Autism goes mainstream – but is it enough?

My children were raised in a home where Elmo, Big Bird, and Oscar the Grouch were just another part of our family. Since 1969, Sesame Street has been reaching and teaching children all over the world with comedy, cartoons, games, and songs. More than just ABCs and counting, Sesame Street has influenced our perceptions about developmental psychology, early childhood education, and cultural diversity.

This month, with the addition of Julia, a new Muppet with autism, this long-running American cultural icon has taken another important step to increase the awareness and understanding of children who are “different,” specifically children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
The big question we need to be asking ourselves now is whether this unprecedented step forward is enough.

Read more on The Huffington Post.

Upset About The Refugee Crisis? Do Something.

By Thomas G. Bognanno, President and CEO, Community Health Charities

It’s hard to know where to begin with the current maelstrom swirling around the refugee crisis.

From Trump’s executive orders, to airport protests regarding refugee bans, to deterring terrorism and ISIS, to the Ninth Circuit Court’s ruling, this issue has become political dynamite. Politics instead of people.

Read more on The Huffington Post.

Valentine’s Day Gift Guide: 10 Great Valentine’s Day Gifts that Give Back

Did you know that several of Community Health Charities’ members have gift catalogs and online shops where you can buy great gifts to support a great cause? Gift choices range from jewelry and apparel to home décor and automotive accessories.

Why not shop from one of these online stores for a great way to give a gift to a friend or loved one this Valentine’s Day while also donating to a worthy cause? Here are 10 ideas:

  1. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital: Items include to beaded and charm bracelets as well as home décor (photo frames and throw blankets). Our pick: the Daisy Fuentes necklace or Brooks Brothers Striped Tie.
  2. Free to Breathe: A partnership for lung cancer survivors, Free to Breathe offers a variety of jewelry, watches and apparel, including beautiful bracelets and scarves with a “Be Brave” motto. You also have the option to build your own charm bracelet or necklace for an even more personalized gift. Our pick: Time to Be Brave leather band watch in pearl white.
  3. American Cancer Society: The American Cancer Society Bookstore has an assortment of books, including a children’s picture book about why smoking isn’t healthy, cookbooks, support & care and cancer education books. Our pick: American Cancer Society New Healthy Eating Cookbook.
  4. American Diabetes Association: Find T-shirts, gifts for the kitchen and entertaining, and more at www.shopdiabetes.org.  Our pick: Precise Portions® Go Healthy Travel Pack.
  5. American Heart Association: One of the best online charity shops out there is. They have everything from travel mugs to apple scented planners and rhinestone jewelry. Our pick: “Go Red” fleece blanket
  6. Autism Speaks: From T-shirts to jewelry, the Autism Speaks shop has it all. Our pick: NEST Blue Garden Classic Candle.
  7. JDRF: Shop a variety of T-shirts, ball caps, automotive accessories and more at the JDRF. Our pick:  The OGIO® Sonic Sling Pack.
  8. National Stroke Association: The National Stroke Association store has everything from apparel and bags, to drinkware and temporary tattoos.  Our pick: “Come Back Strong” graphic t-shirt.
  9. National Multiple Sclerosis Society: At this shop you’ll find bracelets, lapel pins and even an orange teddy bear! Our pick: Orange and white compactible umbrella with the MS logo.
  10. Sickle Cell Disease Association of America: Sickle Cell Disease Association of America has a variety of gifts that include clothing, drinkware and more.  Our pick: “It’s Time” lunch bag.

Whatever your cause, our member charity online shops can help you find a great gift for the important people in your life. For more on our member charities, view our complete member list.

9 resources to combat human trafficking

By Thomas G. Bognanno, President and CEO, Community Health Charities

Since 2007, the month of January has been observed as Sex and Human Trafficking Awareness Month per presidential proclamation. Unfortunately the epidemic has only worsened. According to the International Labour Organizationat least 20 million people are enslaved today – more than at any time in human history.

Read more on The Huffington Post.

3 Healthy Food Habits to Adopt in the New Year

It’s the New Year, and many of us will resolve to eat healthier. We might substitute fruit for candy as our 3pm snack, or start a health cleanse. Check out three easy habits to try for better nutrition and overall better health.

1. Skip the soda, sports and fruit drinks. Drink water instead: Here’s why:

2. Eat more whole grain bread and pasta. Several food chains have now jumped on the whole grain food train and so should you!

3. Make better breakfast choices:

  • Stay away from donuts, muffins, or granola bars high in sugar when opting for a quick breakfast. These foods are loaded with fat and sugar and can quickly add inches to your waistline.
  • A better alternative is oatmeal, cold cereal or a whole-grain English muffin or bagel. While all contain carbs, oatmeal and whole-grain cereals, muffins and bagels provide a helping of fiber and 75% less sugar – which not only helps your waistline, but is better for your heart, blood pressure, and risk of stroke. It can also lower your diabetes risk and so much more!

Making a major change to your eating is never easy. So just start small with one change every month. For more resources on healthy eating and what is in the foods you eat, visit nutrition.gov.

Tragic Violence Will Continue Until We Make Mental Health A National Priority

By Thomas G. Bognanno, President and CEO, Community Health Charities

Esteban Santiago, who opened fire in the Fort Lauderdale airport last week, was only 26 years old. He was an Iraq war veteran who had received a general discharge from the military for unsatisfactory performance. He had recently undergone psychiatric evaluation after claiming he was hearing voices. The FBI had been involved. Santiago also had been accused of domestic disturbance, allegedly trying to strangle his girlfriend. Yet his gun was returned to him.

The signs were all there. But Santiago didn’t get the help he needed. This isn’t the first time this has happened. It certainly won’t be the last.

Read more on The Huffington Post.

A Holiday Care Package for Caregivers

By Thomas G. Bognanno, President and CEO, Community Health Charities

During the holidays, it’s easier than ever to get swept up in the hustle and bustle, and not take time to care for ourselves.

For the over 43 million Americans who serve as unpaid caregivers for loved ones young and old, the word “care” takes on a whole new meaning.

Read more on The Huffington Post.

10 Ways to Give Back on #GivingTuesday


By Thomas Bognanno

President & CEO, Community Health Charities

As we enter the holiday season, #GivingTuesday is an ideal opportunity to way to give back. No matter who you are, where you live, what your income is or how old (or young) you are, everyone has something to give.

Join us on #GivingTuesday and throughout the year to make our community, country and world a better place for all. Working together, we can bring real and positive change. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Donate your time – The gift of your time can be just as valuable as money. Our Volunteer Matters 365 search tool helps people find meaningful volunteer opportunities with the nation’s most trusted health charities. Simply enter your zip code to find one near you.
  2. Support your favorite health cause – It’s easy to directly impact the health causes that are most important to you. From military and veterans to Zika virus and children’s health, just choose what compels you to give. Visit our homepage and select a High Impact Fund to learn more.
  3. Help those experiencing homelessness – With cold temperatures on their way, millions of children, youth and adults are living on the streets. Join your friends and family to hand out blankets, warm clothes, food and toiletry items. Covenant House has 30 locations across the country, or find a homeless shelter in your community to support.
  4. Teach kids the power of giving – Whether it’s a small financial gift, donating their old toys to Salvation Army or volunteering for a local charity, it’s never too early for children to learn the importance of giving back. Share these experiences with your children now to ensure a future generation of caring givers.
  5. Be an organ or marrow donor – Give the gift of life by signing up to be an organ donor. Just one organ donor can save as many as eight lives. Also, check out Be The Match which manages the largest and most diverse marrow registry in the world, saving thousands of lives every year.
  6. Bring doctors to doorsteps – Too many families don’t have access to quality healthcare. Organizations like the Children’s Health Fund bring high-quality care directly to America’s most disadvantaged children, giving them a greater chance for a healthy life. Support Drive For a Cure today.
  7. Support our military – Show appreciation for our military veterans and their many sacrifices by sending letters of encouragement, food and other items. The USO offers tips to help you put together a perfect care package for active-duty troops. Or, check out this list of resources we have compiled for veterans and their families.
  8. Protect the health of veterans – Whether their injuries are physical or mental, military veterans and their families deserve our support. Volunteer for Vets4Warriors, which provides a 24/7 helpline, or donate frequent flyers and hotel points to Fisher House Foundation, which houses the families of veterans while their loved one recovers. Learn more about supporting Hero’s Health.
  9. Start a workplace giving campaign – Many employers still don’t offer the opportunity to give at work. Ask your HR department if they would consider starting a workplace giving campaign, or add more options to an existing campaign. Partnering with Community Health Charities can help raise critical funds to help military veterans, children fighting cancer and more.
  10. Pay it forward – Be thankful for the people you care about and send them a text or note. Consider paying for coffee for the person in line behind you, or doing a random act of kindness for a neighbor like raking their leaves. These small acts make a big difference – not just for those you help, but for you as well.

#GivingTuesday is November 29, but we have the opportunity to give back and improve our world every day of the year. Please join all of us at Community Health Charities to create healthier, happier communities for everyone.

thomasbognannoAbout the Author

Thomas G. Bognanno, President & CEO of Community Health Charities, works with a network of nearly 2,000 trusted health charities across the country. The organization leverages health nonprofits with the overall wellness
and philanthropic strategies needed to engage employees in health initiatives, raise awareness and deploy critical funds for their charities – www.healthcharities.org.

Working to Increase Breast Cancer Screenings in One California Community and Save Lives


By Thomas Bognanno

President & CEO, Community Health Charities

When we see a community mobilizing to address critical health challenges, we at Community Health Charities want to do our part. In communities across the U.S., we bring together leading charities working on the most critical health challenges that affect people’s quality of life and well-being.

In the East Bay, just outside San Francisco, California, Black, Hispanic and Asian women experience a higher loss of life to breast cancer – but these lives can be saved with increased access to screenings and early diagnosis. This includes placing a high priority on breast cancer screening and treatment of African-American women, who are estimated to be 40 percent more likely to die of breast cancer than Caucasian women according to recent statistics. These women are mothers, daughters and sisters who are not getting the early screening that they need to keep them alive.

On Tuesday, October 25, we launched the East Bay Breast Cancer Fund, bringing together Black Women’s Health Imperative, Better Health East Bay and Susan G. Komen. This new fund changes how we raise dollars for critical health needs in communities by supporting the great work of these incredible organizations working locally in the East Bay to advance the goal of better breast health for all women.

We have already rolled out this fund in workplace giving programs in more than 150 businesses in California, including City of Oakland and City of Berkley workplace giving campaigns that are currently underway.

You can help a women #GetScreened today by supporting the East Bay Breast Cancer Fund. It takes one $400 gift, or $33 per month, to give a woman a screening – and a chance to save her life. Give Now

Your support of the East Bay Breast Cancer Fund, managed by Community Health Charities, will help:

  • Increase breast cancer screenings
  • Provide resources to educate women on healthy living options
  • Advance research for risk-reduction and treatment
  • Improve access to health services and life-saving treatments

This blog post by Jim Hickman, CEO of Better Health East Bay, details their plans to improve early breast cancer detection, treatment and patient support services.

I also invite you to learn more about our national High Impact Funds, which address critical health causes across the country. Whether national or local in scope, Community Health Charities continues to strive to make a difference for the millions of Americans who face health challenges.

thomasbognannoAbout the Author

Thomas G. Bognanno, President & CEO of Community Health Charities, works with a network of nearly 2,000 trusted health charities across the country. The organization leverages health nonprofits with the overall wellness
and philanthropic strategies needed to engage employees in health initiatives, raise awareness and deploy critical funds for their charities – www.healthcharities.org.

My greatest honor: serving our country

Dave-Navy
By Dave Selzer, VP

Former U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class

July 4, 1976: On America’s birthday, I found myself at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center being handed a white plastic bag and led on to a bus. We left the base and made our way to Solider Field in Chicago where we were lined up, asked to don our plastic bags and stood there as we were photographed. I now am part of a world record at a great football stadium — a world record for being part of the largest human American Flag.

This was the start of a 46-year ride of service to my country, and it was an amazing start. From Great Lakes, I was fortunate enough to pull a temporary “sales” assignment working with the recruiting command out of the Glenview Naval Station. My company commander in boot camp told the Navy that it appeared I knew a lot of people in the Chicagoland area, as almost every day somebody showed up at the gate with cookies or other snacks. I never received any of these but apparently my Commanding Officer loved them. After my recruiting assignment, I reported to the Naval Air Station in Meridian Mississippi where I completed my “A” school and was awarded the rate of Disbursing Clerk. I finished in the top three of the class and as a result ended up with “shore duty” for my first assignment: a remote post in Winter Harbor Maine. Not bad but I signed up for blue water, warmth and ports of call.

Maine proved to be a maturing experience. One of only two disbursing clerks, I had to learn to work independently and put in many hours. In addition to my day job from 6am to 6 pm, five days per week we stood watch every other day. I was assigned to the base fire department and ambulance which also covered many of the area towns as they did not have fire service. I was a young 18-year-old going out on accident calls, delivering a baby and doing CPR. It was definitely a time to grow up. When my time came to leave Maine, I wished I could stay, but the cold would be left behind as I joined the commissioning crew for the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) – just me and 6,000 of my shipmates who were ready to set sail on adventure.

Being the newest nuclear powered aircraft carrier in the fleet, they put us to sea to show us off around the world. The work was hard but the rewards were great. We travelled to St. Thomas, St. John, Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, Cuba (where I stood watch on the fence), Spain, Portugal, Italy (six ports), Yugoslavia, Greece, Turkey, and Israel. They were fun times but not without work. We worked 12 on, 12 off schedules at sea and had to stand watch while in port. A lot of guys would take my watch for me so I could go ashore more – this of course was in exchange for them to get front of the line privileges on payday (we paid everyone in case and lines were long).

While I was part of the Cold War Navy, we were brought in to a tough time when 52 American Diplomats were taken hostage by Iranian students. We were responsible for prepping and delivering equipment and supplies for a failed rescue mission which resulted in the death of eight shipmates on 4-24-1980. The crisis lasted 444 days and ended one minute prior to President Regan taking office. I still think of the shipmates I lost during my service. I think of them on Memorial Day and on Veterans Day as they gave the ultimate sacrifice: All gave some, some gave all.

When I enlisted to serve this great country, I took an oath – an oath that has no expiration and one that is payable with dedication, service and, if duty calls, giving my life. It reads:

“I, David Selzer, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”

My service is one of the greatest honors of my life. To my fellow Veterans, thank you for your service. To all those who were not able to experience the great privilege of serving our country through military service, thank you for allowing me the great honor of serving you. Having travelled the way I have and seeing what I saw — good and bad — I can tell you we live in the greatest country on earth!

One final thought:  Many of my shipmates and I suffer from some of the side effects of military service — things you just do not think of. For me, sleeping ¾ of an inch under a steel flight deck has left my hearing impaired, and two years of standing while working on steel decks has had an adverse effect on my knees. These are not complaints but simple facts. Some of my shipmates have severe long-term disabilities as a result of their service for all of us. I think of them today and personally donated to the Hero’s Health Fund in their name. The money raised to support organizations that help our veterans is needed, as so many veterans (like myself) do not qualify for VA services. It is unfortunate but it gives all of us the opportunity to now serve those who served for us.