It's Giving Tuesday!
Oct 29, 2021 by Rob Freeman
Updated: Dec 04, 2022
What is Giving Tuesday?
I’m glad you asked! It’s the “you” event following the “me” events of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Thousands of charities around the world participate, including over thirty in Thunder Bay.
But before I tell you about three charities in Thunder Bay that I’ve enjoyed learning more about recently, I’d like to share how charities have been central to my story.
Childhood was difficult for me. There were many things that I enjoyed, but my personal value was hung on what my peers thought of me. And some of them considered me to be a nerd or a geek – someone socially undesirable.
I suppose there were several reasons for this. I was one of the smartest kids in the class, and I was happy to point that out. I was also happy to tell on others, with a strong zeal for what I felt was right. And my dad was usually either my teacher or the principal – in a small school with the same classmates every year. And then I skipped a grade while being one of the shortest kids. So I usually had either one friend or none at school.
The result was that I felt like I had less value - despite what I considered to be my moral faithfulness and keen mind. In fact, I recall feeling like it would be wrong of me to befriend a new student because that would likely get them shunned like me, and that I wasn’t worthy to have friends.
I was also able to run. So I pursued running with passion, while also seeking academic excellence and moral purity to salvage whatever sense of worth that I could. And I did well at these. But there was still a strong sense that I had lower value as a human being and always distanced myself from social gatherings, expecting to be shunned.
But one thing started to rebuild my sense of value: charities. I started volunteering as a “Candy Striper” in a hospital, visiting with seniors. I’m not sure where that title came from, as I didn’t get any candy. I recall learning how to wash my hands well, one finger at a time and right up to my elbows. And I felt like I was significant while visiting with a few delightful older ladies who enjoyed seeing me. I was also affirmed by the coordinator how especially liked how I brought a game from home to play with them – and she gave me an award. I started to find a place. I’m crying as I write this.
Next, I started volunteering at summer camps, surrounded by a new group of friends each year who had similar passions to me and accepted me. I got to be a cabin leader, a lifeguard, a teacher, an actor, and a sports instructor. I was affirmed as a meaningful part of the team wherever I was involved. I continued on with internships at churches, again surrounded by people who came alongside me with shared ambitions and goals. My confidence in a variety of roles was building my sense of overall worth and belonging.
Charities have provided the context for my identity and gifts to be discovered and developed. Let me share with you about a couple new ones I’ve discovered recently here in Thunder Bay.
PRO Kids has been providing children in Thunder Bay with team sports that they couldn’t afford otherwise. They build a strong identity and sense of belonging, growing in skills such as cooperation, overcoming adversity, and conflict resolution. This experience also provides an outlet for their passions and immerses them in something so meaningful that the troubles of life fall away. And parents replace feelings of shame with pride. Their coordinator Laura Daniele shared a meaningful story with me about a boy who was able to get into martial arts and two girls were able to enter gymnastics. Their mother told Laura recently about how grateful she is to PRO Kids and how proud she is of her kids. The impact of PRO Kids has now become a model for other communities.
Our Kids Count provides food and training in cooking to parents and children who desperately need these. They provide a vision for great choices in a nutritious diet along with the resources and skills to make it happen. Their executive director Jackie Knough told me recently about a special teary-eyed moment. A mother desperately needed food for her family but expected to have to wait until the official program time two days later. When staff were quick to help her right away, tears came to this mother eyes, having a similar effect on Jackie as well.
Hospice Northwest does amazing work with the elderly by connecting them with delightful volunteers. Their program coordinator, Jessica Jaworski, told me an amazing story that captures their vision. A young man came to Thunder Bay to study at Lakehead a couple years ago. He was eager to get involved in the community and found out about Hospice Northwest. He has connected with six clients so far, meeting with them between his classes and homework. Most recently he was connected with an elderly gentleman who really needed a friend in addition to his overburdened caregiver. They built a special connection, meeting weekly, giving this elderly man a companionship that brightened his days in a powerful way. And most recently they shared Thanksgiving dinner together with his caregiver who can’t stop expressing their thankfulness.
You can see a map of the charities that are participating in Giving Tuesday in Thunder Bay by clicking here.
You may not only find a cause that inspires you, but you may also find a new group of friends. Charities have that power – bringing together people with shared passions and affirm how everyone has incredible value as a child of God.
Thunder Bay Area Manager