I don’t often do serious posts, but I don’t plan on doing the Ice Bucket Challenge. Not just because nobody in my social circle seems to be doing it, or because I don’t think ALS is a worthy charity (and in fact, the ALS Association is a quality charity), but because I think when it comes to charitable donations, people should feel free to donate according to their own values that compel them to do so.
People criticizing those choices saying, “Well, you aren’t saving as many lives as you would if you donated to a charity for clean water or malaria” or “You’re just doing this to be trendy” are being short-sighted and presumptuous. Even worse, they’re marginalizing an already marginalized group of people who suffer from ALS, have died from ALS, or have lost a loved one to ALS.
It’s not really all that different from the people who say “OK, but we don’t need feminism in this country anymore; women in impoverished and oppressive countries do.” It’s just not true. We’re all in need of help. Just because the group that needs help is smaller in size or because someone else decides they aren’t as important doesn’t completely invalidate that need.
The charities I donate to are close to my heart because they focus on issues that have affected people I care about, or may affect them someday. I spend hours each year researching, and for anyone to say that my choices are wrong or misplaced is unsolicited and unwelcome. Do the challenge or don’t do the challenge, but don’t criticize people for spending their money on something their hearts and minds lead them to.
If you’re looking for ideas for places to donate in addition to (or instead of) The ALS Association, these are the charities that usually make my list:
Be the Match (US) – A friend of mine lost her beautiful sweet boy to ALD last year. Her younger son’s life was saved, however, when he was matched with a donor. Please consider both giving a donation and signing up as a marrow donor. Actually, definitely sign up as a marrow donor. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you got matched and saved someone’s life? All you have to do is swab your cheek a few times and then mail the swabs in.
ALD Research Fund, University of Minnesota Foundation (MN) – The University of Minnesota is strong in research, ranked in the top 50 research universities. This particular charity is impressive with its fiscal responsibility, spending 84.7% of its revenue on the program.
Children’s Hospitals & Clinics of MN, Palliative & Hospice Care (MN) – This is the hospice organization that cared for my friend’s son. It is the only pediatric hospice service in the state!
Chesapeake Bay Trust (MD) – My kids and I go to the beach every year, and every time we cross over the Bay, they say, “Oooooooo!” I’d like to keep it that way, if not cleaner. Plus, you know, crabs.
Half the Sky (International)- no, not the economic empowerment movement, but a charity that takes care of the orphans/abandoned children (especially girls, children with cleft palates, and children with special needs) in China. They start up and help run local facilities with nurturing locals so that the children can grow up with bonds of intimacy instead of loneliness.
Manna Food Center (MD) – this is my local food bank. 94% of their donations go to food distribution. Maybe you want to donate to the food bank near you, though you’re welcome to donate to mine.
Monterey Bay Aquarium (CA) – This aquarium has a Seafood Watch program where it tracks which species of fish are at risk and which kinds of fish are sustainable. Use the pocket guide!
Planned Parenthood (US) – In case my liberal leanings weren’t obvious enough, Planned Parenthood is a wonderful organization. It isn’t just “ABORTION ABORTION ABORTION!!!!”; for 2 years while I was a poor college student, I went to Planned Parenthood for my pelvic exams and birth control pills. My first pap smear ever was made tolerable by a kind, compassionate woman who understood that I had to pay out-of-pocket for my sexual health. It’s thanks to them that I never had to make the choice of whether to get an abortion or not.
Tzu Chi (International) – Tzu Chi is a Buddhist humanitarian relief organization. My mother found Buddhism late in life, and it brought her a lot of comfort while my father was fighting lung cancer. In return for that comfort and out of the Buddhist beliefs she’d adopted, she began volunteering frequently with this organization. When my mother died, and then my father, Tzu Chi sent monks to chant for both of my parents. On a less personal note, Tzu Chi was honored as the Champions of Change by the White House for their response to Hurricane Sandy, the Waco, TX explosion, and the Boston Marathon bombing:
After the hurricane, more than 4,000 Tzu Chi volunteers distributed hot meals, blankets and emergency cash debit cards worth nearly US$10 million to 18,000 households, helping more than 60,000 people in New York and New Jersey. In April this year, volunteers provided similar cash cards to those affected by the explosion of the Waco fertilizer plant in Texas and gave love and concern to the runners of the Boston marathon and their families after the bomb explosion.
If you have charities that are close to your heart, I would love to hear about them, even if they aren’t local to me. Please do share!