When Giving is Winning: Kids’ Passions can Inspire Philanthropy

My nine-year-old son and his two sisters worked, had fun and gave back one Thanksgiving weekend when we tried something new as a family and and included all our friends. It started with my nephew’s and son’s shared “passion” for playing sports — my husband and his brother call it “passion,” but my sister-in-law and I call it “competitiveness.” Don’t get me wrong, being competitive is fine, but we also must teach our children that there is more to life than winning and losing.

My sister-in-law came up with the idea of running a football tournament on the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend. Both of our sons, who are the same age, have played in basketball tournaments before and we knew they would love the idea. For this tournament, the boys would be included in planning the event, inviting their friends to play and asking some family members for small sponsorships. All the money the boys raised would go to our community charity, Sephardic Bikur Holim (sbhonline.org).

At first, I wanted to just quickly make all the arrangements myself — text other moms to see which kids wanted to play, order trophies online and get snacks from Costco. My sister-in-law checked me every once in awhile to make sure I was letting the boys take part in the planning. A couple of times per week, the boys would get together after school to make their lists of teams, call their uncles and aunts for donations and work on t-shirt and trophy designs. Letting the boys work on their own wasn’t as quick or smooth as doing it myself, but when the boys came home after a planning session, they felt amazing. They learned how to work on simple spreadsheets, followed scripts in order to gracefully ask for sponsorships and slowly, with guidance, they got the work done.

The big day arrived and it was a true success! About 40 kids braved the cold air to play games of flag football. We borrowed the balls and flags from a local camp, and the pizza, T-shirts and trophies were all sponsored by family members. Even the referees were local high school students who wanted to earn community service hours. Every parent of a player made a donation, and in the end, the boys raised over $1000. It was a great end to a special Thanksgiving weekend, and our sons realized how their hard work paid off. A few weeks later, they used the money they raised to buy Chanukah gifts and decorate the community center for kids less fortunate. My hope is that my nine-year-old will appreciate what he has and — if he is hard-working and dedicated — use his passions to change the world.