Posts Tagged ‘volunteer NYC’

Top Ten: Ways You Can Help NYC Recover From Hurricane Sandy

November 16, 2012 Leave a comment

I’ve been meaning to get this Top Ten out since Sandy hit, but between Ian having unexpected surgery (long story, crazy month) and Adam dismantling the keyboard one letter at a time (if I’m missing any d’s, g’s, f’s or v’s it’s because I didn’t whack them hard enough) it got pushed to a back burner. But I feel so strongly about getting this post out that it’s worth carving out 15 more minutes of free time to get it done. Don’t worry, nobody is tied to a chair (by me, anyway).

Though we sustained some damage to the house it is absolutely nothing compared to what many in our area have gone through and lost. We brought a slew of toiletries, canned goods and warm clothing to our local councilman’s office and hope to help out more at nearby shelters over the coming weeks. It has been absolutely stunning and uplifting to see the neighborhood pull together to help each other in ways big and small, and many of you have emailed asking how you can help too. Sometimes the hardest part with a disaster of this magnitude is knowing where to start. For me, it’s important to know that the donated goods, money, time and effort are getting where they are most needed and not lost in red tape.

So here are ten ways that you can help others recover from Sandy, mostly focused on the NYC area because of where we are. Feel free to add your own ideas or links in the comments section – the more the merrier!

1. Donate good old fashioned $$ – cash is most needed and effective in some situations. Click here for information about donating to the Mayor’s Fund to Advance NYC.

2. Visit/ donate to a local shelter. For the complete list of shelters around the city right now, go to You can also join

3. Donate clothing or goods. Here is an excellent site that matches your donation with specific needs.

4. Donate space – is hosting listings for homeowners who are opening up their houses and apartments for Sandy victims for free.

5. Live in an area without power or where houses have been washed away? Make a charging station on your front porch – a simple thing like an extension cord and outlet can provide many with a way to charge phones and devices needed to keep in touch with their families, friends, and jobs.

6. Donate food – drop off at numerous neighborhood locations, or if you don’t live in the area, try Met Council or City Harvest.

7. Donate blood – call NY Blood Centers for a location nearby at 1-800-933-2566.

8. Help clean up a park (that tree pic in Bay Ridge is around the corner from us).

9. Donate service – construction, medical, legal, transportation, cooking (what are you good at?)

10. Visit for the most up-to-date options.

5 hours til dawn; 4 more gifts to wrap, 3 tired kids, 2 are still awake, and the organ was playing too loud: how we feel gratitude this holiday season

December 7, 2011 1 comment

**Updated on 12/7/11**

Christmas in NYC has been one of my favorite things about moving to the city – the light displays, the skating rinks, the sidewalk tree stands. But with small children even the best of holiday intentions can turn into chaos. Add a special needs child to the mix and the spiked eggnog becomes more necessity than festivity. So it will come as no surprise that with two toddlers and a disabled preteen many of our family efforts at tradition have only been successful in creating stories that will be retold for years to come.

Something as simple and beautiful as Christmas mass can be a nightmare for a child with autism or sensory issues. There are lights and decorations everywhere, extra people (lots), noise and music, even strange smells. And the holiday services are much longer than usual. Much, much longer. By the end of the evening (or well before), James has his hands over his ears, a coat over his head, or is asking “is it almost over?” in his not-so-subtle worried voice. The organ is too loud, the music is too “sad,” the incense is too smelly, it is too hot, a baby is crying too much. And God forbid there is a brass quartet or a Christmas pageant. Add to that not one, but two toddlers climbing seats, rolling on the floor, screeching, whining, spilling fruit snacks and grapes underneath the pew, fighting over books, and a beloved family tradition begins to resemble  anything but tidings of joy.

Then there have been the unforgettables – the Christmas Eve that James, thinking he had discovered a secret chocolate stash, inhaled an entire bar of ex-lax. Or the children’s mass that invited kids up for a front row view of the pageant – I don’t think they envisioned my 2 yr old gleefully riding another child around the altar as part of the play. Or my personal favorite, the Christmas Eve toilet explosions (yes, plural). Among James’s special needs is a plethora of medical issues, one being megacolon (even worse than it sounds). As we found out the hard way, megacolon and prewar plumbing don’t mix.

Despite it all, wrapping presents at 3am on Christmas Eve is always special, even though we are dead tired. There’s something magical about turning around as we finally head to bed and taking one last look at the gifts spilling out from the glow of our Christmas tree – the tree that we excitedly picked out at W. 99th and Broadway and spent hours decorating. There’s even something endearing about being woken up 2 hours later by our ridiculously delighted children. And there is nothing quite so cozy and heartwarming as staying in all day, watching the children open presents, preparing and enjoying a big feast and watching Christmas movies replay on TV, all in our pajamas, and all together as a family.

We consider ourselves very, very lucky. We want our kids to know that there is no amount of tears, ex-lax, altar rodeos, plumbing crises or spilled fruit snacks that will change how amazingly blessed we feel to be their parents, and how simply happy we are to be in this family.

The best way we can think to pass this feeling of gratitude on to our children is to show them the joy of giving. And what better season to demonstrate this tradition? Though our children are still young we have started in small ways – participating in toy drives with scouts, baking holiday treats to pass out to the homeless in our area (and tucking a little $ into the box), organizing Christmas caroling and inviting neighbors to join us for hot chocolate and cookies afterward.

This year we’re kicking it up a notch. On December 16th we are collecting non-perishable food items, household goods, and wrapping gifts for families in need at a local shelter. Many families at this shelter have been touched by domestic violence and have children with special needs. One particular family is a mother with three children, ages 14, 11 and 8, all of whom have some kind of mental health, medical and educational needs. However, the more items we collect the more families and children we can provide for at this city shelter – consider that a challenge!

My day-to-day struggles pale in comparison to having special needs children (or any children) without a home, financial and emotional security, a loving family, even a warm holiday meal. It is my deepest wish that my own children grow up experiencing the pure, simple joy that comes from helping others in need, and some of my proudest moments as a parent come from observing how naturally James shares with others already.

So, do you want to help make someone’s holiday a little bit more merry, a little more worry-free? Please consider bringing a donation to the next meeting of The Foorce (see below for ideas and specific requests by the children). Or if you prefer, you can provide a treat for the volunteers to enjoy, help wrap gifts, or make a card to send along with the care package. The meeting is on December 16th at 9:00AM in the cafeteria of PS 163 (163 W. 97th Street). Can’t make the meeting but still want to help? Email me and I will let you know where you can send donations and gifts.

It is my sincere wish that the gift of giving touches you and your family this season and that you have a happy, magical holiday!


Gift/Donation Ideas (this list will be updated as I find out more details about the family so check back often):

Canned goods (vegetables, tomato sauce, soups)

Dry baking mixes (breads, cakes, cookies, pancakes)

Uncooked Pasta, all kinds


Shampoo, soap, toothpaste, other toiletries

Hats, scarves, gloves (can be new or gently used, clean and in good condition)

Clothing: for children ages infant through 16 years old. Some specific sizes requested are Misses size 7, Boys size 16 and Girls sizes 14/16, but all children’s clothing is needed. **Clothing can be new or gently used (clean and in good condition only, please).

Gift cards (one of the most versatile donations for families): local grocery stores (for perishable goods), drug stores, barber shops (everyone needs a haircut!), Target, Barnes and Noble (specifically requested), movie theaters, Toys R Us

Family gifts: PG movies, board or card games for ages 5-14 (email me if you need ideas), arts and crafts supplies

We are on a waiting list for James to have the Best Day

I was excited to stumble across the Best Day Foundation, which provides some really unique experiences for kids with special needs. We just filled out a participant application, and would like to volunteer for this foundation as well. The closest location for a Best Day is in NJ, but it looks well worth the trip.

Here is an excerpt from their site:

What We Do

Best Day Foundation enables children with special needs to build confidence and self-esteem through safe, fun adventure activities which stretch their limits, expand their true potential, reinforce their achievement, and connect them with diverse populations in their community. Current activities include Surfing, Body Boarding, Kayaking, and Snow sports.

We achieve this by empowering communities across the country to offer special days at the beach and snow to children with special needs. Best Day provides back-end services, support, training, and business resources to ensure that safe, self-sufficient programs are created. The program is funded through donations, grants and sponsorships. Due to funding, it is currently a 100% volunteer-run organization. 

Best Day is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit (Tax-ID 26-2223078) founded in March 2008 in Santa Cruz, CA by Max Montgomery and Brooks Lambert, two long-time Ride a Wave volunteers who wished to bring services like the award-winning Ride a Wave program to other communities.  

Currently Best Day has chapters in New Jersey and Ventura, CA.

Learn more about us, our Best Day at the Beach or Best Day in the Snow program or read our FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions).

Please contact us if you can’t find what you’re looking for after browsing or searching the site.

Click if you want to know more about volunteering, participating, donating, or even forming a local chapter closer to NYC. If you’ve had any experience with this group, please leave comments below!

Special Needs Baseball FAQs – starts April 17th in Riverside Park!

Here is a follow up email full of FAQs to those of you who are registered and those of you considering signing up for special needs baseball this season. If you have a question that is not answered here, please email me.
Here is the email from Division Head Jim Karpe:
Your child needs a baseball glove the first day.  That is all.
Recommendation: Avoid a mitt which is too big.  For most of our kids, a glove between 8 1/2 inches and 11 inches is best.
Adult gloves are typically 12 1/2 inches.
Of course a good idea to have some balls at home for playing catch and practice during the week.
The league provides helmets, bats, and balls.  Our preference is to not have you bring your own bat.  And there are certain exotic bats which are banned by Little League.
We are trying out three different game balls this year.  The Majors use a special hard-but-low-mass ball.  Our Minors will use a softer ball which is standard for Little League T-ball.  And to reduce both fear and bumps, our Rising Stars will start out using special softest-of-all yellow-foam balls that were originally developed for pitching machines.  We will make adjustments during the season as needed.
Just south of the fields, a Parks Dept building has Mens and Womens rooms, with entrances facing the Riverwalk.
Just north of the fileds, the Boat Basin Cafe also has Mens and Womens rooms, with entrances onto the circular space, right next to each curving stairway.
I believe all our coaches from last year are returning, though I have not yet heard from a couple of them.  We do need new/additional coaches, due to increased enrollment, travel schedules, and etc– especially for our Rising Stars (youngest kids– Bush league).
If you have friends, relations, neighbors, teenagers who are interested in helping out, all are welcome.  There is a form to fill out, and we will want them to bring a photocopy of their picture ID.
And of course all of us parents need to help out, on the field or off– especially for the Rising Stars, who will be doing a lot of basic skill development.  We will need parents who can run various practice stations, including T-ball batting practice, live-pitching, throwing practice, catching practice, etc.  If you know something about baseball, great.  If not, I can teach you what little I know in about three minutes, and we have other resources available.
Hope to see many of you at the park next weekend!
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