The Magic of Children at This Season, And Always

No one loves the holidays more than children. How often I’ve wished I could go back to that age when my biggest challenge was being patient enough to wait for December 25, when there was truly something magical about this season.

But even though I’m not five years old anymore, spend enough time with someone who is, and you’ll start to pick up on their spirit. The thing is, kids don’t care about the shopping that needs to be done, the cookies that must be baked, or the million-and-one things to do before the big day. They just care that it’s Christmastime.

Children can teach you a lot throughout the year, too. And so, this month, I’ve been reflecting on what PGK has accomplished in 2018 and how grateful I’ve been to be a part of it. And I’ve been inspired by the generosity and caring shown by all the PGK kids across the country.

The first Create the Change Day LA was a great success – along with days in San Francisco and Boston. The refreshed PGK site was launched, with a beautiful new interface and updated functionality. And kids from coast to coast shared their time, talents and passion as they took part in service projects ranging from making cat toys for animal shelters to collecting socks for the homeless.

My favorite take-away from all of this, though, was a simple quote from a 9-year-old participant at the LA event: “My favorite part about Create the Change Day was thinking about what I’m doing to help other people.”

Creating the Change at the Holidays & Beyond

We just wrapped up a successful Create the Change Day season spanning all three of our cities – Boston, LA and the Bay Area. As a small nonprofit, three major events in five weeks in three different cities was no small task. Now that the busyness of it all is in the rear view mirror, we are able to sit back, enjoy and reflect on all the good that came from those days…and there was a lot of good! (We’ve got LOTS of ways to create more good below too, so keep reading!)

Perhaps as much as anything, we are struck by how easy it was to create community in those moments. Everyone who came did so with a desire for nothing more than to make a difference. People gave up their Sunday afternoons in service to others  – no football, no Fortnite, no other distractions. In large part, they were events full of people who had never rubbed elbows before, but that didn’t matter. They were there for the same reason, and there was an energy in each of those spaces much bigger than the individuals in it. The sum was definitely greater than the parts. But that’s what happens when we build community. We become something greater than our individual parts.

As we try to impart every day, creating community does not require running for public office or leading a community-based organization (although those things are great). It is the choice to turn to one’s neighbor with a friendly smile, to pick up trash along your path when you see it, to help a friend struggling at school, to see a neighbor in need and respond with compassion.

As a part of this year’s Create The Change Days, we asked our nonprofit partners to give us  other ways youth and families could assist them in the weeks ahead. Below are PDF’s from each region which should keep anyone who is interested busy for a while. And if you aren’t from one of our regions, you will still find lots of great ideas you can take into your own community too. So will you help us keep it going? It’s the perfect time of year to look outside ourselves and let the season of hope and giving inspire us all.

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A Season of Gratitude + A New Website

To me, autumn has always been the perfect season to re-prioritize and focus on what’s most important. As the days begin to cool down and the leaves to turn, it’s a wonderful time to really savor the present and enjoy the season with the people around us. Thanksgiving is approaching in a few short months, but we don’t need to wait until then to start counting our blessings and being grateful for what we have.
 
Research even proves that consistent gratitude doesn’t just make us happier, it can make us healthier, too. I like to choose five things to reflect on each night as I go to bed. They can be big, or they can be small. Sometimes I can think of dozens of things I’m grateful for; sometimes I’m just grateful that I made it through the day. But no matter what comes to mind, you’ll soon begin to realize the simple joy of being thankful for whatever you have.
 
At PGK, we’re enjoying fall, too – but we also have a lot planned for the next few months. PGK is celebrating its sixth birthday this year, and you’ve probably already noticed our newly-redesigned website. The refreshed site will make it easier than ever to pick a cause, get involved and learn more about us. 
 
We’re featuring new content showing how kids and adults all across the country have gotten involved in PGK activities and projects since our inception. We’ve also added a search feature to make it easier to find activities by keyword, plus filters to help choose projects by location, duration, age range and more. Finally, the site will make it easy for other nonprofits and parents to get information, feature mini bios on our board members, and offer a simplified login feature so you can save your preferences and log service hours right on the site.
 
One of the best ways to realize gratitude is by helping those who don’t have as much. Try exploring the new site to find a service project that’s meaningful for you.
 
Happy fall from PGK!

A Baller with Heart: Aidan Disney

by Sundari Johansen & Molly Yuska

Sometimes it’s great to be reminded of how dedicated and caring kids and teens can be, and how rewarding it is to give kids the opportunity to participate in volunteer service from a young age. Taking families on that journey is really what Project Giving Kids is all about.

We recently sat down for a video chat with Aidan Disney, a 14-year-old basketball lover and active community volunteer in Los Angeles, and his mom, Sheri. What’s remarkable about Aidan isn’t that his great-grandfather, Roy O. Disney, was Walt Disney’s brother. It’s that at such a young age, he’s already made a pretty big impact.

“I got it from her,” Aidan says about his mom, Sheri, when asked why he has such a heart for helping others. Sheri felt it was crucial to get Aidan actively involved in volunteering and philanthropy from a young age. She wanted to be intentional about creating a culture of giving in their family. That’s why before Aidan even hit elementary school, he had already delivered his birthday presents to pediatric patients at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. From there, it grew to annual participation with PGK partner Big Sunday and their annual big weekend of giving — something they still do! And when it came time for his bar mitzvah, Aidan dedicated this milestone event to Stand Up to Cancer, a charity that helped his family when his big sister, Charlee, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at age 20, raising an astounding $12,000!

As a fourth grader passionate about both basketball and charitable work, Aidan was chosen by a friend to take over RePlayce With Love, a community service project at his school in North Hollywood that collects new and used sports equipment and gives it to children in need. With his mom’s active support, the program has thrived under his leadership.

My favorite part is the feeling you get that you know you’ve helped someone. The warm feeling that you have inside of you, knowing that somebody has a better life now because you helped them,” says Aidan.

Now he’s starting high school, passing the reins of RePlayce With Love on to another student, but he has no intention of slowing down his efforts for others. In fact, as he gets older, it is clear Aidan is developing a deeper understanding of just how impactful his efforts – and those of others – can be. He has become passionate about making positive change, actively supporting the work of the Human Rights Campaign, the I Have a Dream Foundation, Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation’s Dribble For a Cure, Meet Each Need with Dignity (MEND), and other organizations working toward racial and economic justice. “One thing that I do really believe in is equality, and I want to see that in the world, [but] I don’t… I can do something, I want to keep being part of it.”

Aidan has seen first hand the impact that even one dedicated person, and one dedicated family, can have by simply showing up. And he wants other teens to know that’s all you have to do.

A lot of teens each have their own passions and hobbies, and see the wrongs they want to right in the world. If you want to see a change in the world, you have to be the change… They can make a difference, no matter what.

Having recently joined the Mid Valley Chapter of National League of Young Men, a leadership and service organization for young men and their mothers during the high school years, there is no doubt this Disney will do a lot more good in the years ahead and leave quite a legacy of his own.