Give Back and Have Fun: 5 Atlanta Families Who Support a Good Cause
Kids look forward to carefree summer days, but here’s something they might like more – “care full” summer activities helping others. These five metro families have fun together while supporting a good cause. Here are even more ways to volunteer in Atlanta.
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Supports: Alex’s Lemonade Stand
Two years ago, when Meghan and Ryan Bowie of Sandy Springs started looking for a way to support childhood cancer research, they found Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation.
Their son Burke, now 6, was being treated for a neuroblastoma, a solid tumor cancer of the nerve cells. “At the time of diagnosis, his cancer had metastasized from head to toe and he was really sick,” she says. He’s doing very well now, clear of cancer for two years.”
Because Burke was so young, the lemonade stand was one of the few ways he and his sisters, Karaline, now 9, and Elia, now 3 ½, could help the cause.
“We set it up at the end of our driveway on a busy road,” Meghan says, and magic started to happen.
In no time, neighbors and passersby were stopping and dropping small bills, usually $1 or $5, or change into the collection bucket for a cup of lemonade, with some noteworthy exceptions.
“We had people we didn’t even know putting $100 bills into the bucket,” she says. Others donated $10 or $20. The family raised close to $2,500 during the one-day operation that year, and about the same amount the following year.
The whole family is involved in setting up and operating the stand. The foundation helps with the set-up, providing how-to information, banners and printed signs, and even bracelets and temporary tattoos.
Karaline adds her own colorful artwork, and working on the lemonade stand helped her better understand and deal with Burke’s illness, Meghan says. The kids also are learning a little about running a business, greeting customers and counting money.
To make a donation to the Bowies’ lemonade stand, click on “donate” and search for Burke Bowie.
Supports: Swim Across America
Payton Nabors has been an avid swimmer for the past eight years so it’s not a surprise he’s been involved with Swim Across America the past three years. This year, though, he’s really involved.
Events organized for Swim Across America benefit pediatric cancer research at the Aflac Cancer Center at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. The big event this year is Sept. 22 at Lake Lanier. Hundreds of swimmers and supporters will gather for an open water swim and younger kids will be jumping in for a fun “duck splash.”
Payton, 14, will be part of that open swim, along with his SwimAtlanta teammates. He raised about $500 through sponsorships for each of the last two swims, but this year, “I decided to go bigger,” he says. He’s surpassed his $2,500 goal and is aiming for $3,000.
This year, Payton and his mom Krystal Nolan purchased 48 pink flamingos, and Payton set about tending his flocks. He moved four flocks from lawn to lawn around his Lawrenceville neighborhood, asking for a $15 contribution to remove them, $20 to move them to a specific neighbor’s lawn and $30 to keep them from ever returning. Neighbors were happy to support the cause.
Payton and Krystal also organized a nationwide swim team cap exchange asking swimmers to pay $5 to exchange caps, something kids often do at swim meets. That’s brought in $700 so far.
“The nice thing about Swim Across America is that as kids get older, participation can go up. And younger kids can still just go and have fun with their friends and family,” Krystal says.
The Bramlett family got involved with volunteering at the park long before there was a Bramlett family.
Lewis and Beth Bramlett met at the park while hiking and were involved with the Kennesaw Mountain Trail Club in its early years, volunteering to move rocks and shovel dirt to maintain trails on weekends.
Sons Andrew, 12, and Daniel, 10, are a little young to join the club’s trail maintenance days, so they spend lots of time helping the park in other ways.
Lewis homeschools the boys and they spend part of the day on Mondays at the Visitors’ Center, greeting visitors, helping set up displays, doing research or working on special events. On Saturdays when the park’s shuttle bus takes visitors to the top of the mountain, Andrew is often the tour guide.
The family collects memorabilia connected to the park’s history – not Civil War artifacts but things like historic brochures or postcards, souvenir china and spoons sold prior to 1902, or as Lewis says, “an oddball collection of stuff.” Andrew and Daniel have on occasion set up parts of the collection in the Visitors’ Center to talk about it with park guests.
For Junior Ranger Day recently, the boys stuffed bags for the event, helped set up and register about 60 kids and helped with some of the activities. They also assist with other events for the park during the year.
Andrew and Daniel both volunteer for many of the Kennesaw Parks and Recreation big events. Andrew is the Vice President of the Kennesaw Historical Society and also serves on the Cemetery Preservation Commission, the youngest member ever. “The boys are always looking for other volunteer activities,” Lewis says.
Supports: Pebble Tossers
A couple of years ago, Karl and Christina Ostertag were looking for ways to volunteer as a family. Both worked building Habitat for Humanity houses and completed other sporadic volunteering, usually without the kids.
When Christina found Pebble Tossers in an online search, the family’s volunteering ignited. The organization matches families looking to volunteer together with projects and organizations that need them.
The Douglasville couple and kids Ashley, 15, Heidi, 13, and Karl III, 11, are volunteering most every weekend, and Christina has become a service leader for Pebble Tossers.
A lot of those opportunities involve outdoor time, and the family’s list is impressive: BeltLine Beautification, picking up trash along a section adopted by Pebble Tossers and helping plant 500 daffodils; cleaning part of Peachtree Creek for the Chattahoochee River Keeper (17 golf balls, two soccer balls, four tires and many bags of trash); spreading mulch at Big Trees Forest Preserve, and participating in Kids Recycle Day at CH@RM, the Center for Hard to Recycle Materials.
“When I started looking for ways to volunteer with my kids, on my own it was a bit of a struggle,” Christina says. “With Pebble Tossers, there is an abundance!”
Hundreds of relocated refugees come to the annual block party in Clarkston organized by volunteers from 10 churches, and that’s where you’ll find Tanya Hassan and her kids, Ata, Amari and Ariana. Tanya is a leader in outreach ministry for her church.
The family helps organize and run the carnival part of the event – the bouncy houses, face painting, games and concessions.
For this and many other volunteer projects, Ata, 16, who’s on his school’s football team, does a lot of the heavy lifting. “We use his muscles,” Tanya says with a smile.
But he’s also helping in other ways. When the family visits a senior center once a month, he connects with the men and reads to a blind woman. At My Sisters House homeless shelter where the family volunteers through Pebble Tossers, he’s surrounded by the young boys.
“The boys kind of hang on him,” Tanya says. “He reads to them, plays with them. They think of him as a big brother.”
Amari and Ariana, 13-year-old twins, are in their school’s Beta Club, which also encourages volunteering. “They started volunteering with mom to get credit for school, and found that they have a heart for service,” Tanya says.
At the homeless shelter, they help with talent shows, science demonstrations and crafts with the kids; at the senior center, they’re visiting with seniors and working with them on craft projects.
“We’re all together when we volunteer,” Tanya says. “That’s our family time. As Christians, that’s what we were meant to do.”
– Amanda Miller Allen