Forever Young at THON

What is THON infographic

While it might feel as though the semester has just begun, finals are quickly approaching, and for a Penn State alum like myself, that only means one thing: THON weekend will be here faster than we know it.

Over six hundred organizations participate in a year-long fundraising effort to help bring awareness to and find a cure for childhood cancer. Past years have brought in record-breaking funds, and this year is slated to bring in major donations to aid Four Diamonds, the Hersey Medical Center, and the children affected by childhood cancer as well as their families.

Greek life at Penn State is heavily involved in the year-long fundraising efforts, as well create a large presence at the culminating dance marathon. This year, junior Carly Racanelli, who is a member of Kappa Alpha Theta fraternity is using her own business, Forever Young Bracelets, affiliated with her family’s foundation, The Michael Racanelli Forever Young Foundation, to donated 50% of their November proceeds to Penn State’s THON efforts.

Five years ago the Racanelli family lost a son and a brother, and community lost a loving friend. Hoping to spread her late brothers inherent peace and mindfulness, the Racanelli family established a lacrosse scholarship with his name, have sponsored mission trips, and contributes to organizations like Mission Be, which teaches mindfulness to school children.

“He lived his life to the fullest and had such a genuine and pure soul,” said Carly of her brother Michael. 

During the summer of 2015, Carly and her younger sister were exploring ways to expand The Michael Racanelli Forever Young Foundation, and together came up with the idea to make bracelets in which a portion of the proceeds would go to the foundation. “I wanted to get creative and find a way to continue to spread his peace and get involve din something bigger than myself,” she said.

In an interview given to The Odyssey Online, Carly explained that “after experiencing THON my freshman year at PSU, it was always something I was extremely impressed by and proud of. Anyone that attends THON knows what I’m talking about because it is such a moving and emotional experience that has an amazing cause.”

Knowing first hand what it’s like to lose a member of their family, Carly is an inspiration for undergrads everywhere, showing that she can create goodness from tragedy, and spread her brothers message of peace through her creative efforts while also helping to find a cure for childhood cancer… all while juggling the stresses of college.

If you’d like to contribute to Carly’s business as well as helping THON meet their goals, you can visit the Forever Young Bracelet’s Instagram page to purchase a bracelet (@foreveryoungbracelets) or via email at

Post-Grad Charity

Post-grad life can sometimes seem as if you’re living in limbo. If you’re not one of the 69.4 percent of lucky young adults aged 20 to 24 to be employed, making ends meet can be seemingly impossible.

Rent, groceries, bills, costs of having a social life, gas/car insurance if you’re a driver, and student loan payments add up quickly, and can be discouraging of implementing charitable practices in your life.

In fact, the average college graduate will leave their college or university with a degree of their earning, as well an more than $30,000 in student loan debt. So it’s not surprise that the resourceful post-grads of today are finding ways to solve their debt crisis–and for anyone who’s had to pay back student loans or accept weekly calls from Sallie Mae, it is most definitely a crisis.

Recent graduates have even figured out a way to make these payments meaningful and charitable. What are they?

Sponsor Change

This organization has three main goals: to help young adults surge some high-impact non-profit volunteer work into their resumes, increase civic engagement, and decrease the student loan burden. By creating a Change Agent profile, you can propose community service projects and ask for sponsorship. Each hour of charitable work earns Change Agents somewhere between $10 and $20 and they go directly to your student loan payments so sponsors don’t have to worry about you actually spending it on a wild night out.

Career-Specific Repayment Opportunities

Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program | Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program | National Health Service Corps

Depending on what field you enter, there are a number of programs offering reprieves on any remaining federal student-loan balances after a certain number of years in public service, teaching in underprivileged schools and communities, or providing healthcare in underserved areas. And these are just three potential opportunities to give where it’s needed, and to shave off some of that debt.


Utilizing a unique crowdfunding platform, ZeroBound aims to connect volunteers with donors to create a community of charitable young adults. By creating a profile, users are able to detail the volunteer projects they are involved with, as well as a financial goal for donations. If their campaign is a success, the earnings of their crowdfunding campaign is applied directly towards their student loan debt.

“We hope to use the trend of crowdfunding to not only help a generation pay off their debt, but also increase volunteerism among an age bracket that actually volunteers the least,” said Kelli Space, ZeroBound co-founder.

Volunteering – It’s A Home Run!

More and more, sports are becoming a formidable outlet for charitable change. In an article recently published in the Huffington Post, Ryan Scott addresses the, “increased professionalization of sports philanthropy, as leaders in this field recognize more ambitious ways to serve their communities while forging new partnerships.”

For celebrity athletes, teams, leagues and sports leaders, engaging in community involvement programs is an age-old tradition. With the the ability to provide educational opportunities and bridge social and economic gaps, initiatives of sports-related changes have the power to impact real social change.

Now, a variety of corporate and nonprofit leaders are utilizing the mass appeal of sports through progress in corporate social responsibility. A number of these are amping up their influence by extending their philanthropic causes.

Let’s take a look at a few:

Major League Baseball Charities – MLB’s nonprofit arm strives to affect change in issues ranging from physical education, public safety, medical research, literacy, and veteran affairs. In July, they unveiled upgrades to an existing space at the CityLink Center in Cincinnati to create a new veterans reintegration center, helping thousands of veterans in the area to facilitate a successful transition back into the community. Another contribution of MLBC is the continual volunteer efforts of popular athletes with disaster relief across the country.


Special Olympics participants

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

Special Olympics – Giving someone with disabilities the chance to participate in athletics is the ultimate way to change someone’s life through sports. With its entire mission purporting a more inclusive society and respect for those with disabilities, the Special Olympics is a powerhouse in providing life-changing opportunities for those in need. According to the Huffington Post, the Walt Disney Company, ESPN and Special Olympics have invested a multi-million dollar financial investment towards a two-year global initiative that will leverage the power of sports to promote an “environment of social inclusion and acceptance” through the Unified Sports program.

The NFL Foundation – The philanthropic branch of football represents 32 NFL teams and targets the health and safety of sports, youth football, and community engagement. On “NFL Tuesdays” players volunteer at local schools, shelters, and hospitals, getting involved in the community to enact lasting, positive change.

The simple power of popularity of one’s regional sports team can do amazing things. It brings together fans, the team, and its partners. With the same enthusiasm we have for the sport, everyone can work together to change their community for the better.

Guitar Hero or Superhero?

Children have the uncanny ability to see through a set of eyes adults no longer have access to. The whimsical, anything-is-possible set of eyes that, paired with the right brain and proper support, can turn dreams into reality.

Fifteen year old Teagan Stedman spent his summer taking the “Biology of Cancer” course at Brown University. TEDx Teen named him the “next big thing” after presenting his research project for improved cancer drug delivery to the conference in May. He has hopes of becoming a scientist and dreams of a future where cancer is as treatable as a headache.

The teens desire to help others came at a time where he felt completely helpless: his friend was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma when Stedman was 8 years old. There seemingly isn’t much an adolescent can do to help their sick friends outside of elaborately decorated get-well posters.

But the adolescent mind has the ability to reach great heights, and in 2009, Stedman became the founder and CEO of a non-profit organization dedicated to helping kids support pediatric cancer research, raise awareness, and create a peer community.

That’s much, much more than a get-well-soon card.

Shred Kids’ Cancer was founded by a kid, is made up of kids, and is solely dedicated to helping kids. And since it’s inception six years ago, the nonprofit has raised over $300,000 to support pediatric cancer research and their beloved “Shredheads.”

Eleven year old cancer-survivor Kaitlin Lehman is a ShredHead, which is the nickname given to someone Shred Kids’ Cancer rallies behind and supports throughout his or her battle with cancer. She was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, which is a rare form of musculoskeletal cancer, and soon after fell in love with John Green’s novel-turned-film The Fault in our Stars, a story of two teen lovers who also happen to have cancer.

Shred Kids’ Cancer was able to surprise Lehman with an experience she’ll never forget: a walk down the red carpet at the premier of The Fault in our Stars with it’s leading actor and actress Ansel Elgort and Shailene Woodley.

At first, the organization simply held an annual event called Shredfest. Spotlighting young musicians, this battle of the bands event attracted celebrity judges and generated a bunch of positive press for Stedman’s organization. A chance meeting between Stedman and Guns ‘N Roses guitar legend “Slash” in a mall lead the rockstar to sign on as a guest performer, battling young artists to raise money for pediatric cancer research.


The organization has evolved to now include a slew of youth-centric activities and events to attract kids of all kinds including bone marrow drives and 5K/10K Kids Fun Runs. Additionally, Stedman headed an awareness campaign called “Be Bold, Be Bald” which encourages kids to wear a bald cap for a day to show solidarity for their peers with cancer. It’s incredible what kids are capable of.

To read the original article, click here.

Angry Birds | Gaming for Education

Rovio Entertainment, the creators of the Angry Birds, are collaborating with A World At School to start a gaming tournament with the goal of raising an awareness of a petition for education. Participants will play the Angry Birds Friends game and support the hashtag #UpForSchool. Rovio points out that there are 58 million children around the world who are unable to attend school because of great issues that exist outside of the children themselves. Some of these problems include conflict, discrimination, and child labor. Angry Birds games have been downloaded over three billion times. Rovio wants to use this global audience to affect a positive change in the world by speaking out for children in need of formal learning.

The petition #UpForSchool has six million signatures on it thus far. The plan is to take this document to Oslo for the upcoming Education Summit. The originators of the campaign want to ensure children in conflict situation will be able to receive the necessary education. Gaming company, Rovio, has previously launched charitable campaigns aimed to rescue endangered birds, motivating children to read, and help earthquake victim in Nepal.

Another company in the gaming industry, Palringo created a charitable platform to target their gaming users who celebrate Ramadan. During Ramadan, alms giving is a good virtue and thus has garnered a positive result. This year Palringo is focused on world hunger. They will fundraise to contribute to food aid programs. The gaming company even integrated limited time charity fish into its chat-focused fishing game. Other companies such as Zynga and Playmob were also involved with charity through their gaming platforms. Playmob has a track record of charitable campaigns totaling up to thirty-five in just the past two years. Gaming platforms that were used to promote the causes included Sims Social, Plants Vs Zombies, and Madden. In that two year period, $1 million was raised for causes like Cybersmile and WWF.

To learn more about how the gaming industry fundraises, visit Forbes online here.

Philanthropy and the Wealthy | What’s Important?

piggy-bank-gaetano saccoA study was conducted on a segment of the world’s wealthy people. A survey was given to 640 adults with a minimum of $3 million of assets having the ability to be invested. The questions were geared toward figuring out what they valued the most and what they considered to be the factors in a life well-lived.

The results showed that health, family, and financial security ranked the highest for important aspects of a well-lived life. However, 86% said that philanthropy was a key part of life as well. Other results include:

  • One fifth of wealthy business owners look for new ways to resolve social and environmental problems.
  • The majority of survey takers participate in philanthropic efforts in the traditional ways. This included involvement through giving money as donations and physically volunteering their efforts.
  • One third of the pool would like to own assets related to social impact. A lesser amount of individuals were involved in strategic philanthropy and investing in social impact methods.
  • A higher percentage of women have an interest in investments tied to social impact. Meanwhile, more men have current investment ownership in that area compared to female owners.

Giving Pledge is an initiative that was formed to reach billionaires. This cause wants them to give the majority of their wealth to causes centered in philanthropic efforts. Giving Pledge gets people to pledge to the conditions of their initiative.

In the early stages, the company didn’t think they would get the interest that they have been able to gather. It has made a worldwide impact where people from around the globe are taking the pledge. To Giving Pledge, habitual giving to the extent that it becomes a tradition is most important. The initiative’s current numbers contain 137 pledges from 14 countries. Some causes these billionaires are particularly interested in include better K-12 education, economic development in Africa, and medical research for diseases in need of a cure.

To learn more about how wealth and philanthropy come together, visit PR Newswire and here.

3 Undesirable Behaviors from Charitable Donors

gift-gaetano saccoGiving to a good cause is an action that should originate from the heart. In some cases, donors may expect something in return for their act of kindness. Donors that invest larger amounts of money and resources are typically known for later exhibiting not so favorable behaviors.


Donors with a lot of money may want to get rid of some personal items which they find valuable. However, the item they are looking to give away may not be beneficial to the cause. An organization that receives an expensive but unuseful gift may have to allocate unplanned time to properly dispose of it in a way that may turn out to be beneficial. It then turns out that the gifter caused a great distraction that could’ve been avoided had that person given a useful gift.

Item Donations

Similar to the undesired gifts, providing donations that don’t help the cause, especially in times of emergency, can be troublesome. A silly example may include an infant crying for milk but being given a lollipop. The lollipop is not helpful in that situation. In fact, the infant can’t partake in it at all. Give items that people need and can use in hard times.


It is common for a donor to expect something like a receipt after giving a cash contribution. However, there are times where people who donate want an unreasonable form of documentation. One woman gave $2,000 and expected a 20 page report detailing the use of the money. At the end of the day, the labor to write the report most likely costed more than the donation itself. This situation could have been remedied if the donor found out the organization’s reporting method before agreeing to give the money. The giver and receiver could have made a point to be on the same page before the relationship continued to move forward.

Other downfalls of charitable donors may include too closely overseeing the decisions of the organization and expecting personal errands in return. These and more are counterproductive behaviors that donors can exhibit. For more information, visit the Wall Street Journal here.

Six Major Changes in Corporate Philanthropy

While corporate social responsibility (or CSR) has been in vogue for a while, there’s no denying that it quickly increasing in importance to a point that hasn’t been experienced before. Companies and corporations are now expected to give back to both their local community as well as the world and face societal pressure and stigma if they don’t deliver. Below are 6 major changes that have happened recently in the ways companies engage in CSR:


Photo courtesy of Getty Images.


  • Getting involved leads to full engagement: Companies are getting their employees to fully engage by building up a culture of philanthropic volunteering, leading to deeper partnerships with nonprofits and a stronger company culture that leads to more employee engagement as a whole.
  • It must be authentic: This may be surprising (though it shouldn’t be), but employees can tell when management isn’t being authentic in what they’re pursuing. Since CSR has become a keystone of both employee engagement and retention, the need for it to be authentic and deliver real results is incredibly important. If it seems faked or unhelpful, people won’t spend the time and effort on it.
  • Leadership has to be involved: This sort of ties in with the need for authenticity. If upper management and leadership don’t join in on the efforts of lower-tiered employees, resentment will build and there will be an obvious lack of authenticity and follow-through.
  • Millennials are here and influencing: Millennials have incredibly high expectations of their employers, especially when it comes to philanthropy. With millennials being such a large part of the workforce and valuing authenticity, the need for quality CSR has never been higher.
  • Engagement is for all: Large companies aren’t the only ones expected to have some sort of outreach or engagement program. Smaller and mid-sized companies are also now facing expectations in terms of engaging in corporate philanthropy and CSR.
  • Corporate goals, employee interests, and nonprofit needs are intertwined: Companies with high levels of engagement have found that aligning the goals of all three aspect of CSR goes far towards helping them retain employees and make a meaningful impact in the world.

These are just six of the changes that are happening in the exciting world of corporate social responsibility and corporate philanthropy. Read here for more information.