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Holiday Gifts That Make a Difference

by on December 10, 2019 5:00 AM

It’s the giving time of the year. It’s also time for my annual reminder to focus on giving to others less fortunate than you. Do you want to give holiday gifts that make a real difference? Then read on.

While many of you have undoubtedly finished buying gifts for friends and family, it’s not too late to add a few “extra effort” gifts to your list. Think about giving to individuals or families in need, to organizations who help others in your community, or to a worthy cause for which you are passionate.

Gift your time. Gift your resources. Gift your money. Just give. Stretch a little bit. It will be good for your soul.

Helping others is one of the highest callings any of us can answer. It doesn’t matter if you are young or old, you can make a difference in someone’s life. Sometimes it can be the smallest of things. Too often we have great intentions but struggle to execute on our ideas. This holiday season I challenge you to consider adding another item (or two!) to your list. In fact, I want to challenge you to pick a new organization to volunteer time to in 2020. It will be returned upon you in ways you might not even realize. Let me give you a Real Life 101 example.

Personally, it was very rewarding to help raise money for the new cardiovascular pavilion at Mount Nittany Health Center as a member of the Golf Classic Committee. I must admit there was a little selfish incentive given the possibility that it could someday save the lives of friends and family, or even my own. However, I didn’t anticipate having to use it just a few months after its completion, but found myself having an echocardiogram last month. It was a precautionary test that ended up showing a small hole in my heart. That news was a bit unnerving until the doctor assured me that I have probably had it since birth and that it only became noticeable recently given the advances in medical technology.  But now I know about it and it’s given me the incentive to take a little better care of myself. Little did I know my volunteer efforts would provide an almost immediate return on my small investment of time on the committee.

I have spent a lifetime involved in the sport of hockey and have always found hockey people to be a special group and committed to lending a hand. I recently met with the Philadelphia Flyers’ Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation CEO Scott Tharp and board member Steve Capoferri, the CEO of River Rock Academy. They hosted me for dinner at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia to have a discussion about helping with  Legendary Flyers Stanley Cup goalie Bernie Parent joined us. Bernie is an ambassador for the program and one of my favorite players while I was growing up in the 1970s as I became obsessed with hockey. I still vividly remember the signs at the old Spectrum that proclaimed, “Only God saves more than Bernie Parent!” Bernie is a class act, inspirational and very funny. He gives his time and energy selflessly to help others to dream big. 

The staff and volunteers at Snider Hockey have made an amazing impact on thousands of young boys and girls in the greater Philadelphia area. Snider Hockey is a nationally acclaimed non-profit that uses the sport of hockey to educate and empower under-resourced youth of Philadelphia to prosper in the game of life. The programs goals are to help youth:

  • Achieve academic success as they matriculate from Crayons through College;

  • Consistently make healthy and thoughtful life choices;

  • Serve as positive role models to the next generation of Snider Hockey student-athletes;

  • Realize gainful and rewarding employment; and

  • Give back to their community.

I have been friends with former Snider Hockey President Jim Britt, Sr. for years and have seen first-hand the successes their programs have achieved. They are a model for the rest of the NHL. There are hundreds of programs just like this across the country. Think about helping one out.

So, what can YOU and your friends and family still do to make a difference this holiday season?  Consider a few of these options:

  • Help a neighbor. Shovel an older couple’s driveway when it snows or help a working mom with chores or babysitting.  

  • Donate food for the local food bank. Get your kids involved by letting them pick out the food items so it becomes a teachable moment for them.

  • Volunteer at a local homeless shelter, nursing facility or retirement home. Or visit the folks there and bring homemade baked goods.  

  • Put together a care package for soldiers overseas: shampoo, baby wipes, hand sanitizer, sunscreen, magazines, towels, decorations, candy, bottled water, books, lotion, Chapstick, deodorant, phone cards, baked goods, etc.

  • Buy pet supplies for Centre County PAWS or Pets Come First. Volunteer at the local animal shelter or donate money to cover the adoption fees of a family that comes in to get a dog for the holidays.

  • Buy gift cards for gasoline to give to cancer patients to help offset their costs of having to travel back and forth to receive their treatments. 

There are so many practical gifts that can help a needy family during the holidays and it’s as easy as picking up a gift during your regular shopping.

Here is a partial list of some websites of organizations that can use your help:

If you want to give holiday gifts that make a real difference, all you have to do is act on it. I hope you will give it serious thought. Happy Holidays!

Joe Battista has been an integral part of the Penn State and State College communities since 1978. He is best known for his effort to bring varsity ice hockey to Happy Valley and in the building of Pegula Ice Arena. “JoeBa” is the owner of PRAGMATIC Passion, LLC consulting, a professional speaker, success coach, and the vice president of the National Athletic and Professional Success Academy (NAPSA). He is the author of a new book, “The Power of Pragmatic Passion.” Joe lives in State College with his wife Heidi (PSU ’81 & ’83), daughter Brianna (PSU ’15), and son’s Jon (PSU ’16), and Ryan (State High Class of 2019).
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