Cultivate Compassion

| March 14, 2010 | 1 Comment

Teaching environmental stewardship and service is a priority for many parents, but how can you get your kids involved? Through volunteering, says Amy V. D’Unger, PhD, of the Georgia-based nonprofit Compassionate Kids. Luckily, sunny spring weather and Earth Day’s 40th anniversary on April 22 create easy opportunities to introduce the kids to community service. Even if you have limited mobility or little ones in tow, you can find activities that benefit your favorite charities. To ensure volunteering success, “choose an activity that makes sense for your family and give a concrete experience that will resonate with your kids’ age group,” D’Unger suggests. Here are three ideas to get you started:

Race for a cause

Sign up for an established race directly related to your chosen cause. Or, pick an event not tied to charity, but still raise money that you will donate after completing the goal. Foot races, bike rides, hikes—even stair climbs—can raise lofty sums for good causes. Step up your spirit by decorating team attire with your message and wear it while training and on race day.

Clean up parks or waterways

Volunteer for a local public-land or water cleanup, or recruit friends for an informal pick-up day of your own. Contact your city or county for suggestions for places in need of scrub-downs, and pick a strategic date, like a school half-day, for the event. Advertise with reusable posters, plan to document your work, and garner more inspiration and ideas at

Plant a seed

Planting trees and community gardens are more than just green activities—they’re great ways to get kids invested in the community and the future. Start by volunteering for a one-time event or with a local garden or environmental club (find one at If all goes well, consider starting a community garden in your neighborhood or at a homeless shelter, school, or nursing home.

—Courtney Johnson

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