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Summer Strong

Summer Strong

summer

Guest post by Jacob Martin, a member of our Champions for Kids team.

Last summer, only 1 out of 6 children that received free and reduced lunch during the school year received similar meals during the summer. The summer months create some of the most vivid memories for growing children. It can be a time of unstructured play and learning—of new places and experiences. But for children experiencing poverty, summer break can leave them feeling broken.

A Full Summer

The sun slips in through the blinds
As I straggle out of striped sheets
My blanket, cast off sometime in the night,
Looks like it wants to sleep in a bit longer

Smiling, colorful cartoon faces on cardboard
Turn upside down as puffed corn clatters
Down to a clean, blue bowl,
But also a bit on the counter

Bowl, blanket, and me,
We all sit a few feet from a blank TV
Beneath a window worth watching, while
The world experiments with yellows and greens

I dress myself in preparation
For a day worth remembering
I open the door to an impossibly bright sky
And step across sweet, soft ground

Ready to lose myself
In the world I choose to make

A Summer Empty

My stomach pulls me out of bed
But knowing if I just wait
The feeling kind of goes away
I open the cabinets and close them again

In a shirt with yesterday’s holes
I sit inside and watch kids play
Because I know the names they have for me
And I don’t need reminders

It’s June, and I already miss
How Miss Osborne read us stories
That took me somewhere else
I open the cabinets and close them again

I sit on the couch in front of the screen
But they shut off the power this morning
Waiting for tomorrow as the heat rises
I open the cabinets and close them again

Feeling lost
In a world I didn’t choose

You have the opportunity to make a positive difference in the lives of kids in your own area. Help keep kids Summer Strong.

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Every 10 Seconds, a Child Abuse Report Is Made

Every 10 Seconds, a Child Abuse Report Is Made

Guest blogger: Virginia Wietecha 

Imagine being eight years old again. Remember how learning to ride a bike or playing for hours in the sunshine felt free and adventurous? This is how I remember being eight years old. However, many kids do not have the same memories. In fact, in the U.S. alone, a child abuse report is made every ten seconds. Child abuse affects more than 6 million children a year.

When I hear these statistics, it makes me go back to my eight-year-old self, and put myself in those shoes for a second. First, the child undergoesabuse. Second, a report is filed. Third, the child is plucked from everything familiar and placed in a strange environment.

Can you picture standing in a new facility surrounded by total strangers all around you, perhaps clutching the small bag of items you brought from home? Now imagine trying to enjoy summer vacation or start school in the fall. Burdened by stress, emotional turmoil and instability, kids in these situations risk falling, and staying, permanently behind their peers. 

Not every story needs to end like this, however. Many organizations, like the Children’s Advocacy Center of Benton County, step in during these pivotal moments to provide stability, care, support and resources. Their missions are to empower children to find their voice and to ensure that children are not further victimized by the systems intended to protect them.

That is why I am excited to be taking part in the Champions for Kids Summer Strong campaign. While I am not a nurse, forensic interviewer or counselor, I can still do my part to help victims of child abuse in my county by providing essential items to help kids stay strong during the summer. Maybe the purchased clothing, personal care items, games and movies for the kids will bring a small smile to an eight-year-old who is trying to find a new life — one that is safe, loving and secure.

Join me and the Champions for Kids staff as we strive to support the efforts of organizations and schools around the country, and see how your service project could help you win $10,000 for a school or youth-based organization of your choice!

Virginia resides in Northwest Arkansas with her husband and two daughters.

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Creative Ways to Teach Your Students About Police Officers

Creative Ways to Teach Your Students About Police Officers

Last week was Police Officer Appreciation week. Teaching police officer respect in the classroom can be challenging. Here are some relatable ways to talk to children about the important role law enforcement plays in our society.

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When we were kids we use to play “cops and robbers”. Usually we fought over who got to be the police. No one wanted to be the bad guys. Why? Because the police were the heroes. They took care of the bad guys, protected every one, and at the end of the day, they were the super heroes.

All too often the kids in our lives and classrooms see or hear about bad stuff happening. While bad stuff is happening, it is often our police who are working behind the scenes to clean up the damage or solve a crime. Their role often goes unrecognized unless they do something wrong or miss something. It’s important to teach kids that our police are there to help keep us safe.

It’s easy to get caught up in a world of over the top super heroes, but every day and night we have hard working men and women who work long hours and put themselves in harm’s way to protect us. Police are our real super heroes.

Super Hero Duties

  • Put themselves in harm’s way to protect us.
  • Work long hours.
  • Sacrifice time with their families, holidays, and sleep to keep us safe.
  • Sacrifice their lives to take care of us.
  • See sad things and still keep working.
  • Rescue people from themselves or others.
  • Are often the first responders to an emergency.
  • Clear the path for other rescue vehicles to get where they need to be.
  • Direct traffic, often standing in a precarious spots to keep traffic flowing in busy areas.

Truly, there are countless ways police work to be our community and state heroes. Often times they go unrecognized as they work tirelessly to protect us and our communities. When is the last time you told a police officer how much you appreciate what he or she does to keep your community safe?

Teach Kids about Police

  • Invite a police officer to class to talk about what they do.
  • Learn about the jobs police do and have the class make cards for your local officers.
  • Explore different ways police do their jobs.
  • Teach them to be grateful for our police, not afraid of them.

The messaging for your students is the next time you see a police super hero, thank them for their time and sacrifice. Thank them for a job well done.

Have you thanked a school nurse lately?

Have you thanked a school nurse lately?

It can be hard to send our kids off into the great big world of school. As parents we worry about our kids. What if they get hurt? What if they get sick or feel sad and lonely? The ‘what if’s’ can be a really tough thing when we think of just how big the world can be. Knowing that when our kids go to school they have someone who can bandage their cuts and care for them until we can get there when they don’t feel well, can be a comfort. Here is why school nurses are champions.

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  • Patience – working with a lot of kids every day can have its challenges. Especially when there are mini crises every day.
  • Sickness – How many people shy away from the thought of being in the room with sickness? School nurses do it all the time, caring for kids, knowing they could very well be the next one sick.
  • Blood – I’m not a huge fan. I can deal with it with my kids but I definitely could not handle dealing with playground injuries all the time. Nurses fearlessly clean up injuries, minor and major all the time.
  • Emergencies – Have you ever wondered what would happen if your kid fell and broke their arm? Or what would happen if they had an allergic reaction? The school nurse is there and trained to handle these emergencies, helping you feel safer while your child is away from you.
  • Comfort – When kids get hurt or sick they also get scared and sad. School nurses are there to comfort them when we cannot be there.

Every day school nurses work tirelessly to care for our children while they are away from us. This makes school nurses champions in our eyes.

Have you thanked a school nurse lately? Tell us how!

10 Simple Breakfast for Families on the Go

10 Simple Breakfast for Families on the Go

Last week we talked about the importance of a healthy breakfast. Sometimes it can be hard to come up with healthy yet different breakfasts that are still quick and easy. I wanted to write this post because I know many of you see hungry kids at the bus stop, or during the summer roaming the neighborhood. I know it’s hard to provide meals for everyone so I came up with 10 breakfast ideas that are EASY and STRESS free! Here are 10 easy and healthy breakfasts you can take on the go.

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  • Peanut Butter Banana Toast – Nothing is better than a quick and easy breakfast that is still well balanced, flavorful, and easy to make.
    • Toast 2 slices whole grain bread.
    • Add a thin layer of peanut butter to each slice.
    • Top 1 slice with sliced bananas.
    • Put the slices together and you have a healthy and easy breakfast.
  • Fruit Parfait – Easy and delicious, these can be prepared the evening before. All you need to do is add the nuts or granola in the morning. Grab and go? Prep the night before and put a small baggie or container of granola with it. Don’t forget the spoon!
    • Yogurt – low fat, plain or vanilla. Plain yogurt is the healthiest.
    • Fruit – Berries, bananas, chunks of apple, mandarin slices, peaches, and dried cranberries are great options.
    • Granola or nuts
    • Layer your yogurt, then granola/nuts, then fruit. If you want, add a second layer.
  • Bagel Sandwich and fruit
    • Egg
    • Meat (optional)
    • Cheese (optional)

    Toast the bagel.
    While the bagel is toasting, fry the egg in just a little butter or oil.
    If using meat, a quick and easy way is to heat some lunch meat in the pan when the egg is finished.
    Add a slice of cheese to the egg or thin layer of cream cheese to the bagel.
    Assemble and eat or wrap to eat on the road.

  • Muffins and fruit
    • You can make any healthy muffins ahead of time.
    • Wrap them well in plastic, then store in the freezer in a freezer bag.
    • Pull your muffin out the evening before to defrost overnight or unwrap and put on a plate in the microwave for 30 seconds.

    Add a fruit cup or favorite fresh fruit. Add a handful of nuts for a protein boost.

  • Oatmeal with fruit and seeds – Make up some oatmeal and top it with fresh or dried fruit, and sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, or nuts.
  • Veggie Toast
    • 2 slices whole grain toast
    • Cream Cheese
    • Cucumber slices or sweet pepper slices
    • Assemble as a sandwich.

    Healthy and delicious!

  • Yogurt, Fruit, and Toast
    • Container of yogurt
    • Fresh fruit or fruit cup
    • Toast with butter, cream cheese, or peanut butter
  • Cereal Choose a healthy cereal and add blueberries, strawberries, bananas or peaches for a healthy and flavorful breakfast.
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A healthy breakfast doesn’t have to be difficult or take long to make. Try these 10 healthy breakfasts to start your morning off right and fuel your body for the day ahead of you.

We All Need Breakfast: 3 Reasons Why

We All Need Breakfast: 3 Reasons Why

Skipping breakfast is no big deal, right? After all, it’s kind of the smallest meal of the day, and you just got up so you can just power through until lunch. WRONG! It is so important to eat breakfast because that’s what gives you energy after a night of sleep. You wouldn’t go on a long car trip without putting gas in the car, right? If you did, you wouldn’t get very far. The same is true for breakfast. “Fueling” your body for the day ahead helps your day go better. Oh, and don’t think we are talking donuts here. We are talking about the importance of not only eating breakfast but making it a healthy breakfast.

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  • Mood – Who doesn’t get grumpy when they need food? Hunger makes you grumpy, makes you think about how you feel, and keeps you from being able to pay complete attention to what’s going on around you, or being said to you, whether you are learning or working.
  • Concentration – Who can focus when their stomach is hungry? Those 10 minutes you save by not eating a healthy breakfast are not worth it. Without that healthy breakfast it will be harder for you to focus and give your complete attention to your tasks, which wastes more than 10 minutes in the long run. Studies show that adults are not as productive, and kids do not perform as well in school and at play when they haven’t had a healthy breakfast.
  • Weight – Eat more, weigh less. Well, it isn’t quite that easy, but eating a healthy breakfast can help you stay full/satisfied longer and help cut down on snacking. Note that it is important that your breakfast be healthy. Sugary cereals, pop tarts, and donuts aren’t going to cut it here. Even healthier carbohydrates all on their own will burn off quickly. Healthy cereal, whole grain toast, or oatmeal with fruit are breakfasts fit for champions but make sure you include fiber and protein in your breakfast. When you skip a meal you are also more likely to overeat at the next meal which also attributes to weight gain.

Next time you are about to head out the door without breakfast, stop and think first about just how important breakfast it. Take those few minutes to grab something healthy. Give your body the energy it needs so you can be healthier, happier, and more productive with your day.

Tips on How to be a Mentor to a Kid in Need

Tips on How to be a Mentor to a Kid in Need

Do you see kids around you who could really use a great mentor? Do you feel the desire to help kids choose smart paths in life? So many kids are hurting and getting lost in life. Our kids need all the help they can get in life to learn to make wise choices and be encouraged. Here are some ways that will get you started in being a great mentor for kids.

Slow down – Take time to get to know them. Find out what they are interested in, what they like to do in school and their free time. When you take time to get to know kids they are more willing to talk to you about real issues in their lives.
 
Listen – Listen more than you talk. By asking thoughtful questions and then listening, kids will realize you truly care about their thoughts and feelings. You don’t always have to “fix” everything. Listen and offer help where you can, and know when to step back and let them figure it out. Sometimes they need you to help them solve problems, and sometimes they need you to step back and offer tips while they figure out the solution.
 
Consistency – Be consistent. Kids need to know they can count on you to do what you say you will do and be there when you say you will be. They also need to know boundaries and that you will hold them to those boundaries.
 
Praise – Praise kids for a job well done, or for the times they open up to you. Kids need to feel that sense of accomplishment, and a little praise goes a long way to making kids feel good about the right choices they make.
 
Partner – Do everything you can to partner with a parent in mentoring their child. It takes a team. Often you can be as much an encouragement to parents as their children when you make every one a part of the team.
 

You could be the difference one kid needs. Get involved with your local schools and community to see what programs they have in place, and how you can be a great mentor for the kids in your community.

3 Dangers of an Unhealthy Mouth

3 Dangers of an Unhealthy Mouth

Brushing and flossing sometimes seem to be such a hassle. After all, we eat, brush our teeth, then eat again. Often when we think of our health we completely forget to value the health of our mouths. There are many dangers to this, but three major dangers of an unhealthy mouth are halitosis, gum disease, and cavities.

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  • Halitosis – Okay, better known as bad breath, it’s bad breath taken to a whole new level. If you just can’t get rid of that bad breath, it could be a sign that something else is going on inside that mouth of yours. It could mean there is too much bad bacteria built up in your mouth, or it could be a sign that there are other health issues going on in your body. Don’t just ‘brush’ persistent bad breath off as a nuisance. Get it checked out and make sure your mouth and body are healthy.
  • Gum Disease – Studies show that gum disease could potentially lead to other serious health issues. It isn’t clear if other health issues are related specifically to gum disease, but here is one thing that is sure. Gum disease can lead to receding gums, which exposes the tooth root and increases the speed of tooth decay. Watch your gums to make sure they aren’t turning a pale or white color, aren’t inflamed, or that they don’t seem to be shrinking. If you have any of these symptoms, make sure you speak with your dentist. Remember to brush and floss those teeth. If you floss your teeth often and properly, there may be a little bleeding, but if your gums bleed often when you floss, it could be another sign of gingivitis (gum disease). Regular dental cleanings can help ensure your dental health by cleaning away plaque and tartar that builds up, creating an unhealthy environment for your teeth. If your dentist sees signs of gingivitis he/she will likely recommend a special mouth rinse. Make sure you use it to keep your mouth healthy.
  • Cavities – If your teeth are feeling extra sensitive, make sure to mention it to your dentist. Sensitive teeth could be just that, but increased sensitivity to hot or cold, especially if it is just certain teeth, could mean you have a cavity. Catching cavities when they are small is both less expensive to fix and better for your mouth. Uncared for cavities can lead to oral infections, loss of teeth, and more expensive treatments. This can also lead to other oral problems, affecting your gums and/or other teeth.
  • Who knew our mouths were such a command center for our health? Make sure you pay attention to what your mouth is telling you and take care not to ignore the dangers of an unhealthy mouth.

    You could donate today with the Simple Giving program at a Walmart near you!

    Tips to Get your Students to Wash Their Hands

    Tips to Get your Students to Wash Their Hands

    “Wash, wash, wash your hands, wash the germs away…” And your kids say, “what germs?” They can’t SEE the germs so it can be hard to convince them of how important it is to wash their hands front and back and in between those fingers. The best ways to get kids to clean their hands thoroughly is to find ways to make hand washing fun.
    Help Kids Get Rid of Germs with these washing hand ideas

    Suds up – Add some soap and rub those hands together, making as many bubbles as you can with the soap while you count to a pre-determined number. Then rinse those bubbles away.

    Play a hand washing game – Wash the fronts, scrub the backs, and in between each finger. Make up a game while you wash those fingers – make up silly rhymes, sing silly songs, find some small toys like a rubber ducky. Kids can “wash” while they clean their hands, or find hand washing songs online to sing to and act out.

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    There’s an app for that – Check out your phone’s app store. There are fun hand washing apps that turn hand washing into a fun time with stories and games about hand washing.

    While you have fun trying these things that make hand washing fun, you can take time to talk with your kids about germs, and how they are so itty bitty we can’t see them. We always had fun talking about where those germs were hiding. Were they hiding in that little wrinkle in my finger? Scrub, scrub, scrub. Wash it out. Were lurking in between my fingers? Wash, wash, wash him out. Oh no! He hid on the back of my hand. Scrubba dub dub! Good bye germs! Make hand washing fun and before long your kids will be making up their own silly songs and rhymes while they get rid of those germs.

    Ways you can #PayitForward with your Wedding

    Ways you can #PayitForward with your Wedding

    It’s February!  Valentine’s Day is the time of year when love is in the air and so many couples are getting married or starting to plan weddings.  You can turn your day of wedding bliss into a beautiful time to inspire change in your own community. Here are 4 ways you can use your wedding to pay it forward and be Champions for Kids.

    give back and pay it forward at your wedding

    • Make your venue count for change. Knowing your site fee is supporting a place of value will add to the character of your wedding day.
      • Hold your wedding reception at a nonprofit or a place that offers services to kids in the community.
    • Think of how unique and beautiful your reception would be to host your wedding at a park that provides a safe place for schools.
      • Hold it at a museum or historical site.
      • A botanical garden could provide a beautiful background for your wedding while providing children in your neighborhood a continued place to thrive.
    • Flowers used twice are even more nice:

      • After photos have been taken and the petals have been scattered, send the remaining bouquets to children battling illnesses in a hospital.
      • Imagine a bride stopping at a pediatric wing to give a cancer patient her bouquet.  That bride and groom would definitely be a champion for kids.   
    • Who needs favors when “Change” can be made?  Instead of spending change on favors, be the change you want to see in the world.

      • In place of favors give to the “Help Kids Thrive” fund or give to a favorite charity that serves children in your neighborhood. Put place cards on each setting stating that a donation was made in their honor.
    • Want to have a different kind of bachelorette or bachelor party? Be “that couple” who helps.
      • You can join an effort to paint an after school room that serves latch key kids.
      • Get together and create care packages for nurses and doctors who are champions for kids daily.
      • Bridesmaids will always rally for their brides.  Rally and get it done. Spend a day doing a Simple Service Project to give the children in your neighborhood something beautiful.

    No matter where you hold your wedding there is always a way you can turn it into a world of good and be Champions for kids in a beautiful way. Make your “I do” a promise to the world and change your small corner for the better.