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Helping Kids Do Good

Passionate about volunteering, I can affirm that service has offered me so much - namely valuable collaborative skills, the courage to lead fundraising initiatives, and a deep-rooted interest in helping others realize their rights and potential. Above all, my service experiences have imbued me with a lifelong belief; the belief that I can make a difference in the world here and today. I need not wait, in the words of William Butler Yeats, to strike when the iron is hot, but instead make it hot by striking. 

But what about the people who are unable to strike the iron due to a lack of resources and funding? Wouldn’t the sonorous cadence that emanates from struck iron then be muted? Wouldn’t the reservoir of great promise that is youth volunteerism regrettably dry up? Mac Winslow, Co-Founder and President of Start A Snowball, understands this quandary and resourcefully tries to eliminate it. With the mission of inspiring and providing funding for youth to engage in their own service projects, Start A Snowball hopes to help youth amplify their voices on their service activities, and let exemplary project ideas come to fruition through grants. The hope is that youth will acquire an understanding of the power of service, which will engender a dynamic culture of volunteer mobility that extends to their adult lives.

Mac Winslow and the rest of the Start A Snowball community believe that “in order to improve the world and tackle the problems facing our society, we need to build a culture of service and a generation of givers. To do this, we have to start with children”. Mac’s oldest son provided the momentum for Start A Snowball’s founding by spearheading “a week-long food drive” that reached a pinnacle when he collected approximately 1400 pounds of food and over $300 so that students in his school and their families could be properly fed over Spring Break. “We were inspired by the impact one child with a little support could have on a problem that concerned him. We believe that all children have this ability inside of them, and we want to help them realize it,” Mac asserts, with a veracity that could not radiate more brightly. 

Indeed, an investment in youth volunteerism produces manifold returns. The independence to effect change around an issue that speaks volumes to them, the exposure to meaningful leadership experiences and the development of a sense of community are only three of these dividends. Youth certainly have limitless potential, and should they be armed with the adequate resources, they can make the difference of tomorrow, today. Since Start A Snowball’s launch in February this year, it has supplied grants for projects including fundraising projects to raise classroom and dental supplies for children in Haiti, anti-bullying campaigns, book drives, and teen volunteer programs working with the elderly. In Mac’s words, “We want to encourage and fund projects that are going to make a difference [...] and of course they need to be led by kids”. 

In addition to applying for service grants, youth can get involved with Start A Snowball by utilizing “the resources on [Start A Snowball’s] website to identify ideas and opportunities for community service”. They can also be part of the movement to further volunteer dynamism among youth by spreading the word about Start A Snowball and its grants. “We live in a social media driven society, and we need youth and adults alike to spread the word about what we are doing, and build a groundswell of support and grant applicants,” Mac advocates. Start A Snowball also wants to hear about other stories of youth doing good in their communities. “We ask people to come to our site to share their inspiring stories; we can use them to inspire others.”

Marian Wright Edelman once said, “Service is the rent we pay for being. It is the very purpose of life, and not something you do in your spare time.” This infectious spirit of volunteerism and giving is deeply embedded in Start A Snowball’s DNA. Its future is optimistic, and Mac hopes that the organization will be able to “provide 160 grants in 2014 and 800 by the year 2018.” Ultimately, Start A Snowball is on pace to fostering a generation of devoted givers, and is relentless in its mission to secure for the world a brighter tomorrow through the powerful vehicle of youth volunteerism. If you are interested in getting involved with Start A Snowball, please contact Mac at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

The Fight Against Childhood Cancer

Despite groundbreaking advancements in research and treatment, curing children’s cancer still remains one of the toughest challenges of our time. According to the National Cancer Institute, an estimated 10,400 United States children were diagnosed with cancer in 2007 - a foreboding figure that validates every hypothesis of childhood cancer being the leading cause of death among U.S children. Fortunately, the remarkable work of pediatric cancer charities all over the world is catalyzing pioneering research into treatments and cures for children’s cancer. An inspirational exemplar of such a nonprofit is Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF), which boasts a two-fold mission of raising funds for childhood cancer-oriented research, and empowering others, particularly youth, to make a difference in the lives of children afflicted with cancer. I was able to get some insight from Cara Cassidy, ALSF's Fundraising Specialist, regarding her involvement with the organization and the impact of leveraging the power of youth in the fight against childhood cancer.

VolunTEEN Nation: How does ALSF aim to "fight childhood cancer, one cup at a time"?

ALSF has raised more than $75 million to date and has funded over 375 research projects nationally. These funds have also created a travel program to help support families of children receiving treatment and developed resources to help people everywhere affected by childhood cancer.

Fundraising events held by supporters all over the world help to spread awareness and raise much needed funds for childhood cancer research. ALSF events are held throughout the year and are a significant part of continuing Alex’s legacy of hope in finding a cure.

The Foundation also holds several special events during the year to help boost our fundraising efforts. Some of these events include an annual 5K and walk, bike ride and Alex’s Original Lemonade Stand at Alex’s elementary school.

VolunTEEN Nation: Can you tell us more about ALSF's National Lemonade Days' 10 year anniversary?

This year marks 10 years since National Lemonade Days started. National Lemonade Days signifies the time of year when Alex held her annual lemonade stand, and it has become an annual June tradition that raises over $1 million for childhood cancer research through thousands of stands and activities!  

VolunTEEN Nation: How can youth get involved with ALSF?

There are several ways that young people can get involved at ALSF. We encourage this by holding a fundraising event to help spread awareness and raise much needed funds for childhood cancer research. A few fundraising ideas include holding a lemonade stand or bake sale, collecting change, hosting a virtual fundraiser and participating in an athletic event.

We would love to get as many supporters as we can involved during National Lemonade Days and reach our goal of $1 million! If you are unable to hold an event during this specific weekend, you can certainly hold one at any time of the year! Youths of all ages can get involved with ALSF and be sure to visit our website to learn about our opportunities!

VolunTEEN Nation: What inspires you about ALSF's mission and vision?

ALSF’s mission is simple yet impactful: to raise money and awareness of childhood cancer causes, primarily research into new treatments and cures, and to encourage and empower others, especially children, to get involved and make a difference for children with cancer.

The Foundation was started by Alexandra “Alex” Scott, who while fighting neuroblastoma, began holding lemonade stands to raise funds to help find a cure for all childhood cancers. By the time she passed away in 2004, Alex had raised more than $1 million to help find a cure for all kids with cancer. People from all over the world are inspired by her story and have continued Alex’s legacy by holding their own lemonade stands and donating the money to Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation.

Alex’s passion and determination to help kids just like her is what inspires us every day to continue working to fight childhood cancer, one cup at a time.

VolunTEEN Nation: Why is leveraging the power of youth in the fight against childhood cancer important to you?

Youth can easily relate to Alex’s vision and they are so pivotal in making a difference in their communities. It is very powerful when youths come together behind a cause and are able to spread awareness about the significance of finding a cure for childhood cancer. It is also a great way for them to work together as a team and promote philanthropy. Young people of all ages can get involved at Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation!

VolunTEEN Nation: What, to you, are ALSF's biggest accomplishments / achievements?

Since Alex’s first stand in 2000, the Foundation has raised more than $75 million and funded over 375 research projects nationally. This has been a huge achievement as we continue to grow overall as a Foundation. Our Travel Fund program has helped numerous families affected by the disease with transportation, lodging and meal costs. This program has been very significant in helping families get their children the proper treatment and care when it is not always easy for them.

Our grassroots fundraising events are the core of how we got started and continue to be an important part of how money is raised for the cause.

Our sponsors/partners also play a major role in contributing to our efforts. As we continue these relationships and acquire new ones, it helps us to build on Alex’s vision.

VolunTEEN Nation: Why do you love being part of ASLF?

I work with many of our families, businesses, schools and community groups who fundraise for the Foundation by holding lemonade stands and other unique events. I enjoy seeing how these supporters are making a difference through their efforts which is affecting children with cancer. It is a great feeling knowing that we as a Foundation, but also our supporters, are working hard every day to spread awareness and continue Alex’s legacy. 

Sports-for-All Clinic

Host a youth-led Sports-For-All Clinic for youth on the autism spectrum in your community.

Passion for sports?  Promote fitness in your community by hosting a Sports-For-All Clinic. VolunTEENnation.org can provide you with funding, support and guidance to host your own sports clinic for youth on the autism spectrum. All children need to exercise and benefit from participating in sports programs. For children living with autism, fitness can be challenging, since many communities lack recreational and athletic programs for youth on the autism spectrum. To date over 1,500 youth and young volunteers have volunteered and participated in our Sports-For-All programs throughout the nation. Exercise programs help improve children’s hand-eye coordination, their motor skills and their ability to focus. In addition, the sports clinics provide opportunities for both the participants and the parents for socializing during the sports clinics. Our grant can help fund the facility rental, healthy snacks, promotional fliers and/or equipment costs.

Background/History: In 2011. Our young neighbors interest in a tennis racket was the motivation for us to create a social and recreational opportunity for youth on the autism spectrum. There are very few extracurricular outlets for youth on the autism spectrum. Our nine-year-old twin neighbors, Max and Charlie, are on the autism spectrum. They would see us carrying our tennis rackets to school each morning during the high school tennis season and ask questions. Since both boys were intrigued by our tennis rackets, we asked their parents if we could provide them with tennis lessons. The boys’ parents welcomed the idea and shared that there were limited physical, social and recreational opportunities for youth on the autism spectrum. My siblings and I realized that other youth with special needs would also benefit from free sports clinics. We reached out to area high school tennis teams and reserved tennis courts to offer our first free tennis clinic in 2011. The children and volunteers return eager and enthusiastic to participate in each program. There was a tremendous outpouring of interest from area high school students to volunteer which allowed us to provide individualized instruction for each child. The overwhelming interest and support for the free tennis clinic inspired us to also offer soccer and basketball clinics for youth on the autism spectrum.

VolunTEENnation.org is a non-profit corporation formed to inspire, engage and activate youth to get involved and volunteer in the community. We provide grants to implement sports programs for youth with special needs led by youth volunteers. If interested in applying for a grant you will need to complete an online grant application and email your request with two letters of reference on official school or group letterhead with the reference’s contact information. One letter must be from your school coach or community recreation supervisor that is willing to host the event and the other may be from your principal, adult advisor, and/or local Autism Support Group.

Apply for grant to host a Sports-For-All Clinic online: http://bit.ly/Sports4AllGrant

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VolunTEEN Nation Ambassadors

VolunTEENnation Ambassadors convene and organize youth in their community to promote service and to collectively engage youth to drive change. As a volunTEENnation Ambassador, you will bring creativity and energy to your community to maximize the power of youth to make a difference. We'll help you engage your friends and family, inspire those around you to take action, and guide and encourage you to meet with political, non-profit and business leaders in your community to discuss how they can help support youth to tackle and problem-solve challenges communities face.

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