Paying It Forward One Canine At A Time

Little and King

Jathan and his Little Brother visit the local animal shelter to give the residents there a little TLC. (Photo by Jathan Fink, Jadeworks Entertainment)

Today my new Little Brother and I went out on our first outing, and one of the things we definitely have in common is our love for animals. Although he doesn’t have a dog of his own yet, he told me he loves poodles and chihuahuas, and likes petting and playing with the pets his grandparents and neighbors have. So a visit to my favorite local animal shelter seemed like a great way to get the ball rolling in our relationship. Read more of this post

A Big Brother Once Again [PHOTOS]

Jathan and his Little

It’s a match! Jathan meets his new Little Brother for the very first time. (Photo by Karesha Pigmon)

I’ve been looking forward to this evening for weeks and it finally came: the night I met my new Little through Big Brothers Big Sisters! I’ve worked with the organization several times before, and even interned with them during college, and tonight I met my match after weeks and weeks of waiting. I was so excited.  Read more of this post

Open Your Heart To A Child And Reap The Rewards

Friends at Husky Stadium in Seattle

Friends at Husky Stadium in Seattle. (Photo courtesy Dana Styber, Flickr)

Heather and I have never made any secret about the fact that we would love to adopt children. We are nurturers at heart, and we’ve always envisioned ourselves ending up on a big homestead with hordes of adopted children and grandchildren visiting us on special occasions. It’s our dream really. But anytime we bring the idea up in mixed company, we’re met with everything from praise to shock and sometimes, horror. Read more of this post

There You’ll Be

Heather with Aubrey and Carly

Heather visits the Cincinnati Zoo with two of her favorite little friends, Aubrey and Carly.

November 2011

Dear Friends,

As many of you know, November is a fun month for us. We host our annual Fall Feast, when we literally cook for days and then invite all our favorite people to gather together to share a special meal and make new memories with us. But it is also a month when we tend to reflect on and define “family,” and find new ways to celebrate the folks who have touched our hearts in so many ways.

We have both been fortunate enough to have people populate our lives who truly impacted us for the better. Some of them were relatives, like my great-grandmother Catherine, who taught me the importance of loyalty whenever she had me crawl up onto her bed so she could tell me stories about Hachi and other dogs who loved and protected their masters come what may. My great-aunt Editha, whom I met later in life at my grandfather’s funeral, had a heart as big as the ocean, and taught me to bravely see the world through the eyes of an artist, to embrace the aspects of my personality that made me unique and refuse to conform to societal norms. With their unfailing love and support, these women worked their own brand of magic, teaching me life lessons I’ve never forgotten and shaping the man I eventually became.

Yet blood ties aren’t the only ones that feed the vines of our lives as we continue to sprout and grow. Friends also play an equally important role in our life story, acting as mentors, guides, and companions along our journey. Edna, a matronly friend of Heather’s, was like an adoptive grandmother who taught her to believe in herself and to forge her own path. Sandra, Heather’s best friend’s mother, counted Heather as one of her daughters and always offered a listening ear. As for me, there were men like Al, a teacher and journalist, who taught me the power of the written word and infused me with the courage to use my voice to raise awareness and affect change, regardless of people’s personal opinions. We’d love to tell you about countless others, about friends who became family, who taught us important lessons with grace, laughter, love and respect, for each of them touched us in their own unique ways and truly live on within us, as parts of us. Undoubtedly, you have similar memories too.

The reason we share these stories with you, though, is to help you realize that even small, altruistic acts of compassion and generosity, create a ripple effect of change. One act of kindness begets another. Some refer to this as karma, the golden rule, or even paying it forward. Regardless of what you want to call it, however, if we stop and really analyze the precious moments and people in our lives, this will likely serve as impetus to do something to improve the lives of others and the world we live in.

This month is National Adoption Month, when we raise awareness about adoption and the youth in foster care. Currently, thousands of children are in the system, waiting patiently for their forever families. These kids, each beautiful in his own unique way, want desperately to belong, to have families they can trust and who love them unconditionally. Perhaps you’ve known people who have adopted, or were even adopted themselves. When my uncle John was a sheriff in California, he and his wife adopted three children, rescuing them from a nightmare situation, so I’ve witnessed firsthand what a marvelous thing adoption can be.

On the flip side, however, I also understand how badly children can suffer. If you live in Cincinnati, you may have read or watched reports about children like Damarcus Jackson or Marcus Fiesel, toddlers whose lives were snuffed out by the people who should have protected them, rather than murdered them. These stories are heartbreaking and tragic, and in many ways are more horrifying than something even Stephen King would write. That’s why we want to encourage you to open your hearts and consider adopting a child into your family. For more information, including valuable resources, financial assistance, photo listings of children currently available for adoption and more, visit AdoptUSKids.org. The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption also offers great links, workbooks and other informative tools to help you build your family today.

If you can’t adopt now, there are other ways to get involved and help at-risk children. Volunteer to tutor at your local schools, and in as little as one hour per week, you can build a child’s confidence and help him excel academically. You can also mentor children through Big Brothers Big Sisters, an organization we’ve supported for years via donations, and by volunteering at events, and even by having Littles of our own. Helping out doesn’t have to take much time, but it will definitely reap big rewards for both you and the child you mentor. Learn about BBBS below or watch the inspiring stories of this years Big Brother and Big Sister of the year.

These days when it appears that the world is coming apart at the seams, it may sound naïve or misguided to say that we live with hope. Yet we believe that conditions will improve, that one day we will awaken and realize that the crises now enveloping our world will be a thing of the past. But until that time, each of us has to step up and pursue change, working ordinary miracles every day. As we do, perhaps we’ll make an indelible mark in someone else’s life, so one day they too will know that no matter where they are or what they’re going through, we’ll live within their hearts, always inspiring them to live their best lives and discover their possibilities.

Live well,
Jathan & Heather

© 2011 Jadeworks Entertainment. All rights reserved.

3 charities that make a difference

Winston Churchill once said that ” We make a living by what we earn—we make a life by what we give.” Many at this time of year are indeed focused on giving, but many times it is difficult to know what to get the person who seems to have everything. Cash? Clothes? A gift card to their favorite store? This year, why not give a gift that makes a difference: a charitable donation to a great organization on behalf of your friend or loved one. But which organizations deserve your hard earned dough? Here are three of our favorites.

Oceana

Atlantic Blue Fin Tuna

Oceana protects many fish populations, like this Atlantic Blue Fin Tuna.

Although 70 percent of our planet’s surface is covered by oceans, until 2001 very little environmental funding went to protecting them. That is the year a group of leading foundations created Oceana, which has become the world’s largest international organization focused solely on ocean conservation.

Since its inception, Oceana has launched international campaigns to create policy changes with real results that preserve and restore marine life. For example, in a recent campaign, Oceana sent the Chilean Minister of Economy a report that analyzed the annual quota for jack mackerel during the past 10 years. The study found that for the past eight years, the National Fisheries Council set the catching limit higher than was recommended by the Institute for Fisheries Development. Upon reading this study, the Minister of Economy vented his frustration to the National Fisheries Council and asked them to set smaller quotas for next year.

Now Oceana has turned its attention toward protecting bluefish tuna and sharks, because overfishing is pushing these fish toward extinction. Some shark populations have already dropped by an astounding 99 percent! If something’s not done soon, oceans will be irreparably changed when these top predators disappear forever.

“No other organization does what Oceana does,” says ocean protection advocate and actor Ted Dansen (of Cheers fame). “No organization works exclusively to fight ocean threats on a global scale.”

One of the reasons Oceana is so successful is that it chooses “battles that are big enough to matter, but targeted enough to win,” Dansen says.

To find out more about Oceana, visit their Website or check out their Guidestar report today.

The Nature Conservancy

Nature Conservancy Santa Fe Canyon Reserve

Hundreds of birds call the Nature Conservancy's Santa Fe Canyon Reserve home.

Our first contact with the Nature Conservancy occurred during one of our many trips to Santa Fe, New Mexico. There they manage the Santa Fe Canyon Preserve, which consists of 525 acres and is home to a colony of beavers and more than 140 species of birds. The preserve offers a 1.5-mile interpretive loop trail and also serves as a trailhead for the 20-mile Dale Ball Foothill Trail System. The preserve is a gorgeous sanctuary where you can exercise, commune with nature and discover ruins from Santa Fe’s historic past.

The Nature Conservancy is dedicated to protecting the lands and waters on which the diversity of life depends. And they are successful in doing just that! In fact, with over 1 million members, the organization now  manages 1,400 private nature sanctuaries which are equally important and as fascinating to visit as the Santa Fe preserve. Together, they protect over 14 million acres in the United States and more than 84 million acres in Canada, Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific.

One of the reasons for the Nature Conservancy’s success is that it has partnered with numerous agencies and organizations around the world, including the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Park Service in the United States. They’ve also teamed up with other non-profit organizations like Conservation International, NatureServe and WWF to create campaigns like the Natural Capital Project which makes conservation an aesthetic and economically sound choice and Rescue the Reef to protect coral reefs worldwide.

Now you can help make a difference too! Simply visit the Nature Conservancy home page or find out more by reading their Guidestar report online.

Big Brothers Big Sisters

Big Brothers Big Sisters
Little moments truly are big magic when mentors share activities like reading with Big Brothers Big Sisters.

In his bestselling novel Dead Even, our pal Brad Meltzer wrote about husband-and-wife lawyers who were pitted against one another in the courtroom. At home, however, they were like any other couple, with shared interests and passions. One of those passions was their involvement with Big Brothers Big Sisters, an organization that paired them as mentors to a little girl. That story changed our lives.

In the ’90s, Jathan contacted Big Brothers Big Sisters and became a “big” himself to a young man in Dallas, Texas. After he moved to Cincinnati, Jathan took another step and interned for the organization’s offices where he helped with fundraising and created a radio campaign for BBBS at the University of Cincinnati’s radio station, Bearcast. Shortly thereafter, both of us became “bigs” to an 8-year-old Hispanic boy named Junior. It was a marvelous experience that taught us that simply being a strong role model and good friend to a child in need can change a life forever, in as little as four hours per month! This is a perfect example of why the organization’s motto is “Little moments, big magic.”

The organization got its start in 1904, when a young court clerk in New York City started seeing an increasing number of boys coming through his courtroom. That clerk recognized the need for trustworthy adults in the boys’ lives and started finding volunteers to mentor them, and as a result the Big Brothers movement was born. By 1916, the movement had spread like wildfire to 96 cities across the country. At the same time, a similar movement began for girls elsewhere in New York. It wasn’t until 1977 that the two movements joined forces and became Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. Now the organization operates in all 50 states and in 35 countries worldwide!

BBBS has three wonderful mentoring programs that help children in various situations. With community-based mentoring, Bigs and Littles meet in their community for as little as one hour each week to share fun activities, such as going to the park, bowling, reading, visiting the zoo and more. Site-based mentoring allows Bigs and Littles to meet once a week in schools to talk and have fun, help with homework or simply chat, draw or play games. Some cities also have a program that provides mentors to children of prisoners which helps these kids beat the odds of winding up in jail themselves.

Whether you can open your hearts and serve as a mentor yourself or simply make a donation, your help is greatly appreciated and makes a huge impact on the life of an otherwise at-risk child. To find out more, visit Big Brothers Big Sisters online or check out their Guidestar report for details.

© 2010 Jadeworks Entertainment. All rights reserved.