Stories with a cause close to BE’s heart

They Will Surf Again

The Life Rolls On signature quality of life program, They Will Surf Again (TWSA) is an award-winning series of bi-coastal events that empower paraplegics and quadriplegics to experience the freedom of mobility by riding a wave with the assistance of adaptive equipment and the support of hard working volunteers. They Will Surf Again has the unique ability to engage and bridge the able-bodied and disabled communities, as they collaborate to push the bounds of possibility for those with SCI.

More than a day of recreational activity, They Will Surf Again also serves as an exceptional opportunity for individuals with SCI and their families to network and establish new support networks outside traditional group support settings.

TWSA also shifts negative stereotypes of the paralysis community, as the public is able to learn, through watching or by participating in this program, what is truly possible beyond paralysis. We are thrilled that this program has given thousands of individuals hope and inspiration to reach new heights despite being challenged by mobility.

Life Rolls On 2013

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Grant a Wish for a Suffering Child

Ever Wondered How You Can Grant A Wish for A Child Suffering From A Terminal Illness?  See How Celebrity Selena Gomez Made One Little Girl’s Wish Come True right here:
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4-year-old boy’s wish comes true with help of Make-A-Wish Foundation

A 4-year-old boy suffering from pelvic cancer had one wish that was to ride in an elevator, punch all the buttons and count all the floors.
On Thursday, Alan Sanders’ wish came true at the Weston Centre in downtown San Antonio.
With the help of the Make-A-Wish Foundation and all 900 tenants in the building, Alan and his family were greeted on every floor to cheers, balloons, streamers, cookies, toys and even Sponge Bob Square Pants himself.
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‘Mean Girls’ Exhibit in PA. Focuses On Bullying

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Think “bully” and the stereotypical image is still a scowling young boy. But, as the art exhibition “Mean Girls” attests, the capacity to behave badly isn’t limited to one gender.
The exhibition, at the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s SPACE gallery, Downtown, invites a conversation about the effect that bullying has upon others and ways to stop it. A free, public youth art workshop on Saturday is an example of the community programming that curator Jill Larson is offering to complement the show and reach a wider audience. Other events include a dance interpretation and a session on bullying in the workplace
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Pediatrician adopts siblings on National Adoption Day

Dr. Lawrence Garter has been helping kids as a pediatrician with Pediatrics Associates in Plantation since 2001 and started fostering children in 2010.

Now he’s taken the ultimate leap in helping two siblings find a caring home: adoption.

Garter adopted 10-year-old Alexa and her 9-year-old brother, Joshua, on National Adoption Day in November after fostering them since August 2011 through ChildNet. The organization is responsible for the administration of the child welfare system in Broward and Palm Beach counties under a contract with the Florida Department of Children and Families.

His roommate, Norman Kunkel, is also helping to raise the two kids.

“National Adoption Day makes the dreams of our most vulnerable children come true every year as we work with policymakers, practitioners and advocates to finalize adoptions and celebrate with these forever families,” Emilio Benitez, the president and CEO of ChildNet, said in a press release. “[It] is a special day for the families but more importantly for the kids who will now have a stable, loving, permanent home.”

How did you get started fostering children?

The story is that, at our office in Plantation, we are down the road from the ChildNet location where children are taken first. By the rules, they need a physical exam within 24 hours. Since our office is close by, on many occasions they bring them to us. So I saw this parade of kids over the years and wanted to do something more for them. I have a big, four-bedroom house, so I thought I could help these kids by giving them a loving place to stay. I went through the training and started fostering kids in my home.

Was there a specific incident that helped you make your decision?

These kids were coming in pretty much on the worst day of their lives, and they need someone to love them. A lot of them are nice kids who need someone to give them a break from the real world and treat them like a kid. It’s no fault of their own that they need someone to take care of them.

The toddlers who come into my office really pull at my heartstrings. They put their arms around you; they don’t want to be put down, and they cry when they are taken out of my arms. It hurt me to give them back. I wanted to take care of them.

How many children have you fostered?

I think about seven total, ranging from ages four to 13.

What are the challenges of fostering?

You go through 30 hours of training, and it’s an incredible bureaucracy of people coming to check your home to see if the fridge is cold, no garbage is piled up, there’s adequate space, etc. Then, when you’re licensed they ask what your preferences are as far as age and ethnicity.

Whatever child comes into care, if they have a need, they can call and ask. But they do know what you feel you’re most comfortable with in your home for fostering.

Tell us about Alexa and Joshua.

I didn’t think they would stay long, because they have relatives in the area. The idea of fostering is that children will eventually go back to relatives once a stable situation is found, so I didn’t think they’d stay. But no acceptable relatives were willing to take them. I fell in love with them. These were kids who had suffered a lot of neglect. They hadn’t gone to school for two years, and they desperately needed a dentist visit and haircuts.

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Vet Your Veterans Charities – The Allied Veterans of the World Scam

huff post impact lisa kamen

As the founder of a nonprofit for veterans, I’m a little more disheartened each time I hear about another veteran charity misleading the public. The latest scam, which rightly has the entire Sunshine State up in arms, is yet another example of why we need to vet our veterans charities.

In case you haven’t heard about the scandal yet, here’s a quick debriefing: Allied Veterans of the World, a nonprofit founded in 1979, claims to contribute “time, money and support services to veterans and first-responder organizations across the country.” Visit its website, and you’ll see a furling American flag with the words “Veterans Helping Veterans” scrawled in patriotic red and white. Read the text on its home page, and you’ll learn that the organization has donated major bucks to Veterans Administration hospitals and clinics. Or so they say.

How does the Allied Veterans of the World raise its money? Through 49 gambling parlors across Florida, where customers can play computerized slot-machine type games. Drop in some change, and even if you lose, it’s a win-win, because the money you lose goes to our veterans in need. Except that in reality, it doesn’t. This week, investigators arrested more than 50 people tied to the gambling scam after developments allegedly show the organization has given veterans less than 2 percent of the $300 million it has made in the last 5 years. Instead of helping our veterans get health care, it helped Allied Veterans of the World execs get boats, real estate, and shiny toys by the name of Maseratis, Ferraris and Porsches. The parlors are shutting down, and Florida’s Lieutenant Governor, although not tied to any wrongdoing, has resigned simply because she was backed by the organization.

If this was the first time a veterans charity had failed us, it would still be sad, but not so tragic. But a quick tour de news over the last few years shows that the Allied Veterans of the World scandal is a symptom of a larger trend. Just last spring, the Disabled Veterans National Foundation was accused of spending most of its $56 million raised to pay for consultants and advertising. Few dollars actually went to veterans, though donors were told otherwise. And then there’s the case of the U.S. Naval Veterans Association, which raised more than $100 million in seven years. None of the organization’s members actually existed, and its address was a post office box at a UPS store in Washington DC. The “nonprofit” gained credibility by listing thousands of fake donors and ensuring the public its “members” were veterans. Needless to say, they weren’t. The guy running the organization, John Donald Cody, a former military intelligence officer, had been on the FBI’s most wanted list for decades for alleged espionage and fraud. He now sits in jail in Ohio facing charges of fraud, theft and money laundering, all tied to the U.S. Naval Veterans Association.

And if that isn’t disheartening enough, there’s this news: Nearly half of the 39 veterans charities that the American Institute of Philanthropy rated in April/May 2011 were given big fat Fs. Why did they fail? In most cases, the money backed fundraising campaigns and executives, not veterans.

Fraud among veterans charities has gotten so bad that it was the subject of congressional hearings in 2007, and it’s been a source of public outrage ever since. Rightly so. The public has every right to be leery, skeptical, disgusted and disillusioned by veterans charities that use their generous donations for everything but veterans aid.

As the founder of the nonprofit Harvesting Happiness 4 Heroes, I’m just as outraged by these scams as you are. It is morally wrong and ethically bankrupt for these organizations to literally capitalize on our desire to help deployed and returning veterans. And even more frustrating is that of all the times in recent history, our veterans need us most right now, just as these scams are making veterans donations dwindle. Amid soaring rates of suicide, PTSD, unemployment and multiple deployments, our veterans are returning home to a stark, unfortunate reality that keeps them from transitioning into civilian life.

Although though there are many bad eggs in the dozen, veterans charities still serve an important purpose. Our Veterans Administration doesn’t have the funds to adequately support our troops, plain and simple, and when operating in good faith, nonprofits are a good way to close this funding gap. The problem is, with each scam that hits the news, legitimate charities that are truly set on doing good see fewer fundraising dollars trickle in.

Don’t let the scams and lies deter you from supporting our Warriors; instead, use them as motivation to truly vet a veterans charity before making your contribution. One easy way to do so is to visit Guidestar, the Gold Star of nonprofit vetting and an invaluable database for finding trustworthy charities that have their hearts in the right place. It’s what we subscribe to at Harvesting Happiness 4 Heroes, and it’s what has vetted us so that the public knows what we’re doing with the money we collect through our programming.

Yes, it’s sad that we have to do a little investigating to find the veteran charities that do what they say they do. But once you find a charity that you trust, your tie to the cause will be that much stronger. Giving is always best when you have no inhibitions about it, and when you’re confident that it is supporting a good cause. It may take a bit of vetting to support our veterans, but it’s a cause well worth the effort.


by Lisa Cypers Kamen, MA


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