareness programs at schools, advocacy to keep cancer a priority in our government and more. I’m honored to be a LIVESTRONG Leader volunteer in Michigan, ride with Team LIVESTRONG, represent the organization in Washington, DC and more. Clearly, I wholeheartedly believe in their mission, programs and services.

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Local libraries – As I mentioned, I’m obsessed with reading, both fiction and nonfiction. I love learning, and enjoy the escape from the crazy day to day life. Since I read so much, I often am at the library, appreciating the money saved and variety of books I discover through random wandering of the aisles. Most libraries have experienced severe funding cuts from their city budgets and rely on donors to offset their needs. Many libraries also operate used book stores so consider donating books too.

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Horses help everyone feel better!

Imerman Angels – Providing one on one support for people affected by cancer is the core mission of this organization, founded by a young adult cancer survivor from Michigan. One of my featured charities, Imerman Angels connect people throughout the world to ensure no one faces cancer alone.

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Camp Casey – I’ve previously shared my love for this organization that brings horses to the homes of children and teens with cancer, as well as offering a camp out retreat for these patients and their families. Horsey House Calls are now available in both southeast Michigan and the Grand Rapids area. The organization welcomes financial donations and items from their wish list.

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Sick Kids Foundation – A friend recently introduced me to this hospital organization. The children’s hospital, based in Toronto, plans to build a new, welcoming place for sick kids. I read a lot about the organization, their plans and achievements, and I was impressed. And after watching this video, how can you not be touched by their mission?

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Camp Mak-A-Dream This organization in Montana will forever be in my heart. It’s the first place I attended as a cancer survivor, introducing me to other young adult cancer survivors and reminding me that my new post-cancer life could be as spectacular as I made it (I also fell madly in love with the mountains, as it’s nestled in the mountains of Montana). Offering age-appropriate sessions for children, teens and young adult cancer survivors, both in and out of treatment, the camp provides an amazing opportunity to meet others, participate in helpful workshops and simply play (swim, hike, archery, art, and more) and enjoy life.

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I Know Jack Foundation – Founded by an amazing family in Iowa, I Know Jack Foundation provides Jack Pack backpacks filled with good stuff for cancer survivors, and raises funds for LIVESTRONG and other cancer organizations (read my feature blog).

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Horses Haven – This animal rescue is run on volunteer power, providing a home to horses (and some donkeys and goats at times) who need shelter, care and love (read my feature blog). I love visiting the farm, witnessing the magic of how love and kindness transform these animals. The farm survives on donated funds, time and items, which are even more important during the cold weather.

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SAMFund for Young Adults with Cancer – The founder, Samantha, is a friend who I met years ago at a young adult survivors conference, when her idea was blooming for this foundation to support young adult cancer survivors through financial scholarships and more. The foundation provided more than $1.7 million in support to young adults since its inception, helping survivors with costs related to fertility, college, housing, doctor bills, insurance, and more.

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National Coalition of Cancer Survivorship – NCCS advocates for quality cancer care for everyone touched by the disease. When I was diagnosed with bone cancer 20 years ago, NCCS was my go-to organization. Their resources covered survivorship issues, employment rights, becoming an advocate and more. I found much relief in learning all that I did after treatment. Today, they focus more on policy and advocacy, ensuring cancer survivors have a voice in educating government agencies and policymakers on the need for quality care through all aspects of cancer.

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American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network – ACS CAN works tirelessly to ensure cancer survivors are protected by laws and policies. As a lead volunteer for my Congressional District, I join ACS CAN staff and other volunteers to work with legislators and their staff at the local, state and federal level to keep important issues at the forefront of government. These include funding for research, new treatment, preventive programs and more. Because ACS CAN is the advocacy arm of the ACS, funds are not tax-deductible. However, the actions and influence the organization has on making positive change in cancer policy is invaluable. If you want to make a contribution to ACS CAN, you can purchase tribute bags in honor or memory of someone with cancer. The tribute bags will be on display at our Lights Of Hope display in Washington, DC next September (read about this year’s DC trip).

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