Posts Tagged ‘AARBF’

Praise vs. Thanks

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I’ve been wondering lately how clearly we hold the distinction between Praise and Thanks. Do we really know the difference? Does one of them, or the anticipation of receiving one, drive us more than another?

I’ve just returned from a 10-day exhausting and overwhelmingly fulfilling volunteer gig working with burn-injured children (Champ Camp of the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation—it’s the largest and longest-running burn camp in the nation—reach out and I’ll tell you every little thing about it—you want to be a part of this, I promise)…and on the long drive home from the hot dusty foothills of Fresno, I reflected back on the week-and-a-half.

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I received a LOT of thanks for my work. I was often embarrassed, because it felt like praise and I, like so many of us, duck and deflect compliments…but I never want to avoid a thank you. A thank you deserves to be heard, received, and responded to (but NOT with that horrific reply “No problem”—Ooof how I want to thwack the head of every damn waiter and barista and service person who replies to “Thank you” with “No problem”…but that’s a rant for another day) with some grace. I also gave a lot of thanks to my fellow volunteers, not to slap them on the back as if to say, “Good on ya” but because I was (am) genuinely thankful for their hard and important work. It gets blurry in my own head which is which, but I know that praise is not important, gratitude expressed IS important.

If we functioned in a vacuum, with no one to witness our good deeds and service as volunteers, how much of this hard work would we still perform? I don’t mean to suggest that we do it selfishly to polish our halos and gain recognition for our selflessness—most of us are legit pretty darned selfless—there are MUCH easier ways to garner praise. If, however, we did a good deed in the forest and no one was there to hear it, might we just walk on by? Probably, at least some of the time. That’s hard for me to wrap my head around for my own self-image, but I think it is authentic.

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I wipe down the public restroom sink because I believe I should, not because someone is watching. I pick up the litter because it offends my sensibility to see it there, not because someone will clap for me. Those are tiny expressions. Will I, however, commit a week and a half to 24-hour-a-day service if I don’t get to humble brag about it on social media? Wow—I sure hope so. I have no sense of an audience for my service when I am in the midst of it all, but if I’m being honest, I sure do want you to notice afterward.

It’s not a peg on which everyone hangs their reputation, but the “being of service” thing is very much a part of who I am and who I say I will always be. How much of that is to feed my ego? I’m not sure. I’m probably being hard on myself with sleep deprivation and laundry and re-entry making my brain swirl. In the long run, what matters is that the good work is done and done well. If you volunteer because a spouse or parent or someone pressures you into it, or so you can include it on a resume or college app, or to get extra credit, does that matter? I say no. Do the work anyway. Sweat the sweat. Cry the tears. Laugh the belly laughs. Hug until it hurts. You might get some praise—big deal—but you WILL get thanks, and that IS a big deal.

If you listen closely, you’ll hear the most important thanks is coming from you.

That seems like a trite statement but it is everything.

You Can Always Help: Auto-Giving That Doesn’t Cost a Dime

I know that I am not exactly the same as every other duck in the pond, and I know that the charge I get, personally, from volunteering might occur as a drag for someone else. No harm in that on either end, but I am also always on the lookout for ways to make a difference in a passive, non-energy-draining way. A way to give that doesn’t take extra effort, extra time, or extra dollars.

Well, here’s one of those. When you shop at Amazon, and a gazillion of us do, try logging in a little differently next time. Type in: smile.amazon.com, and you will go to Amazon’s simple, automatic way to support your favorite charity. With no extra cost or effort to you, the shopper, Amazon will donate a portion of all your eligible purchases (most of them) to your chosen non-profit. The page auto-loads with some big, national, well-known charities (Red Cross, Wounded Warriors, etc), but if there is a smaller organization that inspires you, you can choose your own charity, and if they are in the registry, they will be your delegated recipient of the donations that don’t cost you a dime. You only need choose your charity once, next time you come back to shop via smile.amazon.com, it will be there unless you change it.

Photo: AARBF.org, Isaiah with camp counselor

Photo: AARBF.org, Isaiah with camp counselor

If you kind of don’t care one way or the other, but still like the idea of since-I’m-shopping-anyway-I-might-as-well-help-somebody…I have a personal recommendation. When you go to smile.amazon.com and can choose your charity, consider AARBF (The Alisa Ann Ruch California Burn Foundation). This foundation is dedicated to improving the lives of burn-injured children and adults with direct services, care, education, and prevention. One of the largest programs of many that happen throughout the state (but you don’t need to live in California to support!) and throughout the year, is Champ Camp, a week-long summer camp for burn survivors ages 5-16. I am leaving tomorrow morning to be a counselor for these kids that have genuinely changed my life.

From the AARBF “Burn Bulletin”:

For many children, summer is a joyous time of the year in which swimming pool parties, trips to the beach and backyard barbeques are essentials for the season. But for thousands of burn-injured children, summer can be an uncomfortable time of the year due to sensitivity to sunlight exposure, susceptibility to skin sun damage, painful dryness and itchiness of the skin, difficulties regulating body temperature and anxiety and fear of unwanted stares.

The healing process for most burn survivors includes skin grafts, physical therapy, long-term doctors’ care, special diets, daily dressing changes, pressure garments and, in some cases, prosthetics and/or wheelchairs. But in addition to the physical healing, burn survivors must adapt to their physical limitations; work through and heal from their mental and emotional scars; regain their self-esteem; assimilate back into society; and overcome their feelings of isolation with support from others facing the same issues.

Burn camps answer the questions asked after the doctors save the life of someone with a burn injury: How do you get a burn survivor back into society? How do you get their peers and others to accept their new appearance and abilities? How do you get people not to stare, not to make fun of them?

The work really matters, and if your Amazon shopping can help get one more kid to camp or into other important programs, I hope you’ll consider it.

See you after camp!

-MONKEY (that’s my camp name)

Changers Profile: Kirky “Xena” Kirkendall

XenaIf you were a blog reader here over this past summer, you know about the outstanding impact my volunteering at Champ Camp for the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation had on me. A world-class camp for kids who are burn survivors, Champ Camp draws the most amazing people—campers and volunteers alike. As a counselor for my cabin of “Rancheros” (8-10 year-olds) I really won the volunteer lottery—I was over the moon for those kids—I still am. The volunteers at camp are some of the most dedicated I’ve known, and there is a very organized system of leadership. The unit leader of our Ranchero age group (my direct boss, I suppose) was Xena, aka Kirky Kirkendall. I didn’t know her name then—we all exclusively use our camp names—I am Monkey—and many of us will never learn the actual names of others, even after years of working together.

Next summer, Xena will step into a larger role at camp, and become one of two Camp Directors, meaning the buck stops here. We’ll be lucky having her as one of the Queen Bees…and honestly, I wish every one of you could meet her and hang out with her and have her crack you up for a week…but until you come volunteer with us at Camp (or other volunteer activities with the foundation), you can meet Xena this way:

Tell me a little bit about what you will be doing at Champ Camp 2014 (Not as opposed to previous years, but in general, for readers who are unaware of the program) and your history at camp. How did you first get involved?

Burn survivors are affected both psychologically and physically by the injuries that they endure. Many of the survivors are very young and are burned as a result of an accident of some kind. These youth then have to adapt to an entire new persona. Burns at any age can be traumatic due to the physical changes and adaptations which need to happen. For those that are burned at a young age, however, the physical and “natural” difficulties of growing up become that much more difficult.

I became acutely aware of these difficulties in 2009 as my nephew (he was 17 at the time) became a burn survivor when he was electrocuted. He thought there was a brush fire and was going to try to help put it out, but it was actually a downed power line. His chest caught on fire and a volt went through his body. He was changed forever! He would always be nervous and stressed somehow by power lines and his skin would always have issues and need different surgeries. It is amazing how important skin is to our self-perception, self-worth, and confidence. To this day he is having to re-create himself, as so many youths are doing….

This is what compelled me to be involved in Champ Camp through the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation, a summer camp for any youth between 5-16 that has been treated for burns in California. This camp creates an opportunity for youth to play and be, for one week at least, “normal”, without scars, to play confidently, and laugh. I started to volunteer in this experience as a counselor four years ago and will transition this year humbly to be a director of this camp with Jeeter (who is a co-director with me) with 80 other of my dearest friends who also volunteer. (More after the jump) Continue reading

Honoring Fallen Fire Fighters and Supporting Families

The purple ribbon to honor fallen firefighters

The purple ribbon to honor fallen firefighters

Perhaps because of my recent work with the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation at this summer’s Champ Camp, and the opportunity to work alongside the most dedicated volunteers I’ve ever met–many of whom are firefighters, EMTs, medical professionals, and other heroes, the news of the firefighters killed in the line of duty in Arizona has hit me harder than expected. While not a member of this amazing community of life savers, they mean the world to me. Firefighters are a rare breed, with passion and dedication that surpasses most.

The 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots Crew that were lost on June 30 are the cream of the crop.

In direct response to the needs, both immediate and long-term, of the families left behind, a couple of organizations are worth your generous support (as are others not listed here, of course). An organization honoring the fallen crew has specifically focused on these two: The Heroes Memorial Foundation, “honoring all who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom” (their survivor support programs work with those left behind by law enforcement family members as well as fire fighters and first responders); and the Wildland Firefighter Foundation, dedicated to helping the families of firefighters killed in the line of duty and assisting injured and their families.

I know we all look for ways to reach out, to thank, and to support those that need it most. I hope you’ll take a piece of your day to learn more about these organizations, click on the links, and give if you can–dollars are nice, but so is amplification of the message–tell your network of family and friends about ways they can help as well.

Volunteer for Burn Survivors

I can’t even tell you how excited I am for this new adventure–I leave today for Champ Camp, where I will be a counselor for summer camp for kids who are survivors of serious burn injuries. Free to the campers (my “Rancheros” are ages 8-10) and fully staffed by medical teams and a bunch of goofy counselors like me (my camp name is “Monkey”) who will go to the ends of the earth to make this the best week EVER!

Because I’ll be away for the next 10 days, and off the grid, I won’t be able to refresh the blog–I hope you’ll be patient with me and come back after June 17, when I will have amazing stories from camp as well as a lot of other summer volunteer ideas, some fantastic interviews I’m excited about bringing you, and international service travel opportunities to help you find a way to get out there and give.

In the mean time–send me messages via the blog to let me know how you and your family are spending the summer giving of yourselves to someone or something. I’d love to toot your horns and use your stories to inspire others–you know how good giving feels.