Walk, run, pledge, volunteer: Austin 5K fundraisers

It’s 5k season, and that means runners, walkers, strollers, dogs, people in costumes, dogs in costumes, people in ambulances, people cheering from sidewalks, and volunteers take over the streets. I’ve done dozens of 5ks, so allow me to share …

Found under "slow" in the dictionary.

“Monica’s Tips for a Fun 5K”:

1. Wake up at least 10 minutes before the run starts.

2. Park right next to the starting line. Everyone thinks they’d never get parking that close, so nobody tries. Plenty of spaces.

3. Line up ahead of the strollers to avoid being clipped by lazy babies.

4. Wait for the starting horn, then walk calmly to the starting line. What’s the rush?

5. Start running when you finally have room, about 10 minutes after the horn. Take every water break.

6. Find a nemesis — I usually choose a woman fitter looking than I am who I want to eat my dust — and pursue that person until you realize you’re finished with the race.

7. After the race, head straight for the car. Stop by “Tacos & Donuts” on HWY 290 on the way home.

Now go!

Water 2 Thrive 5K
Saturday, September 18
Start Time: 8:30 AM, 9:00 AM
Register Online
Location: Hill Country Galleria, Bee Cave, Tex.
Distance: 5k timed run, 5k walk, 1k kids fun run
$28 adults, $12 kids registration fee. “Our current efforts are supporting rural and impoverished communities in Ethiopia and Sierra Leone.”

Colin’s Hope Kids Triathlon
Sunday, September 19
Onsite Registration:
7:00 AM
Start Time: 9:00 AM
Register Online
Location: Lake Pointe Swim Center
Distance: 5k timed run, 5k walk, 1k kids fun run
$30- $35 kids registration fee. There will be multiple age groups from 5 to 15 years old. No team competition. This race is designed to build confidence by allowing each young athlete to complete all three disciplines on their own. We will have participation awards, T-shirts, goody bags, and age-group awards.

CASA Superhero Run
Sunday, September 19
Onsite Registration:
7:00 AM
Start Time: 8:00 AM, 8:45 AM
Register Online
Location: The Domain
Distance: 5K timed run, 5k walk, 1k kids fun run
$25- $30 adults, $15- $20 kids registration fee. Create a personal fundraising page. Superhero costume contest. Photobooth, craft tables, moonwalk. “Because every child needs a hero, but abused children need superheroes.”

Pancreatic Cancer Action Network’s PurpleStride
Saturday, September 25
Onsite Registration:
7:00 AM
Start Time: 8:00 AM, 8:15 AM
Register Online
Location: Hill Country Galleria, Bee Cave, Tex.
Distance: 5k timed run, 5k walk, 1k fun run
$30 registration fee. Create a personal fundraising page.

NAMI Austin Walk
Saturday, October 2
Onsite Registration
: 8:00 AM
Start Time: 9:00 AM
Register Online
Location: Walk begins and ends at Auditorium Shores Parking Lot at the corner of W. Riverside Drive and S. 1st Street
Distance: 5k
No registration fee. All walkers must register to participate. Walk will take place rain or shine.

Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Light the Night Walk
Saturday, October 16
Onsite Registration:
5:00 AM
Start Time: 7:30 AM
Register Online
Location: Lake Park at Mueller
Distance: 5k
No registration fee. Individuals may register alone or as part of a new or existing team. Participants pledge to raise money for LLS.

Saturday, October 23
Start Time:
8:00 AM
Register Online
Location: South 1st St. Bridge over Lady Bird Lake
Distance: 5k
$35 registration fee. Individuals may register alone or as part of a new or existing team. Participants pledge to raise money for LIVESTRONG.

Dell Children’s 5K and Family Fun Fair
Saturday, October 30
Start Time:
8:00 AM
Register Online
Location: Dell Children’s Medical Center, Mueller
Distance: 5k and 1k
$30 adults, $10 kids registration fee. All money raised for this event, through generous sponsors and participants, will go to help the areas of greatest need at Dell Children’s and to establish the Carl Teel Music Endowment here at the medical center.

Walk to Cure Diabetes
Sunday, October 31
Onsite Registration:
10:00 AM
Start Time: 11:30 AM
Register Online
Location: Walk begins and ends at Auditorium Shores Parking Lot at the corner of W. Riverside Drive and S. 1st Street
Distance: 2 miles
No registration fee. Individuals may register alone or as part of a new or existing team. Participants pledge to raise money for Junior Diabetes Research Foundation.

I’m all for slacktivism after all.

Does this guy look like a slacktivist to you?

Oh, haters. I understand you. I am one, too — critical of anything that looks too cool, to0 simple or too clever.

I’m the one who coined the term “slacktivism” in the first place … well, I mean, I used it on this blog about a year ago, before it was cool. (Is it cool, yet?)

Back then I was worried that these acts of slacktivism were replacements for genuine engagement in social issues, and now I know better: They’re not replacements, they’re a part of something bigger.

Let’s take HelpAttack, for example. It’s  a new application that works with your Twitter account. You register with HelpAttack by connecting it with your Twitter account, pledging a penny or 10 cents or a dollar – any amount – per Tweet to any nonprofit organization of your choice. The system estimates how many Tweets you tweet per month and estimates what you might donate to that nonprofit per month, and even lets you set a limit just in case you find yourself in a Tweeting frenzy and wind up pledging your house away.

Simple? Yes. Too simple? Maybe. And your point is…?

“But these people aren’t doing anything! They don’t care about that organization! Why wouldn’t they just donate the money directly to the nonprofit? This makes them feel like they’re doing something — they’re not!”

Here are three reasons I think these actions are worthwhile.

1. Slacktivism is an entry point to philanthropy. For people who have never donated to a cause before, apps like these can be a simple way to start. Philanthropy has offered these types of opportunities for years; think about the Salvation Army’s red bucket or the Jerry Lewis telethon. What’s the point of making it difficult for people to make a donation? Remind me…?

2. Slacktivism is another way for people who already give and care about a cause to give even more. If I’m already a volunteer and I make an annual donation, why not tag on an extra 10 cents per Tweet? It’s simple to do and even kind of fun. Again, remind me why this is bad…?

3. Slacktivist enablers (yes, I just coined that term) bust their asses to bring you these “simple” applications. Have you ever met Alex Winkelman, founder of Charity Bash? She has every opportunity to spend the bulk of her time shopping, but she’s chosen to organize these parties that raise about $5,000 per month for charity. Yes, attendees just have to pay $10 at the door and look hot, but if you’ve ever organized an event with sponsors, entertainment and a beneficiary, you know what a ton of work it can be. Sure Alex is an enabler… an enabler that donates about $75,000 a year to local nonprofits.

And as for HelpAttack… I was actually asked by Dave Neff to serve on the board for HelpAttack, and I have to say I’ve learned more than I’ve given back (as usual). What I’ve learned is how much time, money, sacrifice and long nights it takes to create and launch these applications. Sarah, Dave and Ehren have every right to have ignored their idea for HelpAttack and pursued something sexier — like bringing the world another location-based application. (Yawn.)

But they chose to use their powers for good. In the meantime, they’ve taught themselves how to launch a new business, how to promote cause-oriented applications, how to partner with nonprofits and how to work together as a team. And, by the way, they’ll probably raise thousands of dollars for charity.

Too simple? Hardly. Worthwhile? Totally.

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.

Introducing 12 Baskets for Mobile Loaves & Fishes

12 Baskets Homeless Austin Danny Maggie IAMHERE T3Last fall I was chatting with Alan Graham at some event when he asked me, “So did I see something in one of your Tweets about custom publishing?”

And that’s how 12 Baskets started. Six months later, we’re about to launch the first magazine issue, timed to coordinate with the launch of a huge campaign to raise awareness about homelessness and put Danny & Maggie, a homeless couple from Austin, in a permanent home.

I wanted to thank all the people who contributed, but especially recognize Robin Finlay, who donated her time and talent as an art director to make the magazine…. well, it just works. That’s what great art directors do, and Robin — sitting across from me now, btw — is definitely one of the best art directors in Texas.

Please open it here. More importantly, get to know the people in this magazine and, if you’re so inclined, help them by donating or volunteering. You can even text “Danny” to 20222 to donate $10 to get Danny and his wife, Maggie, off the streets and into a permanent home.

Thank you, and let me know what you think.

P.S. Thanks, Alan, for the opportunity. We learned a lot and had a great time.

My sister is overwhelmed

My sister’s the introspective type. She’s also the type who just puts down her purse and gets things done, which is part of what I love about her. She doesn’t work but she keeps herself busy with a number of projects, and right now, she’s rescuing dogs.

My sister lives in San Antonio with her husband, two dogs, and four cats. These are animals she’s rescued because she just can’t bear the thought of their not having good homes. The problem is, she can only rescue so many dogs, and apparently San Antonio’s pet rescue network is nowhere near as strong as ours in Austin. Their no-kill shelter has a waiting list to get in, and there are only two animal cruelty officers for the whole city.

So what happens is she’ll come across a case of dog abuse and take it upon herself to help the animal, sometimes climbing a fence to give it water, fresh food, some attention, and a new blanket or some shade. It’s the kind of thing we all want to do when we see an animal who needs help, but we don’t do because we don’t want to get involved – or arrested.

She’s been doing this a while, but she’s totally overwhelmed by all the cases of abuse she comes across. And I’m not just talking about dogs with warm water, I’m talking about dogs who suffer disease, starvation, heat exhaustion… really horrible, preventable things.

I tried to talk to her last night about other ways she can act that will have an impact. She said, “The thing is, Monica, I don’t want that job. I don’t want to do it.”

And yet, it depresses her to witness the cruelty.

I think everyone needs to find that point of action where you start to feel a little more in-control, where you feel comfortable that you’re making a difference. For some people that satisfaction comes from helping just one, feeding one, rescuing one animal. But for my sister, that’s not enough. And yet, she doesn’t want to do more, not because she’s lazy – she is nowhere near lazy – but because she’s overwhelmed.

Austin author releases new book about the orphans of India

For three years, Shelley Seale would travel to the orphanages of India, bags loaded with treats and toys to share with the children who had made such an enormous impact on her. After all, these were the same children who inspired the movie Slumdog Millionaire. Each time she got to know the children’s stories a little more, which compelled this Austin writer to compose a new book called, “The Weight of Silence: The Invisible Children of India.”

“I hope that people will see that even though this topic is serious and the stories often heartbreaking, it is not a depressing book or subject!” says Seale. “The kids’ hope and resilience amazed me time and time again; the ability of their spirits to overcome crippling challenges inspired me. The issues are tough, what has happened to a lot of these kids makes you want to cry – but the bottom line of their stories is a very strong, hopeful voice.

I interviewed Shlley to find out what compelled her to travel, return, and make the children of India such a big part of her life.

What prompted you to travel in India and get to know these children?

In early 2004, I read an article in Tribeza magazine about Caroline Boudreaux, who had visited India three years earlier. She had happened upon an orphanage full of children living in incomprehensible conditions and had returned  home and started The Miracle Foundation, a nonprofit which raises money and recruits sponsors to help support the home. I began volunteering for the organization and sponsored a child, and Caroline invited me to go to India with a volunteer group. My first visit was in March 2005.

Was the situation what you expected?

Yes and no. When I arrived that first time, I assumed all the kids there were orphans in the true sense of the word – their parents had died. Instead I was shocked by how many of them had been “orphaned” by poverty; their parents had left them at the Miracle Foundation home because they were too poor to feed them, which in some ways seemed an even greater tragedy. I wondered when each of them had stopped wanting to go back home, or if they ever had. Afterward, there was simply no way to go on with my life afterwards as if they did not exist.

I had gone expecting it to be a sad place, an emotionally wrenching experience with these parentless young people. But those expectations had been turned on their head. Yes, there were stories behind each one of these children – many of them painful and tragic. Yet the man who ran the orphanage, and the house mothers, had made the kids their own in a community of sharing and acceptance. They were poor in wealth but not in spirit; limited in resources but not in joy and laughter. They gave me a complete unconditional love, for nothing more than showing up.

This kind of journey isn’t for everybody… is it?

Probably not. The specific type of trip I took with The Miracle Foundation, the volunteer trip to the children’s homes, is not the same as a sight-seeing vacation.

India is definitely a complete culture shock for someone who’s never been there, especially if you haven’t traveled in a developing country before. The poverty and hardship is stark and in your face. At times, quite honestly, I just wanted to look away and say I’d had enough. But the suffering remains whether we choose to look or not. They do not go away simply because we decide that to be a witness to them, to say I care about your story, is too difficult for us.

But still, like I said before, the moment you meet these kids, that all goes away. I have been on four different trips with all kinds of different people, some of whom love India and some who barely tolerate it, yet every single one of them fell in love with these kids and had the time of their life.  It’s amazing how this experience hooks you – I sometimes tease Caroline Boudreaux about putting something in the water. But the truth is, we go thinking about giving something back, and in the end it’s us who end up getting something amazing out of it. We are the ones who get rescued.

I guess sometimes it seems hopeless. There are so many children who need help. What do you think?

The truth is, each person can create incredible impact with even small actions. It’s a ripple effect, and I have seen it happen over and over, so many times I can’t even count them. Most of us could never sell all our belongings and go work in the trenches in India, but that doesn’t mean we should think, then, that we can’t do anything at all.

If you can change the course of the life of ONE person – still, that one person’s life is different and better because you impacted it.  I think that’s worth it. Don’t focus on the big picture, just focus on what you are passionate about, what you want to do. For me, I can’t constantly think about the 25 million kids in India who live in orphanages or on the streets – I can only think about the one who is in front of me at that moment.

What do you hope to accomplish with the book?

My sole purpose in writing the book was to give these millions of children a voice that could be heard by others in the world who, I was convinced, would be as moved by their plights as I was. And so, the main thing I hope to accomplish is awareness – followed by action. Some kind of action. I think the key is to discover what you are passionate about, what you have genuine feelings and caring about – and then do something about that issue. But just do something.

To learn more about the book, go to Seale’s website or purchase one from The Miracle Foundation. Note that for all books purchased through The Miracle Foundation, all proceeds are donated to them.

JUNE 18: Vivir Unidos! …but what is it?

It’s a movement. It’s an opportunity. It’s an event.

It’s a lot of things. So to clarify, I talked to Armando Rayo of Hands On Central Texas (which is part of United Way Capital Area) about Vivir Unidos.

Q. So what is Vivir Unidos? 

Mando: It’s basically a volunteer fair for Hispanics. But it’s also a celebration of our culture and an opportunity for anyone to connect with the Hispanic/Latino culture in Austin.

There’ll be about 30 nonprofits there, reaching out to attendees to talk about volunteer opportunities. We’ll also have several local restaurants serving up food from all kinds of Hispanic cultures. There’ll be music and dance, of course, and Loteria. Plus we’re hear about the city’s Hispanic Quality of Life Initiative and our own report about Hispanic volunteering and community engagement.

Q. Wow, so there’s going to be plenty to do, but who’s it for?

We’re hoping to attract Hispanics and Latinos in Austin who are looking for ways to support their community. But it’s also a great opportunity for local nonprofits to get to know the culture and what drives Hispanics and Latinos to volunteer. Traditionally, I would say that Hispanics/Latinos are not asked to serve. Maybe it’s because so many of the people that are served are Hispanic/Latino, but I also think it’s because nonprofits need to gain a better understanding of the motivations and hurdles Hispanics and Latinos have for volunteering.

It’s absolutely essential to include Hispanics/Latinos in the service to that community. Not only do they understand the culture and language better, but they can be visible role models who demonstrate that Hispanics/Latinos in Ausitn need to be part of the change.

We definitely hope to see the Hispanic community represented, but anyone can attend. Families and children welcome!

Q. So what will attendees get out of it?

Mando: Well, they’ll have fun. It’s at the Mexican American Cultural Center, which is a few blocks south of the Convention Center and just off the west side of I-35.

And, really, the main goal is for people to learn what they can do to make a difference. They’ll come away with a list of resources for becoming more engaged, and they’ll learn a little bit more about the culture.

Q. GivingCity will be there. But now’s a good time to talk about details.

Mando: You’d better be there! Okay, here are the details…

Thursday, June 18, 2009 
6:00 – 8:30 PM
Mexican American Cultural Center
600 River Street, Austin, Texas 78702

An event hosted by United Way Capital Area and Hands On Central Texas. Come learn about how you can get involved in the community, and enjoy activities for the whole family!
* Vivir Unidos Loteria (which is basically Mexican bingo)
* La Feria de los Voluntaries (the Volunteer Fair part)
* St. Edward’s Ballet Folklorico (dance performance)
* La Esquina de HEB (HEB Corner)
* Comida Latinoamericano (Nom, nom)
* Special presentation of “Making the Connection Volunteer Report” by
Hispanic Community Leaders.

PS: There’s still time to be a sponsor! Sponsorship levels from $200 to $5000. Get creative and email Mando Rayo with your sponsorship inquiries.

Check out how Austinite Linda Medina rolls with community engagement…

How I LIVE UNITED: Linda Medina from elmundodemando on Vimeo.