Day 705: Happy National Philanthropy Day!

I actually did not know this was a thing until I read a sponsored section in the Globe & Mail today. (See, those DO work. :) )

How am I celebrating?

Well, since I’m still in my PJs, my options are somewhat limited.

So I decided to go through my links in the sidebar and click on the ones that instantly “do” something — from sending free books to kids in need to funding mammograms.

If you too are slouching around on this grey, snowy November day, I invite you to do the same.

Blue_candles_on_birthday_cakeAnd have some cake.

Every special day calls for cake.


I heard this song on Randy Bachman’s wonderful CBC-Radio show, Vinyl Tap, last night. Had totally forgotten about this great song, even though it was featured on the soundtrack for the movie Cool Runnings. I dare you not to smile your way through it. Enjoy!

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Day 704: Northern lights dream comes true for brave ‘Butterfly Child’

Even amidst the painful and tiring task of washing and re-dressing all of his wounds - which takes four hours and must be done every other day - Tina and Jonathan laugh often and heartily.

Even amidst the painful and tiring task of washing and re-dressing all of his wounds – which takes four hours and must be done every other day – Jonathan and his mom, Tina, laugh often and heartily. Julie Oliver / Ottawa Citizen

I read this story the other day in tears.

Every moment of every day, this brave young man deals with more pain than many of us will see in a lifetime.

Ottawa’s Jonathan Pitre suffers from a rare genetic disease called Epidermolysis bullosa (EB). Sufferers are sometimes called “butterfly children” because of the vulnerability of their skin — as fragile as butterfly wings.

After I read the story in the Ottawa Citizen, I felt like I needed to help in some way. And thankfully the story gave the link to DEBRA Canada, an organization that helps support those living with EB (about 2,000 in Canada).

In case I needed even more of a “sign” that I needed to make a donation… “DEBRA” is actually my first name (slightly different spelling, but still….).

Turns out, the story struck a chord with a lot of people, including airlines, hotels and just average folks in the North who have offered to help Jonathan achieve his dream to see the northern lights.

Why the northern lights? “When we go up in the sky, I like to believe that we move on to a very pretty place. So by going to the northern lights, I hope I can get closer to all those that we have lost.” Wow.

And even more people have come forward to help. Michael Hyatt, co-founder of the high-tech firm Bluecat Networks, announced that the Hyatt Family Foundation will match up to $16,000 in new donations to DEBRA Canada.

So far, more than $32,000 has already been received by the EB charity. Some of that will be used to finance Jonathan’s trip up North with his family. The rest, will go toward helping other EB patients.

“I never expected all of this,” Jonathan said in an interview. “It’s unreal: I still have a hard time believing it. But I’d like to thank everyone for helping.”

Here’s a link to DEBRA Canada.


These northern lights are beautiful… and so are these harmonies. Enjoy!

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Day 703: 16 steps to happy-ish

No idea where this originally came from but I’m gonna try some of it (not the getting up at 5:30 a.m. part, of course, that’s just crazy talk)… today, I did try the “Ask people about their story” part, I try to do that most days because I sincerely love to hear people’s stories. Yes, that is rather nosy of me but I find a lot of people do want to share them. But I digress, enjoy!

1. Push yourself to get up before the rest of the world – start with 7am, then 6am, then 5:30am. Go to the nearest hill with a big coat and a scarf and watch the sun rise.

2. Push yourself to fall asleep earlier – start with 11pm, then 10pm, then 9pm. Wake up in the morning feeling re-energized and comfortable.

3. Wrase processed food from your diet. Start with no lollies, chips, biscuits, then erase pasta, rice, cereal, then bread. Use the rule that if a child couldn’t identify what was in it, you don’t eat it.

4. Get into the habit of cooking yourself a beautiful breakfast. Fry tomatoes and mushrooms in real butter and garlic, fry an egg, slice up a fresh avocado and squirt way too much lemon on it. Sit and eat it and do nothing else.

5. Stretch. Start by reaching for the sky as hard as you can, then trying to touch your toes. Roll your head. Stretch your fingers. Stretch everything.

6. Buy a 1L water bottle. Start with pushing yourself to drink the whole thing in a day, then try drinking it twice.

7. Buy a beautiful diary and a beautiful black pen. Write down everything you do, including dinner dates, appointments, assignments, coffees, what you need to do that day. No detail is too small.

8. Strip your bed of your sheets and empty your underwear draw into the washing machine. Put a massive scoop of scented fabric softener in there and wash. Make your bed in full.

9. Organise your room. Fold all your clothes (and bag what you don’t want), clean your mirror, your laptop, vacuum the floor. Light a beautiful candle.

10. Have a luxurious shower with your favourite music playing. Wash your hair, scrub your body, brush your teeth. Lather your whole body in moisturiser, get familiar with the part between your toes, your inner thighs, the back of your neck.

11. Push yourself to go for a walk. Take your headphones, go to the beach and walk. Smile at strangers walking the other way and be surprised how many smile back. Bring your dog and observe the dog’s behaviour. Realise you can learn from your dog.

12. Message old friends with personal jokes. reminisce. Suggest a catch up soon, even if you don’t follow through. Push yourself to follow through.

14. Think long and hard about what interests you. Crime? Sex? Boarding school? Long-forgotten romance etiquette? Find a book about it and read it. There is a book about literally everything.

15. Become the person you would ideally fall in love with. Let cars merge into your lane when driving. Pay double for parking tickets and leave a second one in the machine. Stick your tongue out at babies. Compliment people on their cute clothes. Challenge yourself to not ridicule anyone for a whole day. Then two. Then a week. Walk with a straight posture. Look people in the eye. Ask people about their story. Talk to acquaintances so they become friends.

16. Lie in the sunshine. Daydream about the life you would lead if failure wasn’t a thing. Open your eyes. Take small steps to make it happen for you.


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Day 701: A Mighty Girl, indeed

I am so humbled and inspired by this young woman and I bet you will be too. Wow.

Click pic 4 source.

Click pic 4 source.

A Mighty Girl
18-year-old Angel Magnussen of British Columbia, Canada wanted to make 5-year-old Marcus Cirillo a special gift after learning that his father, Corporal Nathan Cirillo, was killed last week while standing guard in front of the Canadian National War Memorial in Ottawa. The kind-hearted teen with Down syndrome makes blankets for sick children and decided to make Marcus a special one so that he could have a “warm hug”.

“She was quite determined that when she made his blanket that one of the hearts that’s quilted into it, has the letters ‘DAD’ quilted into it so that each time he hugged that blanket he would feel his dad and know that his dad loved him,” Angel’s mom Cheryl explained. The airline WestJet hand-carried the blanket to Hamilton, Ontario where RCMP officers agreed to deliver Angel’s gift to Cirillo’s regiment to give to the boy.

Angel’s compassion for others has been a driving force throughout her life. She began fundraising for children’s charities at age five and has raised over $270,000 for groups such as Variety the Children’s Charity of BC, BC Children’s Hospital Foundation, and The Relay for Life. Angel has also founded her own non-profit, Hugginz By Angel, for which she makes and donates a variety of blankets, pillows, and knit hats for hospitalized children. As she describes on her website, “After I sew a blanket for a specific child I fill it full of love, hugs and prayers for that child. I want to make sure that every sick child is wrapped up in a warm hug.”

In 2012, at age 16, Angel was named Scotiabank National Game Changer for the remarkable impact she made in her community, her incredible leadership skills, and the challenges she had to overcome to give back to the charity. She won $100,000 which was donated on her behalf to The Children’s Charity of British Columbia. The multi-talented teen also paints pictures which she sells to support her many charitable efforts.

Kudos to this generous-spirited Mighty Girl for all of her incredible work on behalf of others!

To learn more about Angel’s non-profit, visit the Hugginz By Angel website.

To show children how one act of kindness can bloom into something much greater, we recommend “Plant a Kiss” for ages 2 to 8.

For books to inspire your Mighty Girl to make a difference, both locally and globally, check out our blog “Making an Impact: Mighty Girl Books about Charity and Community Service.”

For two wonderful children’s books about kids with Down syndrome, both for ages 4 to 8, check out “We’ll Paint the Octopus Red” and “My Friend Isabelle.”

And, for Mighty Girls stories for children and teens focused on healing after a loss or remembering loved ones, visit our section on “Death & Grief.”


All Angel asks visitors to her website to do is to spread the word about her wonderful work, which I’m happy to do. “Angel” — her name certainly fits.

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Day 700: 10 things food banks need besides food

foodbank3One thing that’s become a habit for me (a good one) since starting this blog is that almost every time I go grocery shopping, I get a couple of items for the food bank bin at the front of the store.

Not that I don’t contribute more at special times like the holidays, but just in case I forget or miss the deadline or keep procrastinating (who, me?),  it means I’m doing a little something to help out throughout the whole year.

I usually grab my stand-bys — peanut butter, soup, pasta, sauce — but when I volunteered at the actual food bank as part of a work activity, I noticed a lot of other things were being donated.

Things like:

foodbank21. Spices.
Spices can be expensive and I’m sorry but a world without garlic is  not a world I want to live in.
2. Feminine Products.
I’ve seen diapers being donated but why not pads, tampons, panty liners, etc.?
3. Toiletries.
Sort of goes along with #2 –  toilet paper, tooth paste, soap, deodorant, shampoo, etc.
4. Baby toiletries.
Sort of goes along with #3 & #4: Diapers, baby wipes, baby formula, baby shampoo, baby soap, baby food, bottles, etc.
5. Condiments.
It’s sad, but sometimes you may only have mustard inside your sandwich.
6. Socks.
Fresh socks are like a warm hug.
10. Cash.
One of the food bank staff told me that they rely on cash donations to cover food groups, and other needs, that aren’t supplied by donations.

Here’s a list of most-needed food items.

And if you can’t find the food bank bin at the front of your grocery store, just ask a cashier (I am not very observant so I often have to do that :) ).

p.s. Song of the day… a truly Glorious one.

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Day 699: Neighbour, neighbour

housesYou know how you can walk down the same street a thousand times and never give the people inside the houses you pass a second thought? (Unless maybe they’re sitting on their porch in their underwear glaring at you over the railing, in which case you vow never to take that route again… but I digress.)

My husband and I took a stroll last night and when we were passing a house we’ve walked by many times, this time we stopped. An elderly lady had pushed her screen door ajar and was peeking out and motioning us to come up to the house.

I, being me, hesitated… whereas my husband immediately led us up to the lady’s front porch to see if she needed help.

As we got closer, the lady looked distressed. She reminded me of my mother — same age, same strong Italian head of snowy white hair — but her eyes were so pleading, so vulnerable, a lump rose in my throat. We got to the porch and she was still motioning for us to come in and I thought she was confusing us for someone else.

Almost in a whisper, I heard her say, “I have coffee.” Again, waving us to come inside.

A young Filipino woman at the back of the yard, stopped mowing the grass and walked up to us. We asked her if everything was okay and she smiled and said not to worry, that she was with the lady of the house. Then it finally hit me that she wasn’t the neighbour at all, but the caregiver and the lady at the door was in her care.

My husband and I waved goodbye to them both and kept walking. We walked in silence for a bit, both touched by the fragility of a neighbour we might never have met. I still can’t get the look in her eyes out of my mind.

You never know the private heartbreak or loneliness or illness that someone could be suffering right next door. I’m going to try to be a better neighbour and pay more attention from now on.


Six months or so left to his life and this Barrie, Ontario, man is using it to help others… wow.

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Day 698: Good Samaritan gives his shoes to barefoot bus passenger

I just read this story on the CBC news website and just had to share.

A true good samaritan. Enjoy!


Muslim man performs deed and disappears, but Coast Mountain bus driver takes his picture

CBC News

A Good Samaritan, right, got off a bus shoeless after giving his pair of shoes to a barefoot man, left, last Saturday.

A Good Samaritan, right, got off a bus shoeless after giving his pair of shoes to a barefoot man, left, last Saturday. (Surjit Virk)

An off-duty Coast Mountain bus driver said it was a ride he’ll never forget, after seeing a stranger give the shoes off his feet to a barefoot passenger in Surrey, B.C.

Surjit Singh Virk was using bus transit to get home from the Vasakhi parade last Saturday when he saw a man take off his shoes and slide them to another man who immediately started putting them on.

Surjit Virk

Surjit Singh Virk, an off-duty bus driver, witnessed the random act of kindness and said he hopes the story inspires others to be kind. (CBC)

Virk took a picture.

He says it was cold and raining, but the Good Samaritan said, “Don’t worry about me, I live close by.”

Virk says the man didn’t want to take any credit. He just did the deed and got off the bus.

It turns out the man, who wishes to remain anonymous, is a 27-year-old Surrey resident who volunteers at the local mosque. He says good deeds like this are part of his Islamic faith.

The B.C. Muslim Association’s Aasim Rashid describes him as “a nice quiet gentleman who is a practising Muslim.”

“Actions always speak louder than words,” Rashid points out. “It’s easy to sit on the pulpit and preach about doing good things, but sometimes one kind gesture like this has a greater impact.”

Virk says it was a pure act of kindness.

“I think he didn’t want anybody to see him doing it,” he said. “He was simply doing it without anybody knowing it, but I happened to be sitting at the right place at the right moment, and I grabbed the moment.”

The story is similar to one in Winnipeg two years ago, when a bus driver gave the shoes off his feet to a passenger in need. 

Virk hopes the publicity in this story inspires others to be kind.

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