Happiness never decreases by being shared.  (Buddha)  I feel fortunate to have launched my first novel, Shades of Gray. Part of what is so striking about writing a book is that it gives opportunity to reflect on those who have touched my life, and how, in some way, I may have impacted others.  It’s kind of like what goes around comes around; it’s important to keep that cycle of caring moving forward.  So, I have chosen to dedicate some proceeds from my book signings to charities which can make a difference. Choosing to do that was easy – selecting charities has been a little more challenging, because there are so many important and inspiring organizations to become involved with.  I started to look into a few – and realized that with so many valued philanthropies out there, maybe I could share some, and perhaps spread the word – and the love a bit.  I’m all about sharing the love.

The Toyota Family Literacy Program seemed like a slam dunk.  Olivia, Shades of Gray, teacher was a big proponent of reading and wanted nothing more than to create a family.  I loved everything I read about it.  One of their family literacy models is in New York, where Shades takes place.  One of their goals is to promote literacy while keeping parents involved in their children’s education.  I immediately thought of the chapter where Olivia showed up for parent’s night and no one showed.  That happened to me as well, when I was teaching.  I related through fiction and real life experiences.

A few days after reading about Toyota’s efforts, my niece shared with me a relatively new organization called The Odyssey Initiative.  She is fortunate to know one of its initiators and after zipping through their website, I was convinced that I didn’t just want to donate, I wanted to be involved.   These driven educators have set out to scan the country to find what already works in our schools and catalog their findings.  This is exactly how the real dropout prevention program I helped to develop in the late eighties was created and, for the most part, it worked. The Odyssey Initiative’s creators will then take their success stories and implement them in a new public school to be opened in 2014.  The enthusiasm and optimism alone bowled me over.  It is brilliant! If nothing else, Shades of Gray is about innovative teaching.

Shades is also about inventive teaching and encouraging kids to stay in school and get an education.  That was one of Olivia’s goals.  That is what I wanted when I taught.  I knew that every child that walked through my classroom door had something to offer; they just needed to be nurtured.  If only we could keep more kids in school, other problems could begin mending.  I believe in drop-out prevention.  I’ve seen it work.  That’s why I am drawn towards AT&T Aspire program as well.  They are underwriting national research, providing countless hours of job shadowing for students and providing grants to non-profit organizations focused on helping students graduate from high school and become better prepared for college and/or the workforce.

Then again, adoption plays a large role in Shades as well.  I recently began following The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption on Facebook.  Did you know that you can go right from their website and peruse lists of foster children in need of permanent homes?  As though that isn’t enough to break your heart and want to ask your own sons and daughters to make room for a new sibling, I had to stop and ask myself if we (I thought it wise to consult my husband on this) were truly prepared to grow our family at this time.  I thought of the children I taught that lived in group homes and having spent a fair amount of time with them, I would have adopted many of them, but then reality sets in.  Certainly a noble cause, but are we the right people for that job?  We know full well, having three of our own, that parenting is a life-altering commitment.

The list goes on and on, but I know where my heart lies.  I want to get involved in one that resonates with me at this time.  When the real ACE was created, I had no idea that those children would give me such inspiration and teach me so much.  There are still too many at-risk children in this country, each of them deserving, and surely not enough programs to help them all.  My research continues.  Stay tuned.