To Tanzania with Love | The Laurita Spina Bifida Project wants to donate wheelchairs

“How sad it is that we give up on people who are just like us.” — Fred Rogers (“Mr. Rogers”)

I don’t really remember what it’s like not being able to walk. As parental anecdotes recall, I was about two years old when I took my first steps. My parents were overjoyed, of course, but probably more than most parents, because I have spina bifida. According to my doctors at the time, I wasn’t supposed to be able to walk.

I may not remember what it was like crawling around the house or not being able to stand up, but, at age 30 now, I am beginning to grasp what it means to have limited mobility. My knees and back hurt constantly, and my wheelchair is getting much more mileage than it used to.

As I recently learned through a good friend I’ve never met, there are people in Tanzania, and in many other countries, who do not know the privilege of owning a wheelchair— what a blessing it is to have the equipment to facilitate mobility.

Little did I know until these past few weeks, that there are people on the other side of the world who would give anything to have the freedom I am often complaining about— the freedom to move.

That’s why my non-profit organization, The Laurita Spina Bifida Project, has offered to help the Association for Spina Bifida And Hydrocephalus Tanzania (ASBAHT) by raising funds so they can purchase wheelchairs, walkers, crutches, and a prosthetic leg for a young girl with spina bifida.

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Image courtesy Sifa Sylvia, ASBAHT 

A shifting perspective

It really gives me pause to reflect on how grateful I am for my “inconveniences.”

Over there, where my friend lives, people aren’t griping because someone took the accessible parking space. Or because their wheelchair won’t fit in their friend’s car when she offers to give me a ride.

They don’t complain about these problems because they don’t exist. Because access to the mobility devices they need doesn’t exist.

Many moms of children with spina bifida and hydrocephalus must push their children in strollers instead of carrying them. If they don’t have access to the brain surgery to have a shunt placed, the children’s heads grow until the parents can no longer carry them. Even these strollers are very hard to come by. As for me, I am only vaguely reminded I have a shunt in my head when the weather changes and I feel a slight headache.

This holiday season, I am fully committed to making the freedom of mobility a reality and not just a dream for at least several people in the Tanzanian spina bifida community…people who are much like me.

Maybe this will make a huge, life-altering difference for them. Maybe it won’t. All I know is, everyone needs someone in their life who refuses to give up on them.

I have you guys. Now, it’s my turn to be that person for somebody else.

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Image courtesy Sifa Sylvia, ASBAHT 

How you can help

What we need, first and foremost, is monetary donations. Whether it’s $5 or $500, every dollar makes a big impact when you add it all up. Trust me on this! How incredible is it that for the price of a latte macchiato you bring us one step closer to giving a deserving human being the gift of mobility?

 

Here’s a rough estimate of what each item costs, in U.S. dollars:

• Wheelchairs – $140.00 each

  • Walkers – $70.00 each

• A prosthetic leg for a youth with spina bifida – $460.00

Other ways to help out

If you own a company or know of a company or organization that might be interested in partnering with us to help raise the funds, please reach out to me at laurita.tellado@gmail.com. I truly believe “it takes a village,” and you are all my shining example of that!

Consider this campaign for your company’s end-of-year charitable contributions. Every donation is tax-deductible.

Also, since there are just so many wonderful social good campaigns during this time of the year, we need your help with getting the word out. Please, post to Facebook, Tweet, share, blog, Pin, Instagram post, etc.! There is truly no action that is too small to make a difference.

Please share / post using the hashtags #TheLSBProject , #SpinaBifida, and #Give5ToThrive (because we want to encourage that no amount is too small!).

Keep up with this campaign by following and connecting with us on social media:

The Laurita Spina Bifida Project on Facebook

@TheLSBProject on Twitter 

@TheLSBProject on Instagram

Remember what it’s all about

Finally, keep in your mind and heart that we are doing this to pay it forward. We have been so Blessed throughout this entire process, and I’m grateful for each and every person who has been part of The Laurita Spina Bifida Project’s journey thus far.

In the words of my friend Sifa of Tanzania, the angel behind-the-scenes who has put me in contact with the ASBAHT: “It will be an honor for ASBAHT to partner with you or any other organization or individuals out there with the heart to help the forgotten children, youth, and adults living with SBH in Tanzania.”

Thank you, Sifa. We’ll do our best.

Love,

Laurita ♥

Social Good at Hispanicize 2014: Be the Change

Hispanicize 2014 took place in Miami from April 1st through 4th, and this year, the organizers stepped it up by demonstrating that philanthropy is alive and well within the Latino community and beyond.

On March 31st, I attended Social Media for Social Good Training for Non-Profits Serving Latino & Multicultural Communities, a half-day, pre-conference event, sponsored by Florida Blue and open to professionals involved with nonprofit organizations.

 

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The presenters were Alex de Carvalho, founder of Social Media Club of South Florida, as well as Regional Development Director at Constant Contact; Katherine Doble, publisher of Los Tweens and Teens and president of Siren Marketing; and Maricela Cueva, vice president of VPE PR.

The topics covered ranged from strategies for E-mail marketing to the most effective platforms and methods for engaging potential cause supporters using social media.

I personally found the training interesting and engaging, and it was packed with lots of resources for nonprofits and individuals alike.

 

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For this cause blogger, one of the most awesome moments of the conference was witnessing Cuban bloguera Yoani Sánchez receive a Latinovator award for her courage and relentlessness in informing the global public on what is going on in Cuba.

The writer and activist has been arrested several times, even beaten, for speaking up.

I was honored and privileged to have the opportunity to meet her last year, when she came to Orlando to speak at my alma mater, Valencia College. After she was interviewed at the Latinovator Luncheon, I got to attend the press conference and ask her a question! What an amazing opportunity. I was thrilled. :)

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I couldn’t believe that Yoani Sánchez remembered me from the Valencia event! I imagine she meets hundreds of new people every week. 

Attending the Positive Impact Awards was yet another amazing opportunity to see social good up, close, and personal. It was also a wonderful time to pay tribute to many awesome Latinos who are making a huge difference in our communities– and in the world.

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I’m very proud to know Hispanicize Founder & CEO Manny Ruiz, and call him mi hermano. Congrats, Manny, on being given the key to the city of Miami!

By far, one of the most emotional moments during the Positive Impact Awards was seeing Hispanicize’s own Founder & CEO, Manny Ruiz, be surprised onstage by being presented with the key to the city of Miami by none other than the Mayor of the City of Miami, Tomás P. Regalado.

I actually had tears in my eyes, watching Manny choke up as he thanked everyone for their support. 😉

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Manny Ruiz gets emotional upon being awarded the key to the City of Miami. Love it!

Even early on in the evening, on the red carpet, I was able to say hello to a few familiar faces…including this one:

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Oh, you know, just hanging out with my friend Edward James Olmos! 

I was so thrilled that actor Edward James Olmos remembered me from last year, when I attended the premiere of “Filly Brown” during Hispanicize! Eeek!

But that wasn’t my only “geek-out” moment of the night. For reals. Yolanda Pagán, whose late husband Louis Pagán inspired the Positive Impact Awards, and I sort of improvised and tag-teamed that evening during the red carpet. It was a really sweet moment as I watched her glide gracefully from interview to interview and from photo op to photo op! Yoli and I have become very close friends ever since we met during Hispanicize last year, and I felt Blessed and honored to witness this shining moment for her.

Well, Yoli came over to me during the red carpet madness, and straight-up told me:

Maria Hinojosa wants to meet you.”

Jaw. Drops. On. Floor. 

“What!?” I gasped. 

“Maria Hinojosa,” Yoli repeated. “She wants to meet you.”

“Why?” I muttered breathlessly. 

“Are you seriously asking that question?” Yoli countered. 

Well…yes I am!  But, no matter. When veteran, award-winning journalist Maria Hinojosa asks to meet you, you ask when and where! 

So, I dashed over to where Maria Hinojosa was being photographed and fawned over. Then, she notices me.

Then, she addresses me.

She said she really wanted to meet me, and that I was an amazing blogger or something like that, but, truth be told, as is the cruel irony in most situations that you should have been taping– I remember very little of what was actually said because of how shocked I was. Understandably. 

But I do recall the million-dollar-moment, as I was basking in my 30 seconds of glory, Yoli watching me the entire time with a huge grin on her face. 

Manny walked over to us (to formally introduce me to Maria, I imagine) and puts his hand on my shoulder and says to Maria (I mean, are we on first-name-basis now!?):

“Laurita is one of the best bloggers in the country.” By this point, I’m fighting back the tears. 

And then Maria totally says, pointedly, to Manny: 

“I know! That’s why I wanted to meet her!” 

By then, whether I was still breathing was questionable. I think I had a pulse, though, because my heart was racing.

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Maria and me. New besties? Here’s hoping! 😉 

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George Torres, founder of the Positive Impact Awards, Yolanda “Yoli” Pagán, wife of Louis Pagán, and Manny Ruiz pay tribute to Louis’ legacy. (Doesn’t she look stunning?)

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Some of the Positive Impact Awards honorees share their moment of triumph onstage. 

I fear I’ve already made this post too long, but I have to share about the panel I spoke on, on Friday! My dear friend and hermano, George Torres, a.k.a., “Urban Jíbaro,” asked me to speak on a panel titled “Hispanic Social Media for Social Good: Corporate Best Practices.”

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(From left to right): Stephen Chávez, founder of Latino Foodie, moderated the #SocialGood panel, which featured George “Urban Jíbaro” Torres, founder of Sofrito Media Group, and Sofrifo for Your Soul, Steven Sánchez, Global Corporate Communications Manager for 3M, Sonia Díaz of Balsera Communications, and me. 

I have been fortunate to be a part of several dynamic panel discussions these past few years, and this one was no exception! Despite being the last day of the conference, and people showing up– *ahem*– at “Latino time” (there were parties every night!), I feel we had an amazing chemistry among our group, and we were able to engage with our audience members.

The best part was being able to tell my story, and hearing everyone else’s personal journeys through social good! I’ll be honest– I came away from this panel learning a lot! 

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With Yolanda “Yoli” Pagán, who is now one of BFFs! I can’t tell you how grateful I am for your support, encouragement, and many pep talks before and during Hispanicize! 😉


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With my longtime amiga, Alsy Acevedo of Catholic Relief Services, Anadel Alberti of Lanugo, and Yoli. Thanks so much, ladies, for supporting me and attending my panel! 😉

Later that day, after I recovered my nerves from speaking, I ran into Matt Wallaert, a behavioral scientist who works with Bing. He wanted to talk to me and introduce me to a group of young students with ASPIRA of Florida that he brought to Hispanicize, so that I could encourage them. Needless to say, I was at a total loss as to what to say to these kids! I have no idea how to foster and nurture young minds; I don’t know what you’re supposed to say to encourage them!

Well, when I saw Matt and a young friend of his, Chantal, they told me that they had attended my panel and that it was great! Matt had walked in with his group of students to watch/hear us! I was so incredibly moved by their show of support, and I realized that, when it comes to the next generation, all you have to really do is be there for them.

The week of Hispanicize was both too long and too fast. There were so many things I would have liked to do but didn’t have the time or energy to do. There’s just so much! That’s why I’m dedicating several posts, here, on Espresso con Leche, and on my hypeorlando blog, to covering everything I can.

By far, the most inspiring and uplifting moments of Hispanicize this year were the ones related to social good. Of course, it feels great to give, and it also feels wonderful to connect with others who are passionate about philanthropy within the social media space.

The best part of using social media for social good is that “the buck doesn’t stop here.” The donation or Tweet that you make, the photo you instagram, the blog post you publish about a cause can have so many impressions and can be shared so many times. Social media knows no boundaries or limits. Social media exists so that we can push our stories out beyond the natural, physical scope of older media channels.

And this week, I got to connect and reconnect with so many others who feel passionate about doing just that!

A hearty shout-out to the following sponsors:

  • Florida Blue, who sponsored the Social Media for Social Good Training for Non-profits Serving Latino and Multicultural Communities training
  • 3M, who sponsored the Positive Impact Awards, this year’s signature event, in addition to sponsoring and participating on our panel, Hispanic Social Media for Social Good: Corporate Best Practices.
  • Toyota Latino for being my sponsor during Hispanicize, and for inviting me to sit at their table during the Positive Impact Awards! I have so much more content to share about you guys, but for now I’ll say that you have truly demonstrated your commitment to social good in every initiative and program you design for consumers. Thanks for taking me under your wings! 😉

 

 

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” 

–Mahatma Gandhi

–Laurita ♥

5 Simple Ways to Help Someone Living with Spina Bifida / #GivingTuesday

 

Giving Tuesday

 

 

Today is Giving Tuesday, a movement for social good that is taking social media outlets by storm. 

Thousands and thousands of people are sharing ways in which we can all give back to great causes. 

I don’t wish to add to the cacophony of causes by asking you to donate to this or that. Instead, I want to give all of you — even those with limited funds some tips on how you can support a friend or loved one who has spina bifida, or who lives with someone who has spina bifida (caregivers need support, too!) 

So, read on for some musts and must-nots.

 

1. Don’t exclude us from social gatherings. 

I remember how painful it was growing up, and the teen years were just as awkward as my early years. It hurt me deeply when I found out some of my girlfriends were hanging out and choosing not to invite me. The reason? They thought I might bring my mom along. Although it wasn’t true at all, it still hurt. My so-called friends didn’t think I was independent enough to attend a social function on my own, without my parents at my side.

If you have a friend with spina bifida, ask them what hobbies or activities they enjoy. Invite him or her to your next outing. If you have any doubts as to what their capabilities or limitations are, ask, but never assume. 

 

 

2. Ask us for help or advice when you need it. 

Believe me. This can actually be one of the greatest gifts you will give someone with spina bifida. Many of us with spina bifida are so tired of being “helped” all the time, and many times people won’t approach us to ask a simple favor out of fear that we won’t be able to help, or we’re too “burdened” by our lives. That, if you ask me, is an even greater burden.

So, go ahead and ask! The worst possible thing we could say to you is “no.” 😉

You might even find that we have a lot to offer and give to others. 

 

 

3. Don’t tell us about every medical study you’ve read about pertaining to spina bifida! 

No, seriously. We don’t want to hear it. Especially if it involves the prevention of spina bifida, medical research is based on a lot of different variables, and while your intentions may be noble, mentioning something like this can sound like you’re trying to “fix us.” Most people with spina bifida go through countless surgeries and hospitalizations, and often have different therapies to learn to maximize their potential, physically. Many times, if there is a procedure we can benefit from, chances are it’s already making the rounds in online support forums for families with spina bifida!

 

 

4. Don’t tell us God will heal us, or that there’s a reason we have spina bifida. 

I’m a deeply religious and spiritual person, and I have my firm beliefs. I personally do believe things happen for a reason, but if you’re saying this to me after I tell you about spina bifida, you’ll come off like a total jerk. Does that mean God chose for me to deal with spina bifida? Maybe. Then again, there are a lot of great things in my life that have come from having spina bifida, and also, a lot of great things that don’t have absolutely anything to do with that.

Still, never put us on pedestals because of having spina bifida. That’s just…creepy. 

 

 

5. We’re not sheltered. You can talk to us about…anything. 

I don’t know where this crazy misconception was born that people with spina bifida aren’t exposed to certain things– like sex, alcohol, rock n’ roll, the rise and fall of Communism, and Miley’s infamous twerkfest. 

We’re human. We read the tabloids from time to time, usually in the bathroom, just like you do. 

And we also like to party. Hey, you can’t expect us to sit around and watch C-SPAN all day, right? (Fun as it sounds.) 

What’s more, many of us have graduated high school, or even college or grad school. We like to talk. And I love Google and Wikipedia! So, even if I don’t understand what you’re talking about, give me about 30 seconds with my phone to impress you. 😉

Oh, and we also have brag-worthy lives filled with riches and diamonds and yachts and filthy-rich-jetsetting, so make sure not to hog the entire conversation. 😉

 

 

Hopefully that sheds a little light on some basic things you can do to keep someone with spina bifida in your life. (Yes, we grow tired of being overlooked, just like you would!) The most important thing to remember is that our lives don’t revolve around having spina bifida. There are so many facets of our lives, and many of them are similar to yours. 

Also, like you, we hate twerking.

Happy Giving Tuesday!  

–Laurita ♥

It Takes a Village

That is, without a doubt, one of my favorite, perhaps overused, sayings. But, I’m a firm believer in its veracity.

I don’t think anyone was put on this Earth to “go it alone,” at least not entirely. If you reach out far enough, there is always someone there.

There has always been someone there for me– many people, in fact. 

For several years, one of those people has been Tracy Jensen. The mother of five beautiful boys, her youngest, Kumaka, has spina bifida. She and I connected on Facebook a long time ago, and since then, her stories about Kumaka’s strength, resilience and overall sense of adventure and humor have encouraged me during difficult times.

Through all of their challenges, Tracy has remained an exceptional mother, as well as a great encouragement to many families in the spina bifida community.

Many parents might raise an eyebrow and think, sympathetically, (and frankly, a little condescendingly), “I don’t know how Tracy does it.” And I’d be lying if I told you the thought hasn’t crossed my own mind more than once. What is most amazing about Tracy and her family is that they always take the time to support their community and involve their kids in great things. Kumaka is currently following in the tire tracks of the notorious Aaron Fotheringham, a WCMX (extreme sports for wheelchair users) pioneer and truly, the resident badass of the spina bifida community. 

While living on the west coast, Tracy and Kumaka also support and encourage Misty Díaz, a runner who has spina bifida and is raising funds to help kids and youth with disabilities compete in sporting events.

So you see, this is a very mutually nurturing community, and our paths often overlap. Now Tracy, the woman who does so much for all our community, needs our help. 

She has reached out– this time, across the globe– and fallen in love with a little girl named Sofi.

Sofi is four years old, lives in Eastern Europe, and she has spina bifida.

During the first two years of her life, Sofi was only bottle-fed and was rarely let out of her crib. As a result, her physical impairments are severe, as she has been deprived of achieving several critical milestones.

 

Sofi Rose

Still, her sunny disposition are encouraging signs that she will continue to improve, and she now lives in another orphanage, where she is thriving.

But, she needs a family, and a permanent, loving, safe home. And so, Tracy and her family are heeding this little girl’s call for help. They’ve decided to adopt Sofi, and bring her home to the U.S., where they will take excellent care of her, as they have for Kumaka and Sofi’s four other big brothers.

Since August 2012, the Jensen family has been tirelessly raising funds to offset all of the costs associated with Sofi’s adoption– the court fees, travel documents, airfare, hotel stays…the list goes on and on. Indeed, the expenses are astronomical.

The moment that they get to carry Sofi into their home will be priceless. You can’t quantify the value of a family’s love

This isn’t the first time I’ve shared my thoughts and heartache over orphaned children overseas who are living with spina bifida. All of the challenges that children face in an orphanage environment are multiplied many times over by the severity of the child’s condition.

In Sofi’s case, we know the sky will be the limit for her– once she comes home. 

In a classic race-against-time, the Jensens have been presented with the possibility of having her home with them for Christmas, but they can’t do this without our support. 

Please take a moment to visit Tracy’s donation site for Sofi and commit to giving $5, $10, $20, $25– any amount will help, and it all adds up. 

If you can afford that latte (ironic, since I’m typing this at my local Starbucks!), you can afford to help bring Sofi home. 

In Tracy’s own words, “We may be on this journey to adoption because we feel led to bring Sofi home, but you all are on our journey too…you are all part of the steps to bring our girl home.”

I feel privilege to be part of the “village” that wants to help bring Sofi home. From the orphanages of Eastern Europe, to the creature comforts of her new West Coast home, it’ll be quite the journey for little Sofi, but luckily, she has all of us to guide her steps along the way.

 

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It may take a village to raise a child, but it’ll take an even bigger village… to bring her home for good. 

–Love,

Laurita ♥

Goodwill Exposé Shows Good Intentions, Bad Reporting: An Open Letter to NBC


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Yesterday, while finishing up my breakfast, my good friend Spencer Day messaged me, and tipped me off on a news story I hadn’t yet heard of.

It had to do with people with disabilities, so he guessed– correctly– that it would press my red-hot button. Not that he was looking to provoke me, mind you. I’m glad he shared it with me. It needs to be discussed.

 

On June 21, a story aired on NBC’s “Rock Center with Brian Williams” that left me agape. The in-depth report detailed how Goodwill Industries, a very well-known charitable organization known for giving “equal opportunities,” is exploiting its employees with disabilities by paying them far below the minimum wage and forcing them to prove their skills using humiliating tactics– i.e., timing an employee while he or she folds as many pieces of clothing as they can.

 

The report claimed that the employees’ compensation is positively correlated with the workers’ abilities.

 

That’s not even the whole story. 
 
You see, this report by the ever-charming Brian Williams was peppered extensively with negative rhetoric as it relates to people with disabilities (person-first language? Not here!).
And, it gets worse. The entire report focused on how “the disabled” are being used– and how Goodwill is taking advantage of “our most vulnerable” people.

 

*Sigh, puts down coffee mug* Where do I even begin? Pardon me, but I didn’t realize that those of us with disabilities belonged to society like some pet. We are not always “vulnerable,” and what’s more– we are not yours, mind you.

 

Brian Williams interviewed a well-spoken, poised older couple, both legally blind. She quit working at Goodwill after four years of putting up with the demeaning wages, while her husband still works there. It was devastating for me to realize that, while what they are doing is plain wrong, for many of these hard-working citizens, it satisfies the need for honest worka need that has left the employment shelves all but empty in a still-ailing economy, and a need which is notoriously difficult for people with disabilities to fulfill. It reminded me of the catch-22 that many immigrants to this country are placed in– the need for honest work versus the reluctance to be paid in peanuts. Sometimes, minorities can’t make that choice.

 

Of course, this doesn’t exactly make me want to rush off to my room and collect clothes for donation after watching this story.
But, here’s the bottom line:
 
If Goodwill’s disgusting behavior towards its employees with disabilities did anything to perpetuate already-prevalent negative stereotypes about people with disabilities, then NBC and Brian Williams pretty much finished the job by trashing us all the way into next year. 
 
Many of my readers probably think I’m being oversensitive, that this is only about the lack of person-first language in this news story. It isn’t. It’s about abusing the pity angle to sell the story of a group that is already beyond marginalized because we are pitied. 
 
Now do you see the hypocrisy of this situation? If the problem is that Goodwill sees people with disabilities as less-than-human, and ergo, cheap labor, then NBC did little to help our image by calling us “vulnerable.” In doing so, NBC is (unwittingly, mind you) giving Goodwill the power to continue treating its employees as sub-human. 
 
This news story would not be almost laughably infuriating if its very premise had not been to expose a perceived “wrong” reality in society– that people with disabilities are far too often taken advantage of. That may be true, in fact, very sadly, it is. 

 

In merely telling the story, NBC is trying to prove that they are better than Goodwill– the perceived villains for all of America who tuned in that evening to watch that report. And maybe they did do this story for conscientious reasons– I’ll give them that.

 

But in their storytelling, NBC and Brian Williams proved that they are no better than our societal oppressors– that they are just as ignorant of our real struggle in this world– the fight to be seen as equal, as human. 
 
Maybe NBC won’t read this blog post. Maybe they will. If they at least responded somehow, then, just maybe, they’d be showing a little more compassion than the two-faced charity they exposed.

 

Maybe even a little goodwill. 
 
 

Make the 2012 ‘Nice’ List: A BRITAX BOB Stroller Giveaway!

With the holidays already here, many families have already celebrated Hanukkah, and many more are gearing up for Christmas, as well as commemorating other special days with family and close friends.

But of course, the holidays aren’t just about getting presents, or even giving presents. They’re about taking the time to give of ourselves and reach out to others who are not as fortunate as we are.

This year, I was able to raise over $2,300 for the Walk-N-Roll for Spina Bifida. And guess what? Donations are still open! I’m not mentioning this at all to “toot my own horn,” so to speak. But really, it’s about the power of social media and a wonderful community to make a big difference. Donations are still open and definitely welcome!

This Christmas, I also decided I wanted to participate in one of the many “Angel Tree” gift collections going on, this particular one being held at my Church. Angel Trees are fast becoming a tradition for many non-profit organizations and charities. The way it works is that you visit an Angel Tree at a specific location (say, a mall, Church, or school) and take one of the paper angels from the tree. The angel has the information of a person (often a child) who might otherwise not be able to receive a gift this year. The person’s task is then to purchase a new, unwrapped gift for the child and return it to the Angel Tree location.

I was surprised at how eager I was to participate this year. I chose to buy for a little girl, and I enjoyed visiting the toys’ section of a retail store and picking out princess-themed toys and clothes.

Strangely enough, it was not the events of December 14th which inspired me to take part in the Angel Tree tradition. I did this before. But now, reflecting on the tragedy that has happened recently, it reminds me not to take the lives of anyone– particularly young children– for granted.

So, I encourage you all, whether it’s participating in a local or national charity event, making cards for children who are in a hospital, or simply taking the time to reach out to a friend or relative who’s going through a difficult time– to take that step and touch the life of someone else.

I’m probably nowhere near making the “nice list,” but I do enjoy giving back and hope that even the smallest of my actions will make a difference to someone, somewhere.

In celebration of the holidays, I’m giving away a BRITAX BOB stroller (valued at over $400) to a lucky reader!

 

*Pictured stroller is similar, but not necessarily the exact stroller, that the winner will receive.  

 

Last year, BRITAX announced the acquisition of BOB, “a leading, innovative, high-quality maker of jogging strollers.”

The BOB strollers are compatible with BRITAX’s line of car seats, making it super-easy for you to protect your child, no matter where you are on the go– in the car, or in the stroller.

How to Enter to Win a BRITAX BOB Stroller: 

  • Using the Rafflecopter form below, there will be one (1) mandatory entry and several optional entries you can choose for extra entries.
  • For the mandatory entry,  please comment below as to how you plan to make the “Nice List” this year. Good deeds should be done for their own merit, not for getting a pat on the back, but feel free to “brag” here and feel proud of what you’ve done or plan to do! The goal here is to inspire everyone to take action, in whatever way possible.
  • For additional entries, do any or all of the additional entries using the Rafflecopter form. Each action you take will earn you one (1) extra entry.
  • Entries will close on Wednesday, December 26th at 11:55 p.m.
  • A winner will be chosen at random on Thursday, December 27th and announced on this blog, on Facebook and on Twitter.

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!!

Love & Blessings during the season and always,

Laurita ♥

 

**Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Britax (follow on Twitter) and I will be compensated. I am a member of the Britax Latina Advisory Board. All ideas and opinions are my own.

Awareness: The End, Not the Means

When I set out to be captain of my own team again for the SBACFL Walk-N-Roll for Spina Bifida, I never imagined just how many people my humble efforts would reach– in Central Florida, as well as beyond.

On Wednesday night, Chantilly Patiño of Multicultural Familia and Bicultural Mom moderated our very first Walk-N-Roll Twitter Party for Spina Bifida.

An unprecedented online event meant to raise both funds and awareness, we managed to raise $120 for the Spina Bifida Association of Central Florida. More importantly–we did raise awareness. During this Twitter party, the hashtag #SpinaBifida had nearly 2 million impressions! This is a huge leap forward for the spina bifida cause.

I could never thank Chantilly and all the sponsors and co-hosts enough for all their hard work and dedication to this cause. I’m truly moved by everyone’s show of support. I was also amazed by how many joined the conversation– both people who had been touched by spina bifida, and people who knew nothing of spina bifida before this event. Both groups alike joined forces for this effort, and I will always be grateful to all of them.

On Thursday evening, I hosted another event– in person, at Bravo! Cucina Italiana, here in Orlando. Proceeds from ticket sales benefited the SBACFL Walk-N-Roll for Spina Bifida.

An intimate crowd joined us in support of The Cause, including two families who are part of the SBACFL. A special thanks to Amanda Kern, who took some beautiful photos of the event.

 

 

 Why, oh why did I have my eyes closed for this one? An otherwise beautiful family portrait, taken by the ever-attentive Bravo staff.

 

Bravo! Cucina Italiana General Manager Michael Monahan was the one who made it all happen that evening. Thank you so much for caring about the Spina Bifida community! :)


*SIGH* At every event I attend or host, I have to put up with another of Mami’s gratuitous photo shoots. #Mamarazzi

 


Our friend Giancarlo came to support our event!

 

My good friends Brett and Krystal also came out to support me! Love them.

I’m always grateful for Vionet-Edith’s support. She’s a true friend…part of the family. :)

Attendees were greeted by an assortment of appetizers and enjoyed drinks on the terrace. We couldn’t have prayed for better weather!

Speaking of prayers…my beloved priest, Father Bassam, was there to support me and my family.

 

 

I was able to share special moments with other people, including a camera crew from the UCF Cornerstone program. These college students from my alma mater are volunteering for New Hope for Kids, another one of my favorite organizations, and they showed up to interview me about my experience as a wish recipient!

 

 (There’s more photos where that came from! Stay tuned. :)  )

 

Another priceless moment that evening was reuniting with Amanda’s son Chance. Now 20 months old, this incredible little guy has touched so many lives already. Ever since the first time I met him over a year ago, I’ve felt a very strong connection to him. He is definitely very special to me. I love Super Chance! :)

(Note: All the following photos are courtesy of AmandaKern.com.)

 

 

My wonderful family is always so incredibly supportive. I couldn’t do any of it without them!

 

 

It’s true– Amanda went on a *photo* shooting rampage during the event– expect to see some photos of all the Walk-N-Roll team captains as part of the Walk-N-Roll for Spina Bifida publicity campaign!

Other attendees included Shannon Celentano’s family, Dede Mischel. Thank you so much for your support!

When all was said and done, we made $120 for the Walk-N-Roll. Hmmm…I guess that’s my number. Maybe I should play the lottery…?

I feel remarkably blessed to have so many people supporting me. Whether it’s online or off, in person or from afar, there are so many ways that people can impact a life, support a good cause.

So, thanks to each and every one of you who attended and/or promoted either the Twitter party and/or the Bravo! event. I’m amazed and humbled by your love and support.

As if these events weren’t enough to send me into “awareness overload,” a truly remarkable meeting took place on the Saturday following the Bravo event which some of you heard about on Facebook. Yes, I actually met Judy Woodruff of PBS NewsHour for the first time in person, while she was in Orlando covering the campaigns.

 

During our meeting, Judy eagerly agreed to an interview! Below is our chat.

 

And when all is said and done…whether you have given a donation or spread the word, you are helping! Awareness isn’t just a means to an end– it is the end we’re searching for.

 

Love,

Laurita ♥

Blogging, Speaking, Walking & Rolling: An Update for Good

This year, I feel I’ve especially committed myself to doing whatever God has in store for me. If it’s not meant to be, it’s because He has better plans for me than I could have made for myself. 

As it turns out, the purposes of those plans often overlap with each other– creating just a little confusion in my life! But I need not be too stressed about it– it’s all for good. :) 

So here’s the lowdown on what I’ll be up to in the coming weeks and months: 

  • In just 10 days, I’ll be speaking at CFLBlogCon, formerly known as the Central Florida Blogger Conference, on the topic of “Blogging for a Cause.” (I know, right up my alley, isn’t it?) I’m very excited to be invited to speak at a conference that was founded last year. The very talented organizing team is doing a fabulous job of bringing together bloggers, entrepreneurs, and social media diehards from all walks of life to present a diverse, educational, and entertaining program throughout the day. Check out the Official CFLBlogCon guide for more details!
  • The CFLBlogCon team is also debuting its Blogging for Good program this year, and it aims to raise awareness and funds for some great organizations, among them the Spina Bifida Association of Central Florida, and the Valencia Foundation. While almost everyone already knows why I support the first organization, you might be wondering about the second one. Well, I’m a graduate of Valencia College, and while I completed my Bachelor’s degree at the University of Central Florida, Valencia will always hold a special place in my heart as my first college alma mater. The foundation is committed to improving education for all students, and they have often given me a platform to promote my cause. Of course, I would encourage you all to support the SBACFL through this program, as well. Please visit this link to find out how you can make a difference for good.
  • My goal is to continue the work I began last year as a Team Captain for the Central Florida Walk-N-Roll for Spina Bifida. So, I need your help. Can we exceed our goals from last year and raise the bar? Team Holdin’ Out for a Hero is at it again, and we need more members, and more fundraising. We need all team members to be actively seeking out donations. That being said, any way you can promote it would be awesome. 

  • While I can’t share all the details with you yet, I know I’ll be speaking on a panel at the LATISM ’12 conference in Houston in October!! Yay. I can’t tell you all how excited I am, but because I’ll be in Houston– dun dun dun— I’ll unfortunately be missing out on attending the Walk-N-Roll in person! :( So that’s why I’ll need extra support from you all to make my dream of raising even more funds a reality. We can do this. I do know I’ll be speaking on a health-related panel, so I will definitely be plugging The Cause. :)

So that’s life on the cause front for now. Stay tuned for even more updates. Thanks again to all of you who posted comments, supportive Tweets and wall posts on Facebook in celebration of our 3-year anniversary. Rest assured I read and appreciated them all so much!!

 

Love,

Laurita ♥

Day 311- chART charity art magazine

It seems today is proving to be somewhat of a productive day for me. I started it off having breakfast and studying for class, and then proceeded to E-mail today’s contact person.

I’ve decided to zero-in on chART, a publication that uses a passion for art as a vehicle for raising funds and awareness for numerous charitable endeavors. The magazine is published locally, in Winter Park, Florida. A few minutes ago, I E-mailed Casey Swann, the magazine’s publisher, and asked her to consider including an article about spina bifida awareness in the publication.

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chART's classy, multidisciplinary approach to giving back is an artform in itself.

In looking at the overall big picture, it’s important to me not to lose focus on the local communities that are all about getting involved in worthy causes.

Initially, I was inspired to reach out to an art publication or non-profit when I learned that today would have been Frida Kahlo’s 103rd birthday! Kahlo was a famous Mexican painter who died 1954 after living with many medical complications, including contracting polio at age six.

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Interestingly, it has been widely speculated that Kahlo also had spina bifida, although nothing has been proven. So, in honor of this late hero who might have had spina bifida, I wanted to share Google’s lovely depiction of Frida as is available today on the search-engine.

Have a beautiful day, everyone. Remember to please E-mail me at: laurita.tellado@gmail.com with any and all questions or suggestions!

Love,

Laurita ♥