19 August 2009

Bear Care at Ronald McDonald House

At The Amaz!ng Meeting 7, Skeptilove auctioned off two magician teddy bears donated by Alison Smith. They brought in over $300, and this project's charity of choice should be Ronald McDonald House, an organization sponsored by McDonald's that houses families while their children are undergoing medical procedures.

Volunteer superhero Paul Turner spearheaded the effort, and submitted this report:
I just came back from the Ronald McDonald House dinner, it was truly great! After we served dinner we sat down and ate with the residents. For me this was the best part mainly because I really like to talk to children. There were about 13 children and five adults residents. Here's who attended.

Angele Grace, her and her friend Tim took care of the bread and the salad. As well as some Trader Joe's cookies that were highly coveted by the children. Angele's help was indispensable, Tim made some incredible garlic bread.

CJ Sevilla
, another great help, provided some additional bread along with three large angel food cakes for dessert.

Alex and Kelli Jacobsen, Alex was a great help and Kelli was loved by the children and the teenage girls. They were both incredibly helpful and excellent ambassadors.

Here's the rundown on dinner: I bought large entrées from Buca di Beppo. I also purchased large quantities of hot dogs and hotdog buns and condiments, along with 50 small bags of potato chips. According to the coordinator, the kids there are crazy about hotdogs, who am I to deny them. Everyone who showed up donated the food that they brought. I also wrote Ronald McDonald House a check for $270 and put this money towards a program they have their called "Share a Night." Normally, Ronald McDonald House ask for $10 a night per family. This program covers this for families who cannot afford it.

Everyone including the children pitched in and helped with putting food away and cleaning up the kitchen. After this Marvella Baca, gave us a tour of the facility. I was very impressed with the way the staff works so hard to provide a caring environment to help these families at a very difficult time in her life. All of us agreed that we will come back and volunteer, as a matter of fact I would like to organize a cookout perhaps sometime in early October when it's a little bit cooler in the evenings.

They also do volunteer services for the hospital such as providing toys games and other distractions for children who are undergoing medical treatment or physical therapy. There is also a program five days a week where they put together lunches for children in the hospital.

Thank you so much for organizing a great experience.

Thanks so much to Paul and everyone for creating such a wonderful event. Ronald McDonald houses are located all over the world, and there may be one in your area. If you'd like to help out, there is information at the link at the beginning of this article.

29 July 2009

Spotlight on Penn Jillette

Yesterday, outspoken skeptic and atheist Penn Jillette made an apheresis platelet donation to United Blood Services in Las Vegas, a charitable act he practices often.

In fact, he and Teller host a blood drive - Penn & Teller's 13 Bloody Days of Xmas - every year.

SkeptiLove asked him if there's a particular reason why he donates blood so often.

I do it because it's a good thing to do. I'm also bone marrow typed, they asked me why I wanted to get that done and I was perplexed, 'To help?' I said. I guess most people don't think about it until someone in their family needs it. I said, 'I want to help some violent crack whore with my marrow.'

Take a page from Penn's book and donate blood. You can use this helpful search site to find a blood bank near you.

Also, if you missed my Warning Radio interview when it aired live, don't worry! You it has been uploaded, and you can listen to it now.

27 July 2009

Interview with Warning Radio: Live Tonight!

Tune in to Warning Radio tonight at 9:00pm EST for a live interview with Alison where she'll be talking all about SkeptiLove and how you can help!

20 July 2009

Help From Home; Send us Your Story

Ever since TAM, I've been pretty darn sick. But every day, I have looked at SkeptiLove and wondered what to do next - where to go with the awesome support received at TAM and from the folks over at Skepticality and the GeoLogic Podcast. (Thank you, Derek, Swoopy, and George.)

Many people have written to my Facebook, and to the SkeptiLove e-mail at skeptilove@gmail.com asking how to get involved.

Well, to answer the most pressing question - yes, SkeptiLove will definitely be making an appearance at Dragon*Con, armed once again with the ECTO red wagon portable office unit (to be donated to area children after the con) and SkeptiLove launch CDs. There is not yet a definite plan for an event, but don't worry, there will be. Check back here often for information on what, precisely, that event will be. We've had some great suggestions and offers of help.

If you want to run into me directly, my talk on critical thinking and its application to real-world problems is tentatively scheduled for 1pm on Saturday during the con. I'd love to chat with anyone who is interested in SkeptiLove, so please, do stop by.

And if you feel like you can't get involved because you won't be at the con, don't worry. There are many ways to help out. One is to simply send your story to SkeptiLove and tell us what charitable acts you're engaged in. You can also keep an eye here, on SkeptiLove, as we'll be planning events that you can take part in no matter where you're located.

Another is to go out and find some that you're interested in.

Today, for instance, since I am sick and can't rush about the city gathering clothes (as I hoped I would be immediately after TAM), I donated $100 to a cause I believe in - the PetsMart spay/neuter initiative that benefits animal welfare groups where the number of strays has gotten out of control. At the moment, the charity is focusing on Texas and Los Angeles as 'problem areas.'

Having recently become a puppy owner, I greatly appreciate charitable organizations that help to keep the cost of spaying or neutering your pet at a minimum.

Nearly every cause has a web site, and nearly every web site has a donation button. So today, in lieu of any way to hit the streets and help out there, I hope that all of you will donate through your favourite site and drop me an e-mail telling me about where you put your money, and why. Your stories will be posted in the next SkeptiLove entry, and I hope there are many.

Thanks again to everyone who has shown such wonderful support, and I hope we can continue to show that church isn't what makes us care for one another.

All you need is love. Pass it on.

-- Alison

15 July 2009

SkeptiLove at TAM 7: What we accomplished

SkeptiLove's launch at The Amaz!ng Meeting 7 was really something. Over two hundred launch CDs featuring love songs performed by skeptical musicians were distributed in thanks for the donations to the Three Square food drive. 

The food drive donations were dropped off today, by the way, by Sean McCabe.

We donated 142 pounds of food, and $1,656.25 to feed the hungry of southern Nevada.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

There were so many donors, it's impossible to list them all - and if I happen to forget anyone, I apologize deeply. Matt Fiore, however, donated the largest single amount of money - over $200 - and was closely followed by JC Hrubovcak. Hal Bidlack kicked us off as the very first donor. 

Michael Goudeau very kindly donated tickets to Lance Burton: Master Magician that were awarded to Fiore for his wonderful donation. 

Banachek and James Randi both sponsored magic bears in silent auctions that benefitted Ronald McDonald House. Lana Harvey and Jen Newport were the high bear bidders, at over $300 together, and got to keep the autographed bear birth certificates. They will also receive photographs of the magicians snuggling their corresponding bears.

Stephen Packard, Paul Turner, Drew Russell, Jeff Wagg, Mitch Lampert, and Jerry Jobe signed up to provide dinner for a fellow TAMgoer. 

Kitty Mervine, Kochanski, Randy Pischel, and iiwo (amongst others) helped out with the food drive by manning the JREF Forum table, collecting money, and distributing food. 

Plans for a clothing drive are moving forward, and I hope you'll check back again soon for information on how you can help, no matter where you are located. 

Thanks to everyone who donated food, time, and kindness to SkeptiLove. I wish we could list every single person here, but the help came from EVERYwhere, and I think we'd be listing a whole phone book. We proved, during TAM, that there doesn't have to be a god behind every altruistic act.

All you need is love. Pass it on.

-- Alison

07 July 2009

Rumor Has It: Nikhil Fernandes

Welcome to our new spotlight segment "Rumor Has It" where Skeptilove posts about generous individuals we hear about through the grapevine.

Nikhil Fernandes came to our attention for his work with Habitat for Humanity.

We asked him about his work, and this is what he told us:

I volunteered for Habitat for Humanity through my college for three years (including two years as a group leader). I did four week-long alternative break trips with Habitat, and one week with a college group doing Katrina relief work. We also worked on a local site near the college, and organized fundraisers for the local affiliate. The picture I'm attaching is from a trip to Scott County, Tennessee, where we built a house for a family with three children. The work involved assembling and raising the walls, putting the framework for the roof on, and laying out the roofing sheets.

Props to Nikhil for his dedication to building homes for impoverished families!

05 July 2009

Hats for Cold Heads by Kitty Mervine

I was learning to knit at around the same time I was starting up badalien.org. For years I've volunteered at several expert sites online as a "UFO expert" and have even been on Maxim satellite radio talking about UFOs several times. I found after a bit what works and what doesn't with people that feel they have been abducted by aliens. My point is to get them to consider it could be a medical problem and to seek help without belittling them or telling them they are "crazy". Many people feel a great sense of relief that they really aren't being abducted and respond well to good medical treatment.

Today a variety of people contribute to badalien.org and I try to let both sides have a say, which is controversial, but I feel that in many ways skeptics need to be educated in how an abductee feels. I rather feel my web site is a way of helping others.

(OK that's the badground on badalien which really has nothig to do with hats but whatever!)

Now, I sometimes give talks about UFOs and abductees and since I was just learning to knit I decided it would be fun to knit up a bunch of "alien protection hats"... you wear them when you sleep and you won't be abducted. I learned how to knit a hat and they are always a big hit when I speak (I give them out as prizes for my "UFO knowledge quiz" part of my talk).

I had a lot of left over bits of wool and yarn, so I made some baby sized hats. I donate clothing and even old cars to the Salvation Army in town and they had a little sign asking for knitted hats, mittens and scarves. So I started donating hats to them. (Not alien hat, just nice hats made with leftovers).

I also found the Quakers online were collecting hats for Afghanistan. They really prefer green wool since green is a lucky color in Islamic culture. One day I started a thread on the JREF forum asking for peoples bits of leftover yarn and especially green wool (it's cold in Afghanistan, and only wool hats were accepted). I got huge boxes of yarn! And several people made a point of going out and buying new green wool. It takes a very short amount of time to knit a baby or child hat, so this winter I made a LOT of hats.

I'm still making hats, and savig them up to donate to the Salvation Army this winter. It gives me something to do in the evenings while watching tv. I also still make alien hats for when I'm asked to speak!

I don't feel like a hero or anything. The people who deserve the credit are all those who bought and donated the wool! They had to pack it up and pay postage and some people even BOUGHT wool which is pretty expensive. I just get bored at night! I like to keep my hands busy.


Kitty - for her hard work and time given to knitting hats for cold heads, and for her selflessness and zeal for life.