Thursday, January 13, 2011

Things that Made the Holidays Bright

It's a new year.  Unbelievable how quickly the time goes.  There's a lot going on and a lot coming up, but I want to take a few minutes to talk about how 2010 ended for us.

As a family, we spent the middle of December celebrating the holidays with extended family, attending the kids' winter program at school and generally just getting ready for Christmas.  As soon as the kids started their winter break, we packed the car and went to visit Grammy.

Aside from that, we had a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff for SAHM Reviews.  Primarily, the RAZ - Random Acts of Zhu program.  Cepia, LLC gave us 104 Zhu Zhu pets and Kung Zhu pets to distribute to charities of our choice here in the Quad Cities.  They didn't put restriction on who or where.  They didn't ask for photographs of the families or kids.  The only requirement was the commitment to deliver before Christmas and document it.  

So I did a little soul searching to determine who I wanted to deliver these to.  Kids at the hospital, shelters, who?  I contacted the Director of Religious Education at St. John Vianney Church here in Bettendorf, as well as a columnist at the Quad City Times to see if either of them could point me in the best direction.  The church responded with enough information to help me get these distributed to kids in need.

When I was discussing it with Jan Stevenson, who heads up the project for St. John Vianney, she explained that they have an Angel program where parishioners 'adopt' a person or family then work to fulfill their wish list.  Who do they serve?  That's the great part.  It's non-denominational.  350 individuals whose names where provided from various agencies.  Elementary students from high poverty areas that were referred by the Bettendorf Police Department.  Mental health individuals from Vera French.  Kids in various "Free lunch" programs. Humility of Mary homeless and transitional housing.  Moms and babies from TAPP (a school for pregnant teenagers).  As well as other random individuals who are referred. 

By donating to St. John Vianney, I would cover a wide range of families in need.  Perfect.  

As a bonus, St. John Vianney provided me with contact information for one other place I wanted to donate.  Didn't care where or how but I wanted to provide some of the Zhu Zhu and Kung Zhu toys to children who have parents deployed.  I was ultimately connected with Pat Kobelenske from the National Guard in Davenport.  He is a Family Assistance Specialist covering most of Eastern Iowa.  

So those were my choices and I set off to make my deliveries in time for the two programs to distribute them to their final destination.  Our entire family, as well as a neighbor, helped out with this.  DH and I discussed with the kids why it was so important to distribute these.  Why we weren't keeping ANY when they're so used to getting stuff to test out themselves.  We talked about how some kids don't have the necessities, let alone toys.  It was very inspirational to see my girls helping.  They helped send me on my way to make the deliveries.

First stop was St. John Vianney.  I already told you who they distribute to.  But I didn't tell you what.  Requested items range from toys to clothes to cleaning supplies.  Jan explained that one woman asked for feminine hygiene products and nothing else.  Can you imagine your Christmas wish list including only that? Well, they don't just put that in a box and mark it completed.  They include additional items like personal care products, cleaning products and other necessities.  

They were taking the Zhu Zhu pets and using them to ensure that each child received a toy... starting with the ones that specifically requested Zhu Zhu or Kung Zhu toys.  I was overwhelmed by the site of all those baskets, bags and boxes that had been compiled.  Made me truly thankful for all that I have.  A few days later, I met with the National Guard and learned more about their program and needs.

I put together a video telling the whole story.  Amazing.  Seriously.

Please take the time to watch the video and see how intense this project was.  And if you're inspired enough to want to assist with a giving-tree program in your area, contact a local church, shelter or the police department.  Chances are that someone will point you in the right direction.  In the meantime, be sure to stop by Facebook and Twitter to pat Cepia on the back for a promotion well done.

I'm proud to have been selected to be part of the 2010 Random Acts of Zhu promotion.  Amazing, I tell you.

Disclosure:  Cepia, LLC provided 104 Zhu Zhu and Kung Zhu pets to distribute. No compensation was received for this project other than the joy that came with each of the deliveries... and the realization that I was part of a very special promotion to help make the holidays merrier for so many kids.  All comments, photos, videos are my own.


  • Zippy

    This was probably the highlight of my blogging "career" as well. Getting to go travel, review items, etc. is fun...but NOTHING compares with being able to help others. I love the fact that you got to include your kids in the giving program. What a great way to learn about the importance of giving.