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Need to Occupy the Kids this Summer? Get Them Involved in the Community


School is out and across the country many families now face the perennial seasonal dilemma: What should the kids do with themselves this summer? For a growing number of community-minded youngsters, the answer is: "Make a difference."

"Summer is all about fun in the sun and taking a break from the rigors of school," says Liz Scott of Wynnewood, Pa. "But kids really benefit from doing something more with their summer, like getting involved in the community or raising funds for a cause they believe in. Not only do they stay occupied, engaged and excited throughout the summer, they gain a real sense of their own strength and worth."

Scott should know. Her daughter, Alexandra, gained national attention for her efforts to raise money for pediatric cancer research by holding lemonade stands. What started as a simple but passionate idea inspired a worldwide grassroots fundraising effort. Sadly, Alex passed away Aug. 1, 2004. Parents Liz and Jay continue promoting Alex's cause and raising money for pediatric cancer research through their foundation, Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF), which has raised more than $19 million to date.

"Numerous studies show that volunteering holds many physical and mental health benefits for volunteers, regardless of their age," says Pam Edwards of Volvo Cars of North America. To commemorate the life of Alex Scott, Volvo created the Alexandra Scott Butterfly Award to recognize exceptional child heroes.

Zach Bonner was named the 2008 Butterfly Award winner. To help victims of Hurricane Katrina Zach, 10, collected 27 truckloads of sundry items, raised $600 in donations for the Red Cross post-Katrina efforts and secured $7,000 worth of new toys and sporting equipment for homeless children living in Red Cross shelters. He also recently founded the Little Red Wagon Foundation, Inc., which collects and donates backpacks filled with food, school items and other supplies to disadvantaged children nationwide.

Getting kids involved can be as simple - or grand - as the children and parents wish. The efforts of past Butterfly Award winners can provide a roadmap for getting started:

* Look to the Internet.

"The Web is a great resource for finding a charity or volunteer opportunity that fits your child's needs and personality," Edwards says. For example, this year www.lemonadestandforlife.com, hosted by Volvo, gives visitors the chance to support ALSF. By visiting the site, you can make a direct donation by purchasing a cups of virtual lemonade for just $1. You can then share those cups via e-mail with others asking them to also visit and support the site's mission.

* Look to current events.

News accounts of the need caused by Katrina inspired Zach Bonner to get involved. When Congress designated November National Homeless Youth Awareness Month, Zach launched a marathon walk from Tampa, Fla., to the state capital 250 miles away in Tallahassee. He and his team raised money and awareness for the nation's estimated 1.3 million homeless children.

* Draw inspiration from your own life.

Alex Scott founded her lemonade stand as she was recovering from cancer treatment. Grace Farnan, 14, of South Hamilton, Mass., decided to become involved in hospice care after her grandmother peacefully passed away in hospice care. Her work with the Hospice of the North Shore has included collecting hundreds of new picture frames for patients to keep photos of loved ones close at hand, and the creation of more than 500 guest books in which visitors, family and staff can write encouragement for patients. Grace was recognized as the 2006 Butterfly Award winner.

* Don't be afraid to reach far.

In addition to efforts to help Florida's hurricane-affected residents, Samita Mohanasundaram, 16, of Nashua, N.H., also helps disadvantaged children in India. When she was just 7, she visited a small, impoverished village in southern India and was moved by the local school's need for books, supplies and materials. Upon returning home, she launched a book drive that drew support from all over New England. In 2007, Samita became the third child to win the Butterfly Award.

To learn more about the Butterfly Awards and to help raise funds to fight pediatric cancer, visit www.lemonadestandforlife.com.

Categories: Get Involved, MomShare,

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New FeatureRelated Articles: Community Service: A Family's Guide to Getting Involved, Do Something 101-Lend A Helping Hand,

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