Philanthropy Friday: A Polar Dip for Morgan

This following article is a guest post from a friend and owner of Bad Dog Deli, Ben Grant.mccppolarddipbenIn 1990, a cute little blond girl named Morgan was born.

My name is Ben, and that cute little blond girl is my pain in the ass little sister. As children, we played, sometimes too rough. I can remember a time when Morgan needed stitches because I had accidentally struck her with a stick. We were 5 and 9. There were a number of instances over an 8 year stretch that we fought, hugged, snuggled and acted as what we were, a younger sister and older brother.

In 1997 things changed quickly for our duo, after a number of trips to the doctor and failed diagnoses, we were disheartened to discover Morgan had a tumor growing at the base of her brain stem. Everything changed in our household. I was 10 or 11 and continued with life as usual: school, sports, friends and sleepovers. Morgan was taken out of school for surgeries and treatments, her friends asking where she had gone. The fighting between us changed, the level of energy changed, the times we would sit and play Monopoly together, all changed.

After a battle with cancer and remission, we lost Morgan in January of 1998. She had just turned 8 years old. After a number of years, jobs, relationships, and living arrangements, I found myself back in the state of Maine closer to my friends and family. It was then that I was offered to participate in a crazy event called the Maine Children’s Cancer Program Polar Dip.

The Polar Dip is held each year in February at Sebago Lake. Teams of participants plunge into the icy waters all in support of Maine Children’s Cancer Program. Funds are raised months leading up to the event and go directly to the program, a community that had helped my family years before. Not only does this event support a program that has directly impacted my and my family’s life, the timing is very close to Morgan’s birthday and anniversary of passing. Without hesitation, as a way to give back to such an important cause, my brother Joe and I signed up to plunge!

Since our initial jump in 2011, Joe and I have raised almost $18k with the help of a few special friends willing to jump with us. This year the event takes place on February 14th and we welcome all those willing to participate! If you want to jump, join our team. If you want to help, make a donation. If you’d like to support, come on down to the ice! There is so much that people can do to aid the Maine Children’s Cancer Program and their research.

MCCP was there for my family when we needed it most, I hope that through this event, I can give back to them and aid in their support of families who need it today.

You can visit Ben’s Polar Dip fundraising page HERE. (I donated. Will you join me?)

bengrantBenjamin Grant is a Pownal, Maine native and the owner of Bad Dog Deli in Scarborough, where he puts his Johnson and Wales degree to use each day. He prides himself in running a friendly, down-to-earth and delicious eatery. When not at the Deli, Ben spends time with his wife Katie, son Abel and 3 beagles, Johnnie, Molly and Newcastle in their Lisbon Falls home.

Each Friday, the another jennifer blog shares stories of those who incorporate philanthropy into their everyday lives – personally and professionally – in a creative and unique way. If you have a story you’d like to share, please contact Jennifer. Read past stories here.

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth is on #GivingTuesday

‘Tis the season for giving. Or so they say. It can be hard to give meaningfully when you are bombarded with constant advertisements of deals on items you (or your kids) may or may not need under your Christmas tree. (I’m guessing you don’t need most of that stuff.)

What if we took a day to stop shopping and just give?

That’s what #GivingTuesday is for. A a global day dedicated to giving back. A day where charities, families, businesses, community centers, and students around the world come together for the one common purpose of celebrating generosity and to give.

Honestly, I have not given as much as I’d like to this year. I was conservative due to my divorce and new living situation. While I still stayed (mostly) true to my giving pledge, I was not perfect.

Still, I volunteered regularly, shopped consciously and donated as much as I could. I was aware, and that’s really what counts.

I am constantly updating and tweaking my personal giving strategy, as I think we all should. There’s no right or wrong way to give.

Today, I’m putting my money where my mouth is. I’m donating to two organizations near and dear to my heart, Crossroads and WaterAid America.

WaterAidGivingTuesdayOn #GivingTuesday (December 2, 2014), your donation to WaterAid America will be doubled due to the generosity of WaterAid’s Leadership Circle and Go Green Environmental Services.

GivingTuesday2014From December 1 – December 6, Eventbrite is waiving their fees so that your full donation to Crossroads will go towards supporting its Children And Mothers Program (CAMP), the only program in Maine that provides on-site living arrangements to minor children of mothers in residential treatment for drug or alcohol addiction.

I’ve worked closely with both these organizations. I’ve seen their work firsthand, believe in their missions and know several staff members on a personal level.

It feels good to give these donations, as I know exactly where my money is going and how it will help.

Do you have an organization or cause you regularly support? Will you be donating on #GivingTuesday?


Philanthropy Friday: Scary Mommy Nation Thanksgiving Project 2014

Each Friday, the another jennifer blog shares stories of those who incorporate philanthropy into their everyday lives – personally and professionally – in a creative and unique way. If you have a story you’d like to share, please contact Jennifer.

scary mommy thanksgiving project

The above image came across my Facebook newsfeed yesterday morning (11/6/14). A reminder of just how generous the Scary Mommy Nation is and just how much more need there still is as we head into the holiday season.

I wrote about the Thanksgiving Project last year around this time and how it was started:

The Thanksgiving Project started as a simple blog post from Jill Smokler (aka Scary Mommy) back in 2011. This post talked about how some people in the Scary Mommy community had a rough year and simply couldn’t provide a Thanksgiving dinner for their families. Some could barely afford a loaf of bread.

Jill had the idea of asking her large community of followers for help. Would they be willing to donate some money, even a small amount, to make sure everyone would be able to celebrate Thanksgiving?

The answer was a resounding Yes. Jill was overwhelmed with people who wanted to donate. She also heard from many others who needed help. The story received a ton of media attention, including on Good Morning AmericaNightline and the home pages of Yahoo and Huffington Post.

An average Thanksgiving dinner costs $50. In that first year of the Thanksgiving Project, the Scary Mommy community raised more than $20,000 and provided meals for more than 400 families.

After the success of the first impromptu Thanksgiving Project, Scary Mommy Nation quickly became a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit organization powered by mothers helping other mothers. As Jill told me in an email, “Once I saw the impact the site could have, I couldn’t not want to do more. I realized that people really want to help, they just need to be shown how to do it. Being official helped give me the structure I needed as well as a legitimacy that’s needed when collecting money.”


This project reminds me of how much impact a community of people – most of them mothers – can make in the lives of others. It also makes me proud to be a blogger. Collectively, we can use our blogs and our social media influence to spread the word about helping our peers.

These are families who are having a hard time making ends meet. Any of us could be there. Maybe some of your are. From an anonymous post written by a recipient:

Unless you’ve been in a similar situation, it’s hard to imagine the fear that day to day financial uncertainty can create. Sometimes I feel like I can’t take a deep breath. Sometimes I feel like if one more unexpected thing happens, the delicate facade I have created will come tumbling down and I will never repair it. Sometimes I feel like burning the idyllic picture of my family everyone sees and screaming “help us, save us.”

In the end, I keep going because the alternative doesn’t exist. Because my kids deserve better. Because there is no one to save us. Because no matter how bad things get, there’s always someone worse off than us.

And because I tell myself one day this will all be a distant memory. That day, the idyllic picture of my family everyone sees on the outside will reflect who we really are.

I made my donation yesterday. While applications to receive assistance are now closed, here’s how you can help:

  • If you are involved in blogging or social media, please help spread the word
  • If you can afford to help a struggling family, please donate via Paypal. Fifty dollars buys an entire dinner – you can, of course, give less and be grouped with other donors, or give more and sponsor multiple families. (You can also mail checks to: Scary Mommy Nation, PO Box 20866 Baltimore, MD 21209)
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