On Monday, August 21, 2017, North America will see the first coast-to-coast total solar eclipse we’ve had since 1979.

While it’s tempting, it’s dangerous to look directly at the eclipse. The sun’s rays are much more powerful during an eclipse than a normal day, and since the retina does not have pain receptors, you can’t feel your eyes being damaged.

Try one of these easy tips to prevent retinal damage or eclipse blindness:

  • Purchase eyewear specifically designed for looking at eclipses. Ordinary sunglasses are not a substitute—keep your eyes safe and get the real thing! Refer to the American Astronomical Society (AAS) Reputable Vendors of Solar Filters & Viewers page for more details.
  • Install a solar filter on your telescope, camera, binoculars, or other viewing devices. Simply looking through these while wearing solar eyewear will not do! These devices magnify the sunlight, making the rays even more powerful.
  • Pinhole projection is another safe option for viewing. This involves passing sunlight through a small opening (such as a hole punched in an index card) and projecting an image of the Sun onto a nearby surface (for example, another card or the ground). Do NOT look at the Sun through a pinhole!

For complete safety information, visit the NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) Eclipse 101 page.

Unsure when the eclipse will be visible in your area? Check here.

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. BBB Wise Giving Alliance, a Community Health Charities partner, issued a warning about a fake charity sweepstakes. The scammers call from a Washington D.C. area code (202), referencing the Make-A-Wish Foundation of America and saying that the recipient has won $450,000. The catch? The “winner” must give up their banking information for taxes and insurance. Both the FTC and the Make-A-Wish Foundation posted alerts about the scam.

Keep yourself safe from charity scammers with BBB’s tips on identifying fraud:

  1. If a caller says you have to “pay” for a prize, hang up.  If you truly participated and won a sweepstakes, you will never have to send any type of payment to get your winnings.
  2. Government agencies won’t call you about sweepstakes.Scammers use this ruse to gain your trust and/or to make their tax or fees claim sound more official.
  3. Watch out for unauthorized use of a real charity name. The caller may use the name of a nationally recognized charity, like Make-A-Wish Foundation, to help build credibility, they may even offer to “connect” you with the sweepstakes office of that charity.  That’s another false-trust builder. If you truly want to connect with the charity, go to their official website for details.
  4. Don’t succumb to pressure to do as they say.Sometimes the longer you stay on the call, the more opportunities you will be providing scammers to push the right buttons to convince you.
  5. Report suspected scams to government authorities and the BBB.If you believe you have been the victim of a scam, contact the office of the attorney general in your state, report it to the FTC at ftccomplaintassistant.gov, and post your concerns to BBB Scam Tracker so that other members of the public will be informed about it.

It’s back to school season! You know what that means: Busy schedules and even busier mornings.

While it’s tempting to pack a pre-packaged breakfast, what you put in your body in the morning fuels you for the rest of the day. Whether it’s for a child or yourself, stay away from foods loaded with fat and sugar—your breakfast should be filled with hearty food that will keep you going throughout the day. Instead, try the American Heart Association’s Top Ten Tips for a Healthy Breakfast:

  • Oatmeal in an instant!—Instant oatmeal is great on a cold morning and contains fiber and vitamins.
  • Smoothie madness—Blend frozen fruit (bananas and berries are great), low-fat milk or fat-free milk, and 100$% fruit juice for a quick, tasty breakfast smoothie with lots of nutrients.
  • Go 100% whole grain—100% whole grain, cereals containing fiber served with low-fat or fat-free milk are a healthier alternative to sugary cereals. Whole wheat muffins with smashed banana are easy and tasty too.
  • Eggxactly!—Boil, scramble, or poach eggs and serve on whole wheat toast—they’re packed with nutrition
  • Toaster treats—Frozen whole grain waffles take almost no time to make. Top them with berries, low sugar apple sauce, or sliced bananas instead of syrup.
  • Go nutty!—Spreading peanut or almond butter on whole grain toast is a great way to get both protein and fiber.
  • Go fruity!—Fresh fruit cut up with a dollop of low or fat-free yogurt is a great way to start the day. Apples contain fiber and bananas contain potassium.
  • Try all-fruit spreads—Instead of butter or margarine on toast, try all-fruit spreads, fruit butters, or even sliced bananas or strawberries
  • Bagel classics—Try a while wheat or sunflower seed bagel with low-fat cream cheese or peanut butter
  • Breakfast on-the-go—Don’t have time to eat breakfast at home? Try whole grain mini bagels, muffins, nuts and dried fresh fruit that can be taken in the car (apple slices and bananas are also easy and not too messy!)

More than 14 million kids and adults in the U.S. attend summer camp every year.  It’s something we take for granted—afternoons spent swimming at the lake, popsicles eaten after a long field day, and the learning done by the creek rather than in the classroom.

For many kids, summer camp is a rite of passage.

It’s more than a tire swing by the river or globs of sticky sunscreen; it’s the chance to just be a kid. It’s the first time many children are apart from their parents for longer than a school day. It’s the first time they get to decide what they want for dessert. It is the first time they get to grow up and be on their own.

However, it can also be something more than just the classic camp experience portrayed in films like The Parent Trap or Meatballs. It can be a place where a child with type 1 diabetes learns self-confidence and independence from mom and dad, plus has an opportunity to be with other kids with diabetes. It can be a moment in the life of a child with special needs where they can broaden their worldview by meeting other children, interacting with animals, and engaging in sports and activities that help expand their social skills and display their unique abilities. Some camps provide youth from poor, inner-city communities with their only access to quality summer educational or recreational programs. This includes mentoring and fitness that can teach kids how daily choices support a healthier, happier life.

Not every child has access to summer camp.  Often, children living with long-term mental and physical health challenges don’t have the opportunity to go away for summer—camp isn’t always feasible when you need assistance climbing stairs or require multiple insulin shots every day.

But long-term health challenges don’t stop kids from wanting to be kids; camps across the country are working to make sure that every child has this life-changing opportunity. Camps like Camp Crescent Moon, American Diabetes Association Camp, and The Woods Project are working to ensure that children living with long-term health challenges, disabilities, and disadvantages still get to experience fun in the sun. From zip lining to fishing, camp gives children the chance to just be kids.

I witnessed the incredible positive impact of these health-based camps over the 20 years I spent with the American Diabetes Association. Spending a week at diabetes camp with all the other “kids” opened my eyes to what a parent of a child with diabetes faced every day. It meant waking up throughout the night to check on campers who might be experiencing low blood episodes, or celebrating with a six-year-old who was learning to test his own blood sugar levels or master the intricacies of an implantable diabetes pump. I learned there that these summer camps for kids with health challenges were about the only place where these children are ever completely “normal”; they could forget about their health issue and just be with other children who are like them, who understand them.

This impact is not limited to children here domestically—it happens all across the globe with camps like SeriousFun. Actor Paul Newman founded SeriousFun camps in 1988 so that kids with health challenges could, in his words, “raise a little hell.” Now, almost thirty years later, there are nearly 30 SeriousFun camps around the world.

For SeriousFun Camp Korey camper Alex, camp is a place that celebrates what he can do—not what he can’t. Alex uses a wheelchair, and often feels left out. But not at Camp Korey. Alex’s mother describes camp as “a place where he can be appreciated for who he is without constantly having to prove that he is good enough to deserve a place….He came home with his heart so full, he overflowed with happiness. It’s a place where he is a kid first and a person with a disability second.”

Alex isn’t the only camper to benefit from the freedom the camps provide. A study done by the Yale Child Support Center in 2015 found that parents noticed a positive change in their children with long-term health challenges after attending summer camp:

  • 66 percent of parents reported their child had an increased interest in social activities
  • 79 percent of parents reported an increase in confidence levels
  • 77 percent of parents reported increased self-esteem
  • 64 percent of parents reported an increased sense of belonging

Yes, camp is about mosquito bites, s’mores, and bunkbeds. But for some children, it’s the first time they’ve been in the water. The first time outside a hospital that they’ve been surrounded by other children who understand what they’re going through. It may be the first time they’ve been treated like kids, not patients.

Let’s help every child experience the confidence that summer camp fosters—and the sweat, smiles, and chlorine-filled fun that accompanies it—no matter what their disease or diagnosis.

Check out our Camps for Kids resources to find special camps for children with long-term health challenges in your area, or support the cause.

Two nights ago, I asked my older child (who just turned 21) if it was okay for me to discuss her personal situation in this blog post. She answered that if we don’t talk about it, we’ll never overcome the stigma associated with mental health problems, and people will continue to suffer in isolation and unnecessary shame. It was exactly the answer I expected.

 

Two years ago, before Emma’s struggles began, I would have called that a courageous attitude. Around that time because of my work, I began attending seminars and meetings about suicide prevention and mental health in the workplace, and I marveled at the courage of people who shared their lived experience stories of anxiety and depression. I didn’t understand how someone could be so brave as to admit to a room full of strangers that he’d tried to kill himself. But he knew exactly the impact it would have on his audience to witness a brilliant, successful man explain the hidden demon that had been destroying him inside for years.

 

Then that hidden demon attacked my family.

 

Ethan was a high school senior, a brilliant, successful kid with high GPA, strong test scores, and acceptance letters from good colleges. Then, suddenly, grades slipped. Anger appeared. He started cutting. As his parents, we didn’t understand why all his success suddenly began falling apart.

 

And we couldn’t talk about it, of course, because everyone else’s kids seemed just fine and no one would understand. So we stumbled along as best we could.

 

Shortly after graduation, Ethan and his girlfriend came to us, somber and serious, with “something to tell us.” Naturally we assumed what parents assume in this case, but we weren’t even close. Ethan said, “I think I may be gender fluid.” We didn’t know what that was at the time, but we learned quickly.

 

The ensuing two years has been a journey like none of us had ever anticipated. “Gender fluid” has clarified to “transgender,” and although Emma still looks to most people like a young man, nearly everyone accepts her for who she is inside. Depression and anxiety, in part driven by her gender dysphoria, has slowed her ability to transition. She’s been hospitalized six times on psychiatric holds for suicidal ideation, and one time she actually tried to take her own life. We’ve found that few doctors or therapists have any experience with or understanding of how gender issues complicate a person’s mental health picture. Although Emma has a tremendous network of support and love around her, depression is a powerful demon.

 

It’s a difficult thing, being the parent of a grown child whose depression has caused at least one suicide attempt. We are all just stumbling through this the best we can.

 

At first, I thought this was a private thing, something no one else would want to hear about. Then, during a reception at a work conference, I responded honestly to a colleague who simply asked, “and how are your kids?” By sharing my family’s story, I unexpectedly created space for her to open up about her own family’s struggles.

 

Telling her about Emma’s transition and depression didn’t feel courageous. It felt more like an act of compassion and connection, a recognition that few of us are as problem-free as we feel we have to present ourselves all the time.

 

Thus, when I stood up in front of a room of 150 people at the Charities@Work conference two weeks ago and told this same story, I didn’t think of it as courage at all. It should not have to be a courageous act to show vulnerability in public. Suppressing mental health challenges only perpetuates the stigma that makes it harder for suffering people to overcome the crushing feeling of pointless shame. There is no part of me that is ashamed of my daughter. There is no part of me that is ashamed of not having the answers, or not being able to “fix” her.

 

It’s important to remember that we are all stumbling along the best we can. This is the reason I started WriteCause with Community Health Charities. I hope over time it will grow, with others sharing their stories and shining a light on mental health concerns. Only through this sharing can we overcome the stigma and allow people struggling with mental health issues to change from being a person with a shameful secret, into being a person with a loving, supportive network holding them up.

 

Join us and share your story:

Everyone experiences fear. The fear of public speaking, failure, heights, darkness, small spaces — and, one of my all-time favorites — snakes. Just ask Indiana Jones. Fear comes in all sizes and shapes, and attacks despite our best efforts to ignore or avoid it. So, what makes you afraid?

We may not agree on politics, religion, or even favorite dessert (I like cannoli), but you will probably agree with me that you share the fear of developing Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, Alzheimer’s is the most feared disease in America.

Read more on The Huffington Post.

I always included the PSA (prostate specific antigen) screening test in any routine physical because I knew that prostate cancer was one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths for men in the U.S., and my PSA numbers had been climbing. To be honest, I didn’t really give much thought to my personal risk of cancer. No one in my immediate family had ever had prostate cancer, and at the time of the biopsy, I was only in my mid-50s. Prostate cancer was a disease that only affected older men.

All my complacency was shattered when the doctor came in and started the conversation with words that would change my life: “Man, you have a lot of cancer in there!”

 

Read more on The Huffington Post.

With summer vacation fast approaching, many parents are looking for ways to keep their kids active and healthy. Activity occupies the mind, avoids the summer slide, prevents boredom, and keeps kids from becoming couch potatoes.

 

Experts say too many kids choose sedentary activities over the summer, like video games and television, instead of exercise. In fact, a study published in the American Journal of Public Health reported that the body mass indexes (BMI) of more than 5,000 kindergartners and first graders increased by almost twice as much during summer break as compared with the school year. A follow-up study in 2016, published in the Journal of Obesity found that the risk of obesity is higher when children are out of school than when they are in school.

 

With a little planning, you can ensure your kids have their best, healthiest summer ever with these 12 tips:

  • Create structure and plan daily activities
  • Limit electronics
  • Keep cool with outdoor water activities – pools, water balloons, squirt guns, slip and slide, hose, boating, etc.
  • Make exercise a family affair by walking to a park or playground, biking, playing football or Frisbee in the yard
  • Encourage socialization with friends
  • Checkout summer camp and vacation bible school options
  • Sign up for summer reading programs at your local library
  • Learn something new through activities sponsored by area parks, museums, science centers, libraries, theatres, and beyond
  • Join a summer sports league
  • Try seasonal foods through cooking activities or plant a family garden
  • Give back through volunteering – check out volunteer opportunities
  • Keep a stash of craft activities, board games, books, and art supplies for rainy days

 

Remember:

  • Ensure safety and adult supervision
  • Wear sunscreen
  • Consider the impact of air quality
  • Stay hydrated

 

Summer Obesity Studies:

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/03/health/children-obesity-summer.html?_r=0

http://www.easterseals.com/explore-resources/living-with-autism/summer-activities-for-kids-with-autism.html

http://www.lung.org/about-us/blog/2016/05/for-kids-with-asthma-rising-temps.html

http://www.diabetes.org/mfa-recipes/tips/2015-06/fitting-in-summer-treats.html

http://www.kidsgetarthritistoo.org/living-with-ja/daily-life/staying-active/

https://www.healthiergeneration.org/news__events/2013/07/02/800/active_and_healthy_this_summer#disqus_thread

These gift ideas are perfect year-round for holidays, birthdays, Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day and more. Give a great gift that gives back, building stronger, healthier communities for all of us by supporting our trusted member charities. Here are 10 ideas:

  1. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital: Items include to beaded and charm bracelets as well as home décor (photo frames and throw blankets). Our pick: the Daisy Fuentes necklace or Brooks Brothers Striped Tie.
  2. Free to Breathe: A partnership for lung cancer survivors, Free to Breathe offers a variety of jewelry, watches and apparel, including beautiful bracelets and scarves with a “Be Brave” motto. You also have the option to build your own charm bracelet or necklace for an even more personalized gift. Our pick: Time to Be Brave leather band watch in pearl white. Also featured in Gift Guide for Gamers.
  3. American Cancer Society: The American Cancer Society Bookstore has an assortment of books, including a children’s picture book about why smoking isn’t healthy, cookbooks, support & care and cancer education books. Our pick: American Cancer Society New Healthy Eating Cookbook.
  4. American Diabetes Association: Find T-shirts, gifts for the kitchen and entertaining, and more at www.shopdiabetes.org Our pick: Precise Portions® Go Healthy Travel Pack.
  5. American Heart Association: One of the best online charity shops out there. They have everything from travel mugs to apple scented planners and rhinestone jewelry. Our pick: “Go Red” fleece blanket
  6. Autism Speaks: From T-shirts to jewelry, the Autism Speaks shop has it all. Our pick: NEST Blue Garden Classic Candle.
  7. JDRF: Shop a variety of T-shirts, ball caps, automotive accessories and more at the JDRF. Our pick:  The OGIO® Sonic Sling Pack.
  8. National Stroke Association: The National Stroke Association store has everything from apparel and bags, to drinkware and temporary tattoos.  Our pick: “Come Back Strong” graphic t-shirt.
  9. National Multiple Sclerosis Society: At this shop you’ll find bracelets, lapel pins and even an orange teddy bear! Our pick: Orange and white compactible umbrella with the MS logo.
  10. Sickle Cell Disease Association of America: Sickle Cell Disease Association of America has a variety of gifts that include clothing, drinkware and more.  Our pick: “It’s Time” lunch bag.

My children were raised in a home where Elmo, Big Bird, and Oscar the Grouch were just another part of our family. Since 1969, Sesame Street has been reaching and teaching children all over the world with comedy, cartoons, games, and songs. More than just ABCs and counting, Sesame Street has influenced our perceptions about developmental psychology, early childhood education, and cultural diversity.

This month, with the addition of Julia, a new Muppet with autism, this long-running American cultural icon has taken another important step to increase the awareness and understanding of children who are “different,” specifically children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
The big question we need to be asking ourselves now is whether this unprecedented step forward is enough.

Read more on The Huffington Post.

It’s hard to know where to begin with the current maelstrom swirling around the refugee crisis.

From Trump’s executive orders, to airport protests regarding refugee bans, to deterring terrorism and ISIS, to the Ninth Circuit Court’s ruling, this issue has become political dynamite. Politics instead of people.

Read more on The Huffington Post.

Related:

Did you know that several of Community Health Charities’ members have gift catalogs and online shops where you can buy great gifts to support a great cause? Gift choices range from jewelry and apparel to home décor and automotive accessories.

Why not shop from one of these online stores for a great way to give a gift to a friend or loved one this Valentine’s Day while also donating to a worthy cause? Here are 10 ideas:

  1. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital: Items include to beaded and charm bracelets as well as home décor (photo frames and throw blankets). Our pick: the Daisy Fuentes necklace or Brooks Brothers Striped Tie.
  2. Free to Breathe: A partnership for lung cancer survivors, Free to Breathe offers a variety of jewelry, watches and apparel, including beautiful bracelets and scarves with a “Be Brave” motto. You also have the option to build your own charm bracelet or necklace for an even more personalized gift. Our pick: Time to Be Brave leather band watch in pearl white.
  3. American Cancer Society: The American Cancer Society Bookstore has an assortment of books, including a children’s picture book about why smoking isn’t healthy, cookbooks, support & care and cancer education books. Our pick: American Cancer Society New Healthy Eating Cookbook.
  4. American Diabetes Association: Find T-shirts, gifts for the kitchen and entertaining, and more at www.shopdiabetes.org.  Our pick: Precise Portions® Go Healthy Travel Pack.
  5. American Heart Association: One of the best online charity shops out there is. They have everything from travel mugs to apple scented planners and rhinestone jewelry. Our pick: “Go Red” fleece blanket
  6. Autism Speaks: From T-shirts to jewelry, the Autism Speaks shop has it all. Our pick: NEST Blue Garden Classic Candle.
  7. JDRF: Shop a variety of T-shirts, ball caps, automotive accessories and more at the JDRF. Our pick:  The OGIO® Sonic Sling Pack.
  8. National Stroke Association: The National Stroke Association store has everything from apparel and bags, to drinkware and temporary tattoos.  Our pick: “Come Back Strong” graphic t-shirt.
  9. National Multiple Sclerosis Society: At this shop you’ll find bracelets, lapel pins and even an orange teddy bear! Our pick: Orange and white compactible umbrella with the MS logo.
  10. Sickle Cell Disease Association of America: Sickle Cell Disease Association of America has a variety of gifts that include clothing, drinkware and more.  Our pick: “It’s Time” lunch bag.

Whatever your cause, our member charity online shops can help you find a great gift for the important people in your life. For more on our member charities, view our complete member list.

Since 2007, the month of January has been observed as Sex and Human Trafficking Awareness Month per presidential proclamation. Unfortunately the epidemic has only worsened. According to the International Labour Organizationat least 20 million people are enslaved today – more than at any time in human history.

Read more on The Huffington Post.

It’s the New Year, and many of us will resolve to eat healthier. We might substitute fruit for candy as our 3pm snack, or start a health cleanse. Check out three easy habits to try for better nutrition and overall better health.

1. Skip the soda, sports and fruit drinks. Drink water instead: Here’s why:

2. Eat more whole grain bread and pasta. Several food chains have now jumped on the whole grain food train and so should you!

  • Subway, Bertucci’s, Carraba’s and Noodles & Company serve whole-grain pasta dishes.
  • Subway, Roti and Arby’s serve whole grain sandwich or pita bread, and several pizza chains including California Pizza Kitchen now offer whole grain pizza crust.
  • For a list of restaurants and food chains that serve whole grains, you can view this guide by the Whole Grains Council.

3. Make better breakfast choices:

  • Stay away from donuts, muffins, or granola bars high in sugar when opting for a quick breakfast. These foods are loaded with fat and sugar and can quickly add inches to your waistline.
  • A better alternative is oatmeal, cold cereal or a whole-grain English muffin or bagel. While all contain carbs, oatmeal and whole-grain cereals, muffins and bagels provide a helping of fiber and 75% less sugar – which not only helps your waistline, but is better for your heart, blood pressure, and risk of stroke. It can also lower your diabetes risk and so much more!

Making a major change to your eating is never easy. So just start small with one change every month. For more resources on healthy eating and what is in the foods you eat, visit nutrition.gov.

Esteban Santiago, who opened fire in the Fort Lauderdale airport last week, was only 26 years old. He was an Iraq war veteran who had received a general discharge from the military for unsatisfactory performance. He had recently undergone psychiatric evaluation after claiming he was hearing voices. The FBI had been involved. Santiago also had been accused of domestic disturbance, allegedly trying to strangle his girlfriend. Yet his gun was returned to him.

The signs were all there. But Santiago didn’t get the help he needed. This isn’t the first time this has happened. It certainly won’t be the last.

Read more on The Huffington Post.

As we enter the holiday season, #GivingTuesday is an ideal opportunity to way to give back. No matter who you are, where you live, what your income is or how old (or young) you are, everyone has something to give.

Join us on #GivingTuesday and throughout the year to make our community, country and world a better place for all. Working together, we can bring real and positive change. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Donate your time – The gift of your time can be just as valuable as money. Many of our member charities recruit volunteers year-round. Contact us for more information.
  2. Support your favorite health cause – It’s easy to directly impact the health causes that are most important to you. From military and veterans to Zika virus and children’s health, just choose what compels you to give. Visit our homepage and select  Causes to learn more.
  3. Help those experiencing homelessness – With cold temperatures on their way, millions of children, youth and adults are living on the streets. Join your friends and family to hand out blankets, warm clothes, food and toiletry items. Covenant House has 30 locations across the country, or find a homeless shelter in your community to support.
  4. Teach kids the power of giving – Whether it’s a small financial gift, donating their old toys to Salvation Army or volunteering for a local charity, it’s never too early for children to learn the importance of giving back. Share these experiences with your children now to ensure a future generation of caring givers.
  5. Be an organ or marrow donor – Give the gift of life by signing up to be an organ donor. Just one organ donor can save as many as eight lives. Also, check out Be The Match which manages the largest and most diverse marrow registry in the world, saving thousands of lives every year.
  6. Bring doctors to doorsteps – Too many families don’t have access to quality healthcare. Organizations like the Children’s Health Fund bring high-quality care directly to America’s most disadvantaged children, giving them a greater chance for a healthy life. Support Drive For a Cure today.
  7. Support our military – Show appreciation for our military veterans and their many sacrifices by sending letters of encouragement, food and other items. The USO offers tips to help you put together a perfect care package for active-duty troops. Or, check out this list of resources we have compiled for veterans and their families.
  8. Protect the health of veterans – Whether their injuries are physical or mental, military veterans and their families deserve our support. Volunteer for Vets4Warriors, which provides a 24/7 helpline, or donate frequent flyers and hotel points to Fisher House Foundation, which houses the families of veterans while their loved one recovers. Learn more about supporting Hero’s Health.
  9. Start a workplace giving campaign – Many employers still don’t offer the opportunity to give at work. Ask your HR department if they would consider starting a workplace giving campaign, or add more options to an existing campaign. Partnering with Community Health Charities can help raise critical funds to help military veterans, children fighting cancer and more.
  10. Pay it forward – Be thankful for the people you care about and send them a text or note. Consider paying for coffee for the person in line behind you, or doing a random act of kindness for a neighbor like raking their leaves. These small acts make a big difference – not just for those you help, but for you as well.

#GivingTuesday is November 29, but we have the opportunity to give back and improve our world every day of the year. Please join all of us at Community Health Charities to create healthier, happier communities for everyone.

When we see a community mobilizing to address critical health challenges, we at Community Health Charities want to do our part. In communities across the U.S., we bring together leading charities working on the most critical health challenges that affect people’s quality of life and well-being.

In the East Bay, just outside San Francisco, California, Black, Hispanic and Asian women experience a higher loss of life to breast cancer – but these lives can be saved with increased access to screenings and early diagnosis. This includes placing a high priority on breast cancer screening and treatment of African-American women, who are estimated to be 40 percent more likely to die of breast cancer than Caucasian women according to recent statistics. These women are mothers, daughters and sisters who are not getting the early screening that they need to keep them alive.

On Tuesday, October 25, we launched the East Bay Breast Cancer Fund, bringing together Black Women’s Health Imperative, Better Health East Bay and Susan G. Komen. This new fund changes how we raise dollars for critical health needs in communities by supporting the great work of these incredible organizations working locally in the East Bay to advance the goal of better breast health for all women.

We have already rolled out this fund in workplace giving programs in more than 150 businesses in California, including City of Oakland and City of Berkley workplace giving campaigns that are currently underway.

You can help a women #GetScreened today by supporting the East Bay Breast Cancer Fund. It takes one $400 gift, or $33 per month, to give a woman a screening – and a chance to save her life. Give Now

Your support of the East Bay Breast Cancer Fund, managed by Community Health Charities, will help:

  • Increase breast cancer screenings
  • Provide resources to educate women on healthy living options
  • Advance research for risk-reduction and treatment
  • Improve access to health services and life-saving treatments

This blog post by Jim Hickman, CEO of Better Health East Bay, details their plans to improve early breast cancer detection, treatment and patient support services.

I also invite you to learn more about our national High Impact Funds, which address critical health causes across the country. Whether national or local in scope, Community Health Charities continues to strive to make a difference for the millions of Americans who face health challenges.

July 4, 1976: On America’s birthday, I found myself at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center being handed a white plastic bag and led on to a bus. We left the base and made our way to Solider Field in Chicago where we were lined up, asked to don our plastic bags and stood there as we were photographed. I now am part of a world record at a great football stadium — a world record for being part of the largest human American Flag.

This was the start of a 46-year ride of service to my country, and it was an amazing start. From Great Lakes, I was fortunate enough to pull a temporary “sales” assignment working with the recruiting command out of the Glenview Naval Station. My company commander in boot camp told the Navy that it appeared I knew a lot of people in the Chicagoland area, as almost every day somebody showed up at the gate with cookies or other snacks. I never received any of these but apparently my Commanding Officer loved them. After my recruiting assignment, I reported to the Naval Air Station in Meridian Mississippi where I completed my “A” school and was awarded the rate of Disbursing Clerk. I finished in the top three of the class and as a result ended up with “shore duty” for my first assignment: a remote post in Winter Harbor Maine. Not bad but I signed up for blue water, warmth and ports of call.

Maine proved to be a maturing experience. One of only two disbursing clerks, I had to learn to work independently and put in many hours. In addition to my day job from 6am to 6 pm, five days per week we stood watch every other day. I was assigned to the base fire department and ambulance which also covered many of the area towns as they did not have fire service. I was a young 18-year-old going out on accident calls, delivering a baby and doing CPR. It was definitely a time to grow up. When my time came to leave Maine, I wished I could stay, but the cold would be left behind as I joined the commissioning crew for the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) – just me and 6,000 of my shipmates who were ready to set sail on adventure.

Being the newest nuclear powered aircraft carrier in the fleet, they put us to sea to show us off around the world. The work was hard but the rewards were great. We travelled to St. Thomas, St. John, Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, Cuba (where I stood watch on the fence), Spain, Portugal, Italy (six ports), Yugoslavia, Greece, Turkey, and Israel. They were fun times but not without work. We worked 12 on, 12 off schedules at sea and had to stand watch while in port. A lot of guys would take my watch for me so I could go ashore more – this of course was in exchange for them to get front of the line privileges on payday (we paid everyone in case and lines were long).

While I was part of the Cold War Navy, we were brought in to a tough time when 52 American Diplomats were taken hostage by Iranian students. We were responsible for prepping and delivering equipment and supplies for a failed rescue mission which resulted in the death of eight shipmates on 4-24-1980. The crisis lasted 444 days and ended one minute prior to President Regan taking office. I still think of the shipmates I lost during my service. I think of them on Memorial Day and on Veterans Day as they gave the ultimate sacrifice: All gave some, some gave all.

When I enlisted to serve this great country, I took an oath – an oath that has no expiration and one that is payable with dedication, service and, if duty calls, giving my life. It reads:

“I, David Selzer, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”

My service is one of the greatest honors of my life. To my fellow Veterans, thank you for your service. To all those who were not able to experience the great privilege of serving our country through military service, thank you for allowing me the great honor of serving you. Having travelled the way I have and seeing what I saw — good and bad — I can tell you we live in the greatest country on earth!

One final thought:  Many of my shipmates and I suffer from some of the side effects of military service — things you just do not think of. For me, sleeping ¾ of an inch under a steel flight deck has left my hearing impaired, and two years of standing while working on steel decks has had an adverse effect on my knees. These are not complaints but simple facts. Some of my shipmates have severe long-term disabilities as a result of their service for all of us. I think of them today and personally donated to the Hero’s Health Fund in their name. The money raised to support organizations that help our veterans is needed, as so many veterans (like myself) do not qualify for VA services. It is unfortunate but it gives all of us the opportunity to now serve those who served for us.

Not All Battles are Fought in a War Zone

Iraq War veteran and Purple Heart recipient Dale Beatty remembers the day his life changed forever. On November 15, 2004, Dale was injured when an IED explosion flipped his Humvee, causing him to lose both legs. “It’s amazing how clear everything becomes when you think your next breath could be your last,” Dale says.

After sacrificing and serving our country, heroes like Dale deserve to have every opportunity – for good health, for support and for employment – when they return home. But unfortunately, that is not always the case. The Hero’s Health Fund, managed by Community Health Charities, connects the most trusted health charities with caring donors who want to make a difference in the lives of first responders, military service members, veterans and their families.

For Dale and so many others like him, the return home can be just as challenging as their time on the battlefront. It’s often a matter of healing the wounds we can’t see – nearly one of every four active duty military members shows signs of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression or other mental health conditions. The threat of suicide remains unusually high. Returning to civilian life can be a time of joy, but also a time of emotional upheaval for the entire family. And for those with loved ones who never make it home, the healing process must begin.

Whether their injuries are physical, mental or both, the families who care for these heroes need a tremendous amount of support. Thanks to Fisher House Foundation, a participating charity in the Hero’s Health Fund, Dale’s wife Belinda and his children were able to stay by his side throughout the recovery and rehabilitation process. “Living in the Fisher House was home away from home,” Belinda says. “I was never alone and I could always talk to someone – you’re surrounded by love.”

Dale’s story has a happy ending. Today, he plays in a band, golfs and works to help other veterans. But he isn’t sure what would have happened if he hadn’t received help. “Without Fisher House, I don’t know what my prognosis would have been, or where I would be now not having my family next to me,” he says. “I remain forever grateful.”

The Hero Health’s Fund supports these fully-vetted and trusted organizations:

Fisher House Foundation – Lodging for veterans and military families receiving treatment at military medical centers

March of Dimes – Support for active duty military families, especially during pregnancy and when baby arrives

National Alliance on Mental Illness – Support for veterans with PTSD, depression and other mental health conditions

National Hospice and Palliative Care – Compassionate care for veterans at the end of life

Operation Restored Warrior – Healing programs for veterans and their families

Pet Partners – Therapy pets and animal-assisted interventions

Snowball Express – Serves and connects the children of fallen military heroes

Our military fights for us – let’s fight for them. Learn more about Community Health Charities and how the Hero’s Health Fund supports the mental and physical health of our nation’s heroes.

We are also hosting a special Veterans Health session on November 16 at the U.S Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s 2016 Corporate Citizenship Conference in Washington, DC: Exploring Cross-Sector Collaboration to Advance Military, Veterans and First Responders’ Health. We’ll kick off the event with a keynote by First Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, and then an interactive panel moderated by Fox News Anchor Heather Nauert. The panel will feature Major General (retired) Mark Graham, Brigadier General (retired) Allyson Solomon, Marianne Downs from Lockheed and Kerri Childress, a Navy veteran and VP of Communications for Fisher House. Join us to hear more about the mental and physical health of our veterans and what we can do to help.