Have your day at the Capitol

Today is CASA Day at the Capitol, and here’s why this is important.

Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) is taking a strong stand to stop budget cuts proposed for Child Protective Services, the agency charged with protecting children and caring for those in the Texas child welfare system and advocating for full funding for CASA.

Hundreds of CASA volunteers from across the state of Texas will gather at the Capitol to dedicate a memorial in honor of the 227 children who die from abuse and neglect each year in Texas. For more than 30 years, CASA has been speaking up for abused and neglected children in the Texas foster care system, often helping children who are in life-or-death situations. CASA programs recruit and train committed volunteers to help guide children through the foster care system and into safe and permanent home.

Tim for CASA storyIn our current issue, we have a story about Linda, a CASA volunteer who was assigned to Tim when he was just three years old. Linda has stayed by Tim (in photo, left) his whole life, protecting him from getting lost in the system and helping him become the productive and capable human being he is today.

We also have a story advising Austin nonprofits to step up to the Legislature and speak up for the children and people they represent.

There will be many more of these “Days at the Capitol” during this session. You don’t have to attend them to support the cause.

Send a letter or email today to your representative and let them know why they should work harder to keep these vital services intact. Just go to Texas Tribune to find your representative. Speak up for Austin this session.

Easy way to help an Austin kid go to college

College tuition varies—from $7,000 per year at a public, four-year college to $27,000 per year at a private four-year college—but no matter what type of college you choose, that amount adds up quickly. For many Austin students, it’s completely unaffordable.

Imagine working hard enough to be accepted for college only to realize you can’t actually afford college. This doesn’t have to happen. You can help!

Volunteers are needed to help families complete financial aid applications at Financial Aid Saturdays, here in Austin.

Volunteers at Financial Aid Saturday events provide personal assistance with filling out the FAFSA. Students and families can also bring other financial aid applications they need help with, including the Texas Application for State Financial Aid (TASFA) and scholarship applications. It is our mission to help students secure the financial aid they need to go to college.

Events take place Saturdays (Feb 5, 12, 19, 26, March 5, 26) from 8:30 am – 12:30 p.m. at schools across Austin. They could sure use your help.

Just think: You could be the final push an Austin kid needs toward his college degree. Wow.

LEARN MORE HERE

SAT DEC 11: Because toys make children happy, people

Look at these photos. Just look.

Did I tell you about the time I got the Barbie Dream House? It was amazing. I adore(d) Barbies, and getting that Dream House is one of my favorite memories — never mind that my grandmother actually pulled it out of a trash can to give to me.

I don’t mean to get sappy on you, because for me that’s still a happy memory. There’s no other way I would have ever had the Barbie Dream House; it just wasn’t in the budget for my family, you know? The point is, toys make a difference to kids. And YOU can help make that difference to kids this Saturday.

This Saturday is the 13th Annual River City Youth Foundation “Merry Memories” holiday event in Dove Springs, a community just southeast of Austin. More than 95% of the children living in Dove Springs receive federally subsidized lunch. (So in other words, ALL of them.) If they can’t afford lunch, what kind of Christmas do you think they’re going to have?

Here’s how you can help:

DONATE TOYS

VOLUNTEER TO SORT TOYS

Merry Memories

13th Annual Toy Give-Away

WHERE

Dove Springs Recreation Center
5801 Ainez Dr, Austin, TX 78744

WHEN

Sorting of toys starting at 9 a.m. Event runs from 12-3 PM

Individuals and groups welcome!

To donate or volunteer contact
Oné Musel-Gilley (pronounced onay)
(512) 576-0219
PR@rivercityyouth.org
or Mona Gonzalez at (512) 633-9708

Get shopping, save Christmas. An Austin family needs you.

Foundation Communities family

The Tolfree family, helped by Foundation Communities.

PROBLEM:

More than 2,000 Austin families will consider “canceling Christmas” this year because they can’t afford the toys, gifts or even food to celebrate.

SOLUTION:

You or your company can adopt a family and save Christmas.

It’s simple. Just visit Foundation Communities to download a family sponsorship form, fill it in to let them know what size family you’d like to sponsor, etc.

Send in your family sponsorship form by Thursday, December 9.

This is your chance to be a hero, folks. Your donation goes straight to the families with the most need, and you can spend as much or as little as you want. Foundation Communities offers lots of gift ideas for each person in the family, so this is a easy, fun way to share the joy of the season.

And if you’ve ever seen a child on Christmas morning opening a present and seeing exactly the toy they asked Santa for…  Seriously, it will make your whole year.

What I love about Foundation Communities is that they have an amazing way of helping not just families with the most need but Austin overall because they’re repurposing empty hotels and apartments and condos into affordable housing that helps get families off the streets. They also give them a leg-up offering classes, training, community daycare and other services that give families a solid base for success.

So I don’t feel bad about pulling out my marketing copywriting hat to sell this opportunity to you.

Get the form & sponsor a family here.

Send in the sponsorship form by December 9.

Get your co-workers, employees, and family involved.

Save Christmas!

(Want to donate single items? See here for drop-off locations and drop them off before December 18!)


PS: For more opportunities to give this holiday, see our “75 Ways to Give” in GivingCity Austin Issue #5. Because once you start giving, you’re not going to be able to stop.

Adopt a kid this holiday season, impact your own

One of my favorite parts of the holiday season as a child was always the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree. Every year, Mom would take me to go pick angels off the tree. We’d choose a boy near my age to adopt and I’d lead Mom through the clothing and toy departments, getting exactly what I thought that kid would want. Shopping for someone else my age was always a really exciting – and empowering – experience. I dreamt all year about that moment on Christmas morning when I opened my presents and was fortunate enough to always get exactly what I wanted. Being able to create for someone else the one thing I looked forward to all year made me feel like I could do anything.

It’s a testament to how impactful that experience was to me as a kid that I still remember it so vividly, three weeks away (!!!) from graduating from UT. If you’ve got children, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more meaningful way to spend the holidays with them. Of course, you don’t need to have your own kids to make someone else’s happy.

Luckily, there are plenty of opportunities to make someone’s holiday season. We’ve chronicled them in the latest GivingCity. If you’re short on cash, most of these events are looking for volunteers. If you’re short on time, most accept donations toward toy purchasing. No matter what you’ve got going on, you’ve got the opportunity to make the holidays happen for someone.

Free glasses for kids at Texas Book Festival

Free Glasses for Kids at Texas Book Festival

FREE GLASSES FOR KIDS
Free eye exams and glasses for kids 5 – 12 years old
Prescription lenses and designer frames offered at no cost to families

When:
Texas Book Festival
Saturday, October 16 from 9:00 am-5:00 pm
Sunday, October 17 from 11:00 am-5:00 pm

Where:
Texas Book Festival, Children’s Tents, west of capitol,
corner of 13th Street and Colorado

Who is eligible?
Children ages 5-12
Qualify for free or reduced lunch (no proof of income or birth certificate necessary)
Targeting children without vision insurance, CHIP or Medicaid

Details
Parents must sign consent for before exam
Proof of residency or income not required
Exams and prescription glasses and frames will be provided at no cost to families
Dozens of volunteers will be on hand
Se habla espanol

NEED A FLYER? Download the English version or the Spanish version

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The Essilor Vision Foundation and the Austin Kids Vision Coalition will offer qualifying  young children free eye exams and glasses at the annual Texas Book Festival, October 16 -17, in Austin, Texas.

A screening team and eye doctors will be on-hand to offer free vision screenings and eye exams from a tent and a large van set up in the children’s area of the festival. Technicians will be able to offer new, prescription glasses to the children who need them but can’t afford the exam or glasses.  Most glasses can be made on-site the same day.  The free 2-day pilot to offer glasses for needy kids is a pilot project called Kids Vision for Life, a collaboration lead by Essilor Vision Foundation, the nonprofit arm of Essilor, the world’s largest manufacturer of ophthalmic lenses.

According to Essilor Vision Foundation’s research, 25% of school children living in the U.S. have a vision problem significant enough to affect learning.  Studies also show that 70% of juvenile delinquents have uncorrected vision problems.

“To think that our children are failing because of the very fixable issue of not seeing well is a problem we can solve, together,” says Ken Gladish, president and CEO of Austin Community Foundation. “I’m proud that so many great Austin organizations are participating in this pilot project and identifying ways to ensure that all the children in Austin who need glasses get them.”

The teams of volunteers, doctors and Essilor Vision Foundation staff will have spent four days working with hundreds of kids at three Austin ISD elementary schools earlier in the week.

Donate: The man is selling space on his arms, people.

Rob increased the distance "to give my donors the feeling that they're getting their money's worth."

On September 2, Rob Cunningham will swim in Town Lake from the 360 Bridge to Tom Miller Dam, 4.1 miles total.

Then, in October, he’ll ride his bike from Dallas to Austin, 200 miles.

He’s not a “fitness freak,” per se. No, Rob’s more of a philanthropy freak. Because you don’t just jump in the lake or on a bike and go, by the time Rob completes these tasks, he will have trained for months, swam about 100 miles and biked about a 1,000. All to raise $4,000 and awareness for four Central Texas nonprofits.

And you can either make a pledge or purchase space on his arms — think, Your Ad Here.

“I honestly want my donors to think of me in a lot of pain on event day and to be satisfied that they’ve given money for a significant effort.”

As per usual when I come across crazy interesting people, I have to ask a lot of questions.

Q What are you doing, swimming out there in Town Lake every morning?

Usually trying to keep my mind off of how bad my arms hurt. That is, until they go numb.

I made a commitment to my supporters and four local nonprofit organizations to not only raise money but to complete this physical challenge.

Thinking of my supporters and the nonprofits that I’m working for is a pretty powerful motivator for long training sessions. I know that if I’m not out there training and getting ready, then I run the risk of falling short of my physical goal on event day, and I don’t want that to happen.

Plus we have a great team of 19 other Got2Swim(mers) who have taught me a lot.  They’re a big group of fun loving people who make great training partners.

Q. Group training makes a difference. And no one ever does this stuff alone, do they?

My family has also been an integral part of my fundraising efforts over the last seven years.  For the 100-mile-rides for the Ronald McDonald House, Amy, Finn and Barton served as our rest stop coordinators and traveled with our ride team, over a 10 hour day. In the sixth year of that ride Amy even took on the 100 mile challenge herself.

The memories that my family have from those events are some of the best memories we have together.

I’m also fortunate to work at FOX 7, a company that is a big part of the community and has a big commitment to giving back.  I’m certainly not the only person at the station that supports a nonprofit or two throughout the year or raises money for a good cause.

To name only a few, there are ladies at the station that have a bake sale every year to raise money for the JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes; Keri Bellacosa is on the Board of Directors of JDRF Austin; and Loriana Hernandez co-founded Maggie’s Hope, which is a nonprofit that helps families dealing with Autism.

From FOX 7’s the top floor down to the lobby we feel a strong sense of being a community builder here in Central Texas, and I’m just happy to be a part of it.

Q. Why did you choose these four organizations?

I chose the Ronald McDonald House, Colin’s Hope and the Capital Area Food Bank’s Kids Café Program because I like the idea of helping local kids. I may not be able to give my own kids everything I’d like but at least they know that they’ll always live in a loving home and (by the grace of God) always have food on the table.

It breaks my heart to think that not all kids are that fortunate so I gravitate to causes that focus on helping kids. I also like the idea of giving back to wounded soldiers in the U.S. Army Wounded Warrior program. Those “kids” deserve all the help we can give them.

Rob in the water, training for the big swim on Sept 2, with help from his wife.

Q. What’s your “dream” for all this? What impact do you hope to have?

This all started seven years ago when, as a new board member of the Ronald McDonald House, I was trying to figure out a way to make a significant financial contribution to the House. Since I couldn’t just write a check, I made an impromptu decision to ride my bike 100 miles and ask people to sponsor me by the mile. That year I raised $1,700.

After that first year, through word of mouth, other riders joined in the fun and over the six-year history of that ride together our ride team raised a little over $200,000 for the Ronald McDonald House.

Q. How can we support you?

You can support my 204.1 mile effort by making a donation on-line at www.Got2Give.org/rob.html.  If you prefer to write a check you can make it out to Got2Give and mail it to 102 Squires Drive, Austin, Texas, 78734.

I’m also selling both of my arms to help raise money. I have ad space available on each shoulder for sale to a corporate sponsor for a donation $500 or more.  Just think, I’ve been training really hard…your logo here?

(Editor’s note: Rob is about 6’13” tall, so no worries about running a big logo.)

Trying to raise a minimum of $4,000 I really need support from anyone and everyone in the community that I can reach for both small and large donations, they’re all important and every donation makes a difference.

I was thinking that if all of my Twitter followers and Facebook friends donated just $10 that would equal $8,000, which is a real illustration of how everyone can help no matter what size the donation is.