#SIMPLEGiving Starts Young

Disclosure: Below is information that was provided to me about the SIMPLEGiving  program. I chose to participate on behalf of Champions for Kids and The Motherhood. All opinions are my own.

Did you know that 16 million American children live in poverty? Many of these kids don’t have reliable access to the nutritious snacks that help them thrive and succeed both academically and socially.

This fact glared me in the face as I read the email from TheMotherhood asking my family to participate in a Champions for Kids / Dole Game Day Great #SIMPLEGiving Blog Tour and Twitter Party. Let me be for real, hunger is real and I didn’t need an email to tell me that but I did need to take a moment and remember this.

You see, there are kids on our street that run off the 3:12 school bus to empty homes. There’s no one home to ask them if they’ve had a good day. No one home to celebrate the challenges they overcame. No one home to help them power through 5 pages of homework. No one home to provide a healthy snack to fuel them to be thrivers. This breaks my heart, but there is something we can do to help out. 

Here’s what The Motherhood had to share with me:

Throughout the month of August, Champions for Kids is partnering with Dole to encourage community projects across the country benefiting children in need. Called SIMPLE Service Projects, the idea is to host or organize an event to collect snack foods that you would then donate to a local organization that serves children in need, such as a food pantry, after-school program or daycare center.

As our SIMPLE Service Project, my family and I will be collecting snack foods (single servings of non-perishable items – the healthier, the better) to donate to our local food bank so that the kids on our street don’t have to go hungry. We’re a family of snackers, and I am 100% certain it’s why we have the health we do. Always fueling our bodies to be thrivers. I can’t imagine how the ‘lil ones who come home hungry after a long day of school must feel having to wait until dad or mom gets home at 6 or 7 to get dinner started. And I don’t want to miss an opportunity to help out. We’ll be having a “Fire Pit Friday” this week, inviting our family and friends (hey, that’s you!) to join us and get some fresh air – all we ask in exchange is that you bring a snack food donation. We have a goal to fill up 10 of these totes – and I’d love to see the look on the kids’ eyes if we can make it happen.

We’ve always believed that giving starts young – and this drive is no different. The kids don’t really get it when I tell them there are hungry kids all around us, kids without snacks to give them the energy the need to run and play or the brain power to count to 10. Yet, they have giving hearts and know that it’s our duty to help others out when we have a ‘lil extra. (How awesome is it that Champions for Kids agrees, “Helping others does not have to come in large doses. Champions for Kids seeks to ignite generational change by fostering a ‘habit of giving’ among youth and parents in America.”?!?! Love, love, love this.

Hopefully we’ll see you  on Friday with some snacks. I promise chocolate and hugs in return.

Want to help out? Comment below and I’ll be in touch with more details. 

Can’t make it but want to have your own SIMPLE Service Project? Visit Champions for Kids for more information and to share the project you take on for the cause in your life. Share with us, too! 

Coming to the event and not sure what to bring? Here are some suggestions from Dole: 

  • Dole offers a number of terrific, portable and nutritious snacks perfect for game day, including Dole Fruit Bowls and Dole Fruit Squish’ems.
  • Dole Fruit Squish’ems squeezable fruit pouches are a delicious and nutritious snack that is just a fun squeeze away. Fruit Squish’ems gives parents an easy way to get more fruit/healthy snacks into their kids’ diets. Each pouch contains 1 Full Serving of All Natural Fruit that has 60 calories and contains 20% daily value of vitamin C. Dole Fruit Squish’ems is made with Fresh Apples only from the USA and have no High Fructose Corn Syrup or any artificial flavors.
  • Dole Fruit Bowls come in many varieties, including fruit in 100% juice, fruit packed in gel, or fruit with no sugar added. Dole offers lots of choices, such as pineapple, tropical fruit, pears, peaches, apples and more, so there is something for every taste.

Stuff a Bus and Christmas Crazy

I’d like to take a minute to thank everyone who helped us make our donation to Kiss FM’s Stuff a Bus and Burgh Baby’s Christmas Crazy 2013 possible. Stuff-a-Bus brought in 42 buses worth of toys in total. Christmas Crazy hit over $5,000 worth of toys given to The Center for Victims and Alle-Kiski HOPE Center. Much love to the amazing people of Pittsburgh (I am in tears writing this!).

Many of the toys and books we were able to donate came from review opportunities here on the blog. Some of you gave the kids money to shop for the kids who don’t have the blessings ours do (HUGE thank you to Unca Jack). These things are big to our kids. I can’t explain it. They get it. Arianna has been a giver from the start, and she tears up just like me when we talk about people who have less than we do. If you’re able to read this on a phone, laptop, or tablet from the comfort of your own home, I am sure you know what I’m saying.

Thank you for giving us blessings to be able to pay forward to others. We wish all of you a very happy holiday season, full of blessings and love.


The ‘lil Burghers


Education Tree

Just yesterday I complained on my personal Twitter account that I wished I could do more at Christmastime. We give a lot here in the ‘lil Burghers family; however, I never feel like it is enough. And truth be told, it never will be. That’s because there is always going to be someone out there who has less than they need to make the holidays bright. 

While there are so many things you can do to make a difference at the holidays (and all year long), I wanted to share with you a simple way you can help not only give a gift but a practical element to help a student in need have success in the classroom – something more important than any toy or game.

Throughout the month of December, The Education Partnership, a local Pittsburgh non-profit will have an “Education Tree” in the Grand Court at the Mall at Robinson. The tree will encourage donations through Christmas, and upon visiting the tree and donating $15, shoppers will receive an acknowledgement card and an ornament, handmade by students. The $15 donation will provide a local student with a holiday kit – which can include crayons, pencils, hygiene items, and other essentials. For many students, this is the only gift they’ll receive during the holidays.

As you are out and about doing your holiday shopping, consider stopping by the Mall at Robinson and donating to this cause. I guarantee as you put the handmade ornament on your tree each year you will remember how you helped make a difference in a child’s holiday…and in turn…education. If you aren’t local or won’t be heading out to Robinson this year, you can also make a donation online by visiting http://educationtree.org/.

Education Tree
Source: EducationTree.org

Greg and I volunteered at The Education Partnership a few years ago, and we learned that almost 30,000 students in the Pittsburgh area qualify for the services and supplies they provide. They are a privately funded orgnaization that counts on product donations and financial contributions from foundations, corporations and individuals. To learn more about The Education Partnership, visit TheEducationPartnership.org.


Disclosure: I was contacted to share this opportunity with you and a local business is donating to the Education Tree on my behalf in exchange for sharing with you.

Holiday Goodness

To help promote a Holiday Gift Drive for CHS, I’ve been asked to blog to the prompt, “What is the nicest thing that someone has done for you during the holidays?”.

To be honest, at first I thought that finding just one thing that was the nicest would be pretty tough. As a Pastor’s Kid, there were always nice things happening, not only for us (Christmas magic, indeed) but by us (even if we didn’t have it, we gave it). Even with all the Holiday Goodness I’ve witnessed in my 30 Holiday seasons, one thing does stand out.

Arianna has always had a tender, loving heart. When I think about her dedication to giving toys to charities at Christmastime, it brings tears to my eyes. The nicest thing ever done for me at Holiday time would be watching her give a toy to a local toy drive last year. As she laid the sweet doll down and kissed it goodbye, she said, “Mommy, it’s okay that I am saying goodbye to this doll. I am naming her Arianna and it will make another ‘lil girl’s Christmas. I just hope she has a blanket to keep it warm”. If that wasn’t the nicest thing (affirming that we’re raising givers), I don’t know what is.


As we gear up for another Holiday season and this organization and that are asking for donations, I ask that you consider giving in some way. Your time, your thoughts, your gifts, something. If a child can do it, so can you.

This post was written from a prompt by Community Human Services Holiday Gift Drive in partnership with Pittsburgh Tweetup. To learn more about the CHS: Holiday Gift Project and how you can get involved visit: http://bit.ly/CHSHoliday2013

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Off the List: Drive Thru Pay it Forward #35DayProject

My friend Tiffany is doing something incredible for her 35th birthday, she’s engaging in random acts of kindness every day for the next 35 days leading up to her birthday. (You definitely should read about it on her blog and follow along on Twitter with #35DayProject–go along with it for bonus points!)

I’ve joined her Facebook Group (let me know if you want in!) and will be sharing on there, Twitter, Instagram, and even here as I help her fulfill her birthday wishes.

Today, as Arianna and I have made somewhat of a tradition, we headed to Sonic for Happy Hour before Kids Yoga. Since the city is preparing for yet another winter storm and the skies were full of gloom, I thought it would be the perfect time to cross two things off my lists and pay for the person behind me at the drive thru. (This is not only a random act of kindness for Tiffany’s project, but also an item on my 30 Things By 30 list.)

Surprisingly, the cashier wasn’t as confused by the giving act as I expected, and he even let me pass on this quick note that I decided to pen while waiting for our drinks.

#35DayProject @mrsharkleroad

I hope this made their day, because I was glad to do it. If just hearing this made your day, join us!

Super Hero Cape

Tonight we were taking some photos to send over to The Pittsburgh Tote Bag Project for a special video montage. Arianna asked if her tote bag was a super hero cape.

Well, let me think about that one.

If super heroes come up with amazing ideas to begin a Project that helps our neighbors carry food from the pantry to the bus to home using reusable grocery tote bags, then yes, it is a super hero cape (and has been evidenced at PodCamp!)

If super heroes find a way to turn one tote bag into 153 plus way more a year later and then into joining the Steering Committee of that Project, then yes, a tote bag is a Super Hero Cape.

If super heroes find ways to coupon for food pantries and share those processes with others through the Tote Bag Project, then yes, a tote bag is a Super Hero Cape. 

If super heroes are ‘lil girls and boys who give up their toy room space to hold boxes of tote bags, food, and feminine products or ‘lil boys and girls who gather toys for Stuff a Bus instead of asking for birthday presents, then yes, a tote bag is a Super Hero Cape.

Arianna, may you continue to show adults how to give and to be a super hero. Your caring heart brings tears of joy to my eyes–I am so proud of the ‘lil lady that you are. Always remember that even if you don’t have much, there is always someone else who has less than you–thank you for reminding us of this, and thank you for being a Super Hero.

Thirty Days of Thankful and NaBloPoMo Day 29: Raising Givers

Today, I am thankful for people (yes, ourselves included) who raise givers. There are so many people in this world who take, take, take and are selfish. I hope that our kids are different.

Last year, we started a tradition to ask for people to bring gifts in tote bags for birthday parties, supporting The Pittsburgh Tote Bag Project.

This year, Arianna asked if she could help us get ready for our Stuff A Bus tradition and she asked people to bring gifts for Stuff a Bus instead of for her.

Both kids know of the Food Bank and the Tote Bag Project, volunteering by helping us with couponing, tote gathering, and drop offs.

They are givers, no doubt, and we are giving them a good start.


The other night, we took a Durango full of toys (almost all couponed for + Black and Gold Bucks purchased) to 96.1 Kiss FM’s Stuff a Bus and the kids were so excited. They’ve been listening all week to Bob and Mikey updating the bus count (“a bus! a bus! a bus is full!”, they yell), which is right now at 21. They were so proud to drop toys into the bus, especially a short of creepy doll that Arianna named Arianna (and she hopes a ‘lil girl will get her and put a blankey on her to keep her warm). All smiles and giggles, they kept talking about “Christmas Magic”. Below are some of the photos we took, you can see more on Flickr.

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This post is part of NaBloPoMo.

NaBloPoMo November 2012

Are You #Brave Enough to Help Out and Fight Hunger?

This weekend, the Pittsburgh Tote Bag Project and Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank will be hosting a tote/food drive at the premiere of “Brave” in the South Side. If you are a Burgher and can make it out, you definitely should. The ‘lil Burghers just might even be there (we’re still working out details).

Here is the press release, or you can check out the blog post on the Tote Bag Project’s page.

School’s Out – Watch Out for Hungry Kids!
Food Bank and Pittsburgh Totebag Project Plan Drive at Movie Premiere

Pittsburgh, PA (June 19, 2012) Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank and The Pittsburgh Totebag Project will hold a food and totebag drive called “School’s Out – Watch for Hungry Kids.” The drive will take place this weekend, Friday, Saturday and Sunday (June 22-24, times below) at the opening of Disney’s new movie Brave at South Side Works Cinema.

Summer means fun for most children – vacations, camp, or just playing all day. But for children who depend on school breakfast or lunch for the most nutritious meal of the day, and for their parents who have to find ways to put more food on the table, summer can be a trying time.

Sue Kerr, Founder and Co-Chair of the Pittsburgh Totebag Project saw a connection between kids going hungry and Brave, and initiated this drive with assistance from the Food Bank. “Adding tote bags and backpacks to the drives to fight child hunger gives all children a chance to help by donating their gently used backpacks. It adds dignity to the process of giving and to the experience of families receiving help.”

Collections will take place on Friday (June 22) from 6:00-9:00 pm, and Saturday and Sunday (June 23 & 24) from noon till 8:00 pm, only at the South Side Works Cinema. People are asked to donate a bag of nonperishable items, packed in a reusable grocery “totebag” or backpack if possible. The first 50 families that make a donation will receive a family pass to the ToonSeum, downtown Pittsburgh’s museum devoted to cartoons. Popcorn vouchers will also be available.

The title of the drive is a takeoff on the old public safety campaign that said, “School’s Out! Watch Out for Kids!”? It meant drive more carefully because more kids would be out playing outside in the summer. In the same way more children are at risk of hunger in the summer as well.

Why She Will Always Live On

A long time ago, I was a first grader and I met the person who would be my best friend forever. No, this isn’t some story of silly elementary school friendship, this is a real life, forever and ever story. Wendy and I met at Pinecreek Elementary school, playing on the playground in muddy puddles. We had that one lone year together as children, then renewed our friendship when I moved back in tenth grade. Our time together was again short, but Wendy was a woman who will always live on through me, through my children, and hopefully through their children.

Today, after twelve long years without her physically here with me, my Wendy memories are burned into my brain. While there are days that I still feel the pain, there are days like today that I am proud of the person knowing her helped me become. Today, twelve years after she took her last breath, I know one big reason why God put my Wendy in my life. Even when she had so many reasons to take and not give, she gave. She gave and she loved. She gave with her whole heart. And she was such an amazing person for that.

It was December 1999. Our youth group had picked an angel to buy clothes and toys for at Christmas. We girls were in charge of getting the gift–boys know nothing about buying clothes for little girls. Wendy was in remission, but she led the charge of us getting our gifts. We packed into my dad’s conversion van and hit the road for DuBois. Warm clothes for the baby girl were a must, and then a fun toy. Wendy made sure we used our budget to the fullest to give our angel child the best gifts we could. Then we shared laughs over dinner, just a bunch of teenage girls making memories. We quickly lost track of time and got home late, but that was ok because our families trusted us girls together.

It didn’t matter what she had been through, she was always giving, always loving. Being the example of what we all should be. That December night was just one of many that I got to witness and learn all about giving with a joyful heart. Everyone needs someone like Wendy in their lives. The lessons she taught me will always live on and I am so thankful.

+ + +

Speaking of people who are great examples of giving wholeheartedly, take a look at what some of the peers from my first 2nd Grade class were up to this week. Green Sea Middle School Walk for Glaucoma (from SCNow.com). What great examples of love and lifelong friendship!