Charitable Gift Giving

We surf the Web to find good products that help out a great cause.

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Automatic Air Freshener for the Holidays from Air Wick

December 4th, 2015 · Habitat for Humanity, Poverty

When the holidays come around most people are good about getting their house ready for guests. The house is cleaned from top to bottom so it looks nice. You put some nice Christmas music on for your guests so it sounds great. And of course, you pour your time into cooking a fantastic holiday meal so everything tastes great.

But there’s always one sense that gets the short end of the stick–the olfactory one. While we’d like to think our houses naturally smell like pine needles and freshly baked Christmas cookies, the reality is that the “natural” smells of the seasons aren’t always so pleasant.

Candles are great but may not always be a good option with kids running around, especially when you’re surrounded bytablecloths, trees, wrapping paper, and other flammables. Air fresheners in an aerosol can are great, but it can be a little awkward walking around spraying while people are talking.

Enter the Air Wick Life Scents Automatic Air Freshener, a.k.a. Air Wick “Freshmatic Ultra”. This is a cool little device that you can just set and leave on a table (preferably high up, out of the reach of children and pets). The exterior is available in white or black, and blends in to your decor, much like a flower vase would.

airwick automatic air freshener

Open it up and put in two AA batteries (included). Then, take the cover off a Life Scents can and position it carefully in the unit so that the nozzle is pointing out through the hole.

using the air wick freshmatic

Close it and turn a knob to select a small, medium, or large rose icon; this will indicate how strong you want the scent to be throughout the house (obviously the greater the scent, the less time your refill will last; some reports reported only 2 weeks before the can went empty, most other talk about how the can can last upwards of 60 days.

airwick freshmatic intensity

Then, at a frequency that corresponds to the rose icon, the aerosol will spray. For a general ambience where the effect will be more subconscious (where your guests will say, “wow, something smells really nice”), you put it on the little rose. If things get extra stinky with hot sweaty adults, children, and animals bringing in all kinds of odors to your lovely clean home, you put it on the big rose.

I got to try out three scents: Emerald Woodland (morning frost, evergreen, sugar cookie), Snowflake Vanilla Cookie (vanilla custard, spiced punch, roasted chestnuts), and Apple Crumble (pastry crust, spiced apple, vanilla). They smell amazing, and pretty much as described. Right now I have it on Emerald Woodland Scent, and the room is filled with a sweet, fresh, crisp, and woodsy scent. The effect is much like aromatherapy candles, just without the middleman of the fire and wax. But because these are “layered” smells the smell is much more complex than just a single aroma.

freshmatic emerald woodland

One very cool thing about smells is the memories that it can bring up from way back in your past. When I put on the Emerald Woodland smell, I was instantly transported to some point in my childhood. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment, but it involved pine needles, Christmas lights, and the warmth of family. Granted the actual memory is long gone, and it very well could have been some cheap scratch-and-sniff card I smelled as a toddler, but whatever it was, it was magic for me as a child.

This holiday season Air Wick has been donated $250,000 from a portion of profits from its Life Scents collection (whether the plugin refills, the Freshmatic Auto Spray refills I described above, or candle and wax melts) to help Habitat for Humanity. During this holiday season when we’re all snug at home in front of the fireplace or the tree, it’s sometimes easy to forget that there are so many people who struggle to even have a roof over their heads, especially those in low-income families.

Since 1976, Habitat for Humanity has helped more than 5 million people, building new homes for them or rehabilitating and preserving their existing homes. The donation will go a very long way towards making that dream come true for many more people.

For more on this incredible cause, see this video.

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The Giving Hat to Help St. Jude’s

December 1st, 2015 · Uncategorized

As a way to draw attention, raise awareness, and support the fight against childhood cancer, Kmart has introduced The Giving Hat, a simple winter knit hat with one of three messages embroidered in it: “Smile”, “Light a Lot”, and “Give Thanks”. The hats will be on sale at your local Kmart from now until the end of December.

Each hat costs only $5 at your local Kmart or online, and $1 from each hat will go to St. Jude in their work to find cures for life-threatening childhood diseases and to help those who are suffering from them. For more information, check out this video:

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Robot Stuffed Toy with a heart #kausbot #kauzkrew

November 27th, 2015 · Breast Cancer, Cancer, Children's Charities, Conservation, World Hunger

It’s so hard to find a stuffed toy that’s very unique anymore. Everywhere you go you see the same dogs and bears, most of which were mass produced in an assembly line and churned out thousands at a time.

Contrast that to Kauzbots, one of the most unique stuffed toys I’ve seen. They’re actually not real working robots (they’re to robots as a teddy bear is to a real bear). But looking at them they just exude personality. They’ve got two circular eyes and a line for a mouth inside of a rectangle face. They have three buttons in front with various “electronic” signals stitched in. They have multicolored striped arms leading to a stuffed wrench for hands (which happen to fit right into their stuffed nuts for ears), and multicolored legs leading to hammer-like feet.

kauzbot cute plush robots

On the back are two sewn fabric “buttons”, one that says “Activate” and one that says “Shut Down”. A pocket on the back (complete with two stuffed “screws” holding it on) reveals a cute little hand-stitched red heart which you can take out.

the robot with a heart

At about 12 inches long (20 including the legs and feet), and about 5 inches thick with padding, this little guy is the perfect size for hugging or for going on all kinds of adventures. The material is excellent–the robot’s body is sort of a thicker cotton and polyester material you might find in a totebag, while the arms and pockets are softer fabric.

I’m impressed at how well it’s put together and at the attention to detail in the design, right down to the stuffed screws and the hand stitched heart. Every stitch is in place and the material is durable but still soft and cuddly.

But what makes Kauzbots unique are the first part of their name–“Kauz”. They come in 10 different colors and each supports a unique cause. The robot will come with a tag that explains the robot’s name and a few details about the cause it supports. Each time you buy a Kauzbot, 10% of the proceeds go straight to the cause the robot is designated to help.

Kale is green with blue eyes and supports the Arbor Day Foundation’s mission to plant more trees.

Kalvin is brown with red eyes and supports different causes; currently he’s supporting Dream Catalyst’s work of helping homeless children.

Kaprice is pink and supports women with breast cancer (the Web site says she supports the Breast Cancer Network of Strength, but that charity is no longer active so presumably Kaprice’s portion will be going to another breast cancer charity).

Karson is red with blue eyes and supports music therapy programs at children’s hospitals.

Karthy is yellow with red eyes and supports Talk about Curing Autism’s mission to help the autisti.

Khloe is white with red eyes and supports the National Children’s Oral Health Foundation.

Kiefer is black with red eyes and supports the International Rescue Committee.

Kourage is purple with blue eyes and supports the Pablove Foundation’s mission to eradicate childhood cancer.

Kruz is blue with red eyes and supports Lifewater’s mission to deliver clean water.

Kamo is coming soon and I’m guessing his proceeds will go to support veteran’s causes.

The little lady above is named Karissa. With blue eyes and an orange body, her mission is to fight hunger with Share Our Strength. The tag reads:

Karissa is passionate about fighting hunger and poverty around the world. More than 840 million people in the world are malnourished–799 million of them live in the developing world. Whether due to drought, conflict, or disease, mothers and fathers will not be able to find enough food for their families in poor communities around the world. Karissa is committed to helping hungry children and their families get the assistance they desperately need.

I think what I love most about Kauzbots is that they’re imaginative and fun to play with, but they also create awareness to a wide range of great causes that might otherwise get the attention they need.

And in addition to helping these organizations, you can also use it to teach your kids valuable lessons about the importance of giving and helping others.

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Beadworks – Adorable Miniature Animals Made with Beads

November 19th, 2015 · Conservation, Developing Areas

bead animalsSee these two little guys shooting the breeze? The elephant to the left and the zebra to the right are actually made up of tiny beads. They both measure about 1.5 inches tall and long and are oh-so-adorable and will look great on a Christmas tree or just as a conversation piece at your desk.

This is just a sampling of what you’ll find at BeadWORKS Kenya, a venture of Northern Rangelands Trust. Click to their catalog and you’ll find bead jewelry, boxes, bracelets, napkin rings, keychains, necklaces, coasters, and much more. Each of them are handcrafted by women in Kenya. Specifically, 1,000 women in five community-led conservancies who would otherwise have no source of income use their traditional skills to make these wonderful beaded handicrafts.

BeadWORKS helps them out by finding places for them to sell their products, as well as training them and helping to coordinate things like product development, basic financial skills, and leadership and entrepreneurial skills. As a result these women earn a sustainable income that they use to send their children to school, pay medical bills, and buy essentials like clothes and food.

Community conservation is a growing phenomenon in Africa, including Northern Kenya where BeadWORKS and Northern Rangelands Trust is located. Put simply, community conservation is when private citizens in an area get together and decide that they’re going to work together to protect their own land and wildlife from things like poor land management and poaching. Protecting creation has wide-ranging benefits. results in improved security for the whole community, wiser management of land, and income and employment through supporting community projects.


So native wildlife like elephants are protected. How? First, these regions of the world have traditionally relied 100% on lifestock for their income, which expanding grazing land and dealing with situations where wildlife would encroach on that land. By providing alternate sources of income, land expansion could be controlled and wildlife protected. In many cases this opens up a whole new world for eco-tourism where ironically the same animals that used to be killed and poached because they were a threat to income now bring in more income just by saying alive.

Statistics have proven that once alternate sources of income and community conservation are introduced to a region, poaching becomes a lot more scarce. And you can start doing your part by getting these adorable Christmas ornaments or some of the dazzling jewelry that not only make great gifts but can change lives for humans and elephants alike,



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Beautiful Silk Scarf from World Vision @WorldVisionUSA

November 15th, 2015 · Developing Areas, Disaster Relief, Poverty, Uncategorized, World Hunger

I review a lot of charitable gift sites on this blog but invariably every year when this time comes around I always look to World Vision for some of the most impressive, high quality gifts.

This year is no exception. The World Vision gift catalog for 2015 recently came out and in it are more than 250 gifts to choose from. Unlike what you might find in other charities these aren’t all just symbolic gifts nor are they run-of-the-mill, low quality logo imprinted products. These are high-quality fashionable gifts that rival the best things you’ll see in media to high-end department and luxury stores.

IMG_2224For example, this Royal Silk Scarf is one of the more gorgeous scarves I’ve seeen this season. My wife Lisa was gracious enough to model it for me.

The silk, like any good silk, is soft and luxurious to the touch but keeps you warm on those cold and windy autumn and winter days. But what amazed me were the colors on this thing. It’s a gorgeous blend of rich blues, greens, purples and magentas that honestly look even more stunningly beautiful than scarves costing hundreds more in high end department stores. It’s especially stunning in the sunlight, which makes the vibrant colors really stand out. And because they’re handcrafted no two are alike.

Unlike the $400 scarves made in Italy with giant profit margins that line the pockets of corporate executives, or the $5 scarves made in China and produced under heaven knows what kind of conditions (by who knows whom), this scarf is hand-woven by villagers in Ma Chau, Vietnam.

It’s the gift that gives thrice, once to your recipient, once to the artisans in Vietnam who receive sustainable income from their craft, and once to help the amazing work that World Vision (consistently rated an A+ charity by every charity rating service out there) does.

There are other hand-crafted gifts like this in the catalog from around the world, which also help World Vision’s charitable work as well as provide sustainable income for people to make a living in impoverished parts of the world. Here’s just a sampling:



A beaded cross necklace from Nairobi, Kenya




baby bib from baliA handmade 100% cotton baby bib from Bali, Indonesia





christmas star ornamentA Christmas Star Ornament from India





shell coastersCapiz Shell coasters from the Philippines





There is literally something for everybody in this catalog, so get your Christmas shopping done now. Instead of the typical department store schlock, these gifts exude the personal touch–literally. You’ll feel great knowing you gave your friends and family gifts they will love and use, helped give a leg up to hard working artisans to support their families and communities, and helped World Vision’s mission to help those around the world who are in the most desperate need.

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The Ultimate Goodie Bag / Surprise Box for Women #purplepurse #fabfitfun

November 7th, 2015 · Domestic Violence

Who doesn’t love a good goodie bag or surprise box? Whether you’re a three year-old unwrapping a treasure trove of Christmas presents or someone at the Academy Awards seeing what things await you in your $168,000 swag bag, there’s just something magical about unwrapping a mystery box of goodies and anticipating the wonders you’ll find inside.

Mystery boxes are nothing new, of course. You can buy care packages to send to your child in college; if you’re a parent you can receive goodies like the Baby Registry Welcome Box from Amazon; and if you’re geeky you can even enjoy a Bag of Crap from Woot.

But an organization called FabFitFun (which for some reason I keep calling “FitFabFun”) has taken it to a whole new level. They’ve designed a box filled with premium products for women. If there’s a woman in your life who you’d like to give a fantastic gift to–or if you just want to pamper yourself–this is one of the best options.

FabFitFun releases a new box every quarter to start each season. You can order each season’s box for $49.99, or if you’d like to get four boxes in a year, they have a deal where you can pay $179.99 for the year.

For your $49.99 you’re guaranteed a box filled with products worth well more than $200 in retail value. These aren’t just beauty items, but also fashion accessories, fitness products, health and wellness items, and items for your home. And unlike other similar boxes you might have seen, these aren’t sample items or trial size products, but full retail packages of high-end products.

I received a Fall 2105 box in the mail. Here was the unboxing.

The package was a gorgeously printed cardboard box with the FabFitFun logo on the front.  A pull tab on the front of the box made it easy to open.

fit fab fub surprise box

The first thing you see is this magazine that details all the goodies you’ll find inside the box and provides some interesting feature articles about some of the gifts in the box. For the fall 2015 box they have an interview with Ashkahn, the artist who designed the custom umbrella (which you’ll see me unpack below) as well as a feature on the Purple Purse Charm which I’ll write about as well.

fitfabfun magazine

Then we got to reveal the surprise goodies themselves, nicely packaged behind curtain #1.

inside the mystery surprise box

Unveiling the curtain revealed an amazing haul of goodies.

inside the surprise box


The first was a set of two facial masks by Passport to Beauty.  These masks by themselves retail for $65.00, or $11 over the $49 the entire box cost! The collagen and rose oil help stimulate circulation, increase enzyme activity, and sooth skin.

facial mask

Next was the beautiful Glass Crystal Bead Bracelet by Tribe Alive. What’s neat about Tribe Alive is that in addition to producing gorgeous handmade jewelry, they work with female artisans around the world, including in impoverished areas, paying a living wage for their work. Contrast that with jewelry you find in your local department store that’s made by workers in conditions we can probably guess.

blue crystal bead necklace

The next item was the purple purse charm, provided by the Allstate Foundation Purple Purse.The Allstate Foundation Purple Purse is a charity that helps women who deal with the horrific issue of domestic abuse. The purple color of the FabFitFun box is in support of bringing awareness to this important issue that is too often swept under the rug.

This is a beautiful brass-colored charm imprinted with a purple purse logo and attached to a beautiful purple tassel and a card that tells the story of a woman who survived the horrors of domestic violence. By attaching this charm to your purse, or by purchasing the limited edition purple purse at Saks Fifth Avenue, you can further help be a voice to the voiceless.

purple purse charm to fight domestic abuse

The next full retail product is Flawless Skin Fluid by Doctor D. Schwab. This is a 30 milliliter tube of lightweight moisturizer that helps balance and brighten your skin. It’s a high quality product that retails at $39 and has 5 stars on Amazon.

flawless skin fluid

Next comes this battery pack by HiSY that’s great for adding juice to your smartphone when you’re on the road; in fact, it’ll add a full charge to most phones, but is barely larger than a tube of lipstick or a lighter. This one came in nice blue color that looked as stylish as it is functional. It retails for $25.

portable battery pack for purse

We’re not done yet. Next came a Merrithew Total Body Tone with Tubing: Lower Body and Core DVD, rated at 5 stars on Amazon, and the actual resistance band tubing from Merrithew, rated at 4 stars on Amazon. As we prepare for Thanksgiving, it’s a great way to keep your thighs, glutes, and calves in great shape. The whole package is valued at $33.

IMG_1997 toning pack

The next item is a designer, one-of-a-kind umbrella designed in conjunction with the Tappan Collective, an online community of up-and-coming artists. This bright pink umbrella was designed by LA artist Ashkahn Shahparnia, who is also interviewed in this month’s magazine. It’s a whimsical umbrella with the words “Rain Rain Go Away” playfully repeated as a pattern that looks beautiful from afar. This umbrella goes for $32 normally.

stylish umbrella

Next came a box of lip stain from Manna Kadar Cosmetics. It’s a primer, lip gloss, and lip stain all in one that also moisturizes your lips. It retails at $24.

primer and lip gloss

Usually in boxes like these you end up throwing away the paper on the bottom, as it’s usually just some advertising. In this case I was glad I saved this; it’s a personalized $75 voucher to Picture It On Canvas, which lets you take your digital photographs and print them on canvas prints, slates, metal prints, or posters. And unlike other “vouchers” that give you that big a discount only if you spend hundreds of dollars more, this one was good for any size purchase.

Another gift card came from The Jeweler’s Wife, and lets you spend $15 on any order.

gift certificates

Finally, came “the ad”, but even this one was valuable–it’s a sample of Crest’s new toothpaste and whitening finisher.

free toothpaste sample

And of course, I scoured the shredded paper filler to make sure I wasn’t missing anything (I wasn’t).

empty goodie box


I feel like a game show host here, but the total retail value of this whole package was…$357. At $49.99, you not only get all these products, but perhaps even better you get the anticipation of waiting for the box in the mail and the great feeling of opening it and finding product after product of things you’d use and love.

FabFitFun is probably one of the best gift ideas for women there is, and it’s all the more special that they dedicate so much of their time and efforts to help charities such as the Purple Purse Foundation, as well as merchants who themselves do great things, such as Tribe Alive. It’s too late for you to order this Fall box, but they’re taking orders for the Winter Box now, and if all past boxes is any indication it’s going to be a great one. If there’s a woman in your life who’s hard to shop for, why not get her a box (or four) that’ll be sure to have plenty to surprise her and delight her and be lots of fun for both of you!

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Perfect Gift for a Photography with a High-End Camera – The FotoStrap Camera Strap

November 3rd, 2015 · Disability, Disaster Relief, Poverty

A few months ago I was talking to my niece about photography. I told her stories about how people didn’t used to take pictures on digital cameras. Back then, I dramatically told her, we had things called SLR cameras, and we put things called film into them, and we had to get them developed, 24 photos at a time! And there were thing called “dark rooms” where you exposed your film. I felt like Abraham Lincoln talking about how he used to do his homework on the back of a coal shovel.

After several minutes of pontificating my niece smiled at me and said, “I know what film is…”

But I realize that the next generation probably will have no clue. They’ll look at our 35mm rolls of film like we look at daguerreotypes and the rotogravure.

One trend I’m very happy to see coming back is that digital SLR cameras are coming back. For a while it seemed that digital photographers were going to be relegated to using little boxy point-and-shoot cameras. But companies like Canon and Nikon are making professional cameras that are on par with the quality of our old traditional SLR cameras.

My mother-in-law took up photography later in her life, and she is bar none one of the best natural talents at photography I know. Here’s an amazing photo she took last year at a local park.


She’s had a high-end Canon SLR camera for several years now, but as nice as the camera was, I noticed how the strap didn’t really match the quality of the camera, it was just a typical thin, black one with low-quality plastic that comes with any camera.

Which is why I was very happy to hear about Fotostrap. Fotostrap is an amazingly high quality camera strap which is the perfect gift for the photographer in your life who has a nice camera but just an average camera strap. You can purchase a Fotostrap from their Web site, or if you prefer, you can also purchase a Fotostrap on Amazon

The first thing you notice about Fotostrap is that it looks great. The strap itself is 1.5″ wide, which increases the sturdiness, avoids tangling, and looks very fashionable. It comes in a variety of colors to choose from.

The camera strap was designed for a comfortable fit. There’s an ergonomic leather shoulder pad that feels comfortable no matter how heavy your camera and lens are (and the straps holds up to 40 pounds!) This is something especially helpful for my mother-in-law who suffers from back pain. The shoulder pad is lined with soft rubber to prevent it from slipping, and the end strap has 5 adjustable holes so you can adjust the height

Something else I love about the strap is that it’s made of durable canvas fabric, the hardware is made of brass, and the end straps, accents, and shoulder pad are made from genuine vegetable-tanned leather (vegetable-tanned basically means that the leather was tanned using tannins and ingredients found in plant matter, such as bark, wood, leaves, fruits, and roots). The result is a beautiful chestnut brown color which they say will only improve over time with more use.

Finally, I love how the strap is monogrammable with your initials, a short phrase, a name, or even a logo. It just adds that personal special touch.

Here’s what it looks like.

camera strap for expensive cameras

I got to try her camera–and the Fotostrap–out for myself on a recent trip to take pictures of the fall foliage in New York State. Here’s me taking pictures of baby Maddie.

me using fotostrap

The strap felt amazingly comfortable, and I liked how I could hang the camera lower on my body in a way that kept it secure (I don’t think my mother-in-law would love it if I destroyed her expensive camera!) while still giving me mobility and easy access.

And here’s the foliage itself (which was amazing this year!)

autumn in new york, why does it feel so inviting?

Aside from being the perfect gift for the professional photographer (or aspiring professional photographer) in your life, the FotoStrap does something else. 10% of each FotoStrap purchased goes to help Fotolanthropy, a non-profit organization that that’s unique in itself.

Fotolanthrophy is an amazing organization that was started in 2011 by professional photographer Katie Norris. Katie wanted to “give back” to others through photography.

We live in a world where photojournalists fall into one of two categories–see who can take the photos of the most tragic and devastating images of wars and natural disasters, or see who can take the most embarrassing or revealing photos of celebrities. Those photographers are successful only because their work sells papers and gets clicks. It’s a sad reflection of how empty we’ve become as humans.

Fotolanthrophy goes to the other extreme. It seeks out those in the country who have the most inspiring stories of courage and triumph over tragedy, and offers the chance to share their stories through professional photography. The recipient receives a portrait session, album, images, and slides to share their story with the world. In addition, Fotolanthopy will choose about 5 stoies a year to make into short documentary films.

Here’s a video that describes them more:

A great product for a great cause and one that’ll make the photographer in your life very happy, especially if he or she has just plunked down a lot of $$ for a nice camera!

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Lucky Day – An App that Lets you Win Free Money for a Great Cause

October 12th, 2015 · Men's Health, Movember

It seems that just about everything in life that used to be done with paper has been “digitized” into an app by now. Instead of paper maps we use Google Maps or Apple Maps. Instead of printed airline tickets we have e-tickets. Instead of printed books we have e-books.

But when we play the Lotto, we still go to the local grocery store and buy those scratch-off tickets. Until now, that is.

Lucky Day is an app that lets you play scratch-off games, slot machines, and lotto right from your cell phone. And unlike simulation games, you can actually win free money. Granted we’re talking only a few dollars here and there (albeit you do have a chance to win a jackpot of up to $25,000), but considering the price you pay to download the game (free) and the price to collect tokens to use to play the game (free), it’s not a bad way to get your gambling itch scratched.

While it sounds like a scam, it’s really a brilliant business idea. When you use any app that has adds, from Candy Crush to Farmville to Angry Birds, each time you view an ad the app publisher gets a little money. That’s why app publishing has become a huge business, and why you see Super Bowl ads for cheap little iOS and Android games.

If I’m interpreting the business model of this company correctly, they’re basically set up to make some money from ads, but also to pass some of it back to their users. The more users the app has, the more the pool of money they’ll make for themselves AND be able to pass back to users. It’s a brilliant scheme and as long as they don’t get too greedy, one that will make them very rich and keep their users entertained.

And here’s something cool. From now until the end of November, all winners who on Lucky Day playing the scratch-off games, lotto games, or slot machines will have the option to donate their winnings to The Movember Foundation.

You’ve probably heard of the Movember Foundation if you know a family, friend, or co-worker who’s grown a moustache in the month of November. It’s a great charity that focuses on health issues specific to men, such as prostate cancer, testicular cancer, mental health, and physical inactivity.

You can download the app here.

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cuddle+kind – the highest quality hand-knit dolls you’ll find anywhere

October 4th, 2015 · World Hunger

cuddle and kind handknit dolls

See this adorable cast of characters? They’re all part of cuddle+kind, a new company based in Ontario, Canada that’s creating amazing hand-knit dolls.

Their names, from left-to-right, are Isla, Pearl, Willow, Scout, Chloe, Benedict, Chelsea, Maximus, and Everest.

There are so many good things to say about this company I hardly know where to begin.

First, the dolls themselves are amazing. Being a new father, I’ve looked and looked for stuffed animals and dolls for my little girl, but more and more I find that toys out there lacking. Of course, you’ll find the stuffed Elmos and Mickey Mouses, but those seem to be more like advertisements than “friends”. And bears, dogs,  lions, and elephants all seem to be mass-produced, “made in China” that completely lack any kind of personality. I remember giving my niece a cute stuffed dog, which she loved for a few minutes but then threw into the closest with what must literally have been 50 that looked exactly the same.

Each of the cuddle+kind dolls is simply designed but each seem to exude personality and style, from Maximus the cat’s ski cap and fish sweater to Scout the reindeer’s popsicle sweater and little tail, to Benedict the bunny’s red-framed glasses and bowtie, to Everest the penguin’s hat and scarf. At 20 inches from head to toe and made of soft, premium natural cotton, they are eminently cuddly and huggable, a perfect gift for the little one in your life to get him or her through those cold, lonely winter nights.

everest the penguinAnother problem with toys that are mass produced toys is safety. The materials sometimes go through so many loopholes that you have no idea where they came from. cuddle+kind dolls, on the other hand, meet or exceed all US and Canadian safety standards and are made of top-quality yarn of high stitch counts. You can feel confident handing the doll right over to your little one right from the plastic bag he comes in.

Also, with mass-produced toys you just don’t know where they’re being made–in some countries those producing the dolls should be the ones playing with the dolls! With cuddle+kind dolls, each doll is meticulously hand-made, switched by artisans in Peru. This provides these women with sustainable, fair trade income that helps their families and their communities.

hand knit doll embroideryI had a chance to play with Everest. I am astounded at the high quality of the hand-stitching and the embroidery. As they describ on their Web site, each doll goes through 42 steps to create just one, and they obsess at the details of every step. You can see it in the craftsmanship; there is not one stitch that’s out of place, not one loose thread, not one detail missing.

This is a truly unique doll that you won’t find piles of in your local Toys R Us. At $49 it’s a bit pricier than your generic mass-produced doll, but when you consider the value, the price is really a small one to pay. All the $5-15 stuffed animals in your closet will invariably end up in a closest or landfill somewhere. But these dollars are of such high quality, and so beautifully made that you little one will hug, befriend, and love him or her for life.

maddie and everestI “introduced” my little girl Maddie to Everest. At 20 inches, Everest is just about her size right now. But as she grows older, he’ll be of the perfect size for her to hug and cuddle with on those cold winter nights.

And what makes the value even more amazing is that the founders of cuddle+kind, Jennifer and Derek Woodgate, founded it not to enrich themselves but to help feed hungry children in North America and around the world. And so with every doll purchased, they will provide 10 meals to children in need in the US and Canada and around the world through World Food Program USA and Children’s Hunger Fund, with a goal of providing 1 million meals a year. And just so you can start teaching your little one early the importance of caring for others less fortunate than him or her, each doll is wearing a little wristband that reads “1 doll = 10 meals”.

You can order a doll of your own at Indiegogo. So far, they’ve sold enough to provide 25,000 meals to children, but you can help them by buying your own and by following them on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

This is by far my most favorite kind of product to review–a high quality product produced by a small business to help a great cause. cuddle+kind meets all three of these, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

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Free Golf Lessons from GolfTEC

September 28th, 2015 · Uncategorized

GolfTEC, if you’ve never heard of it, is the leading provider of golf lessons. They provide lessons for anyone from beginners to advanced players, and many of their instructors are PGA professionals themselves, so you know you’re getting the best of the best instruction with the latest teaching techniques and technologies to learn and improve your skills. They have almost 200 locations around the world and over the past 20 years have taught over 5.7 million lessons.
In celebration of their 20th anniversary, they’ve teamed up with PGA REACH, the charitable arm of the PGA of America, to offer free golf lessons to anyone who makes a donation to PGA Reach. The golf lessons will be given at GolfTEC locations between October 9 and October 11. Spots are limited, so make sure you get your donation in quickly. You can do so here:
Once you make your donation, all you have to do is schedule your appointment during those days at your closest GolfTEC location and show the receipt of your donation. Each lesson is valued at more than $50. The minimum suggested donation is $20, but you can donate more, of course.
PGA REACH is a charity that’s tied with the PGA which helps veterans, youth, and communities of all kinds with programs that promote development, rehabilitation, and education to these communities through the game of golf. Whether you’re a golf professional or someone who’s always just been interested, this is a great way to help a great cause and improve your game while you’re at it.

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