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Monday, October 22, 2012
Join me and Choose to Matter ... because you can!

By Julie Foudy

True story, I promise.

(My general rule is to embellish only when the outcome is possibly more dessert, and we are out of ice cream at the moment.)

Back to the story:

My 5-year-old daughter, Izzy, said to me recently, "Mom, I want to sell my Barbie dolls."

My response, trying to show some self-control by only grinning rather than running celebratory laps around the house screaming, "Hallelujah," was, "OK, I like the entrepreneurial you, but why don't we give them away to kids rather than sell them."

Izzy: "Because I want to raise money to help the kids in Japan."

Over a year and a half ago, Izzy and my son, Declan, watched the events unfold after a tsunami hit the northeastern coast of Japan. As parents, my husband and I were caught between the fine line of wanting to shield our kids from the detailed suffering, but at the same time making them aware that suffering happens in life. We wrapped the tempered viewing around larger conversations about adversity and opportunities to help others.

Hopefully, we struck the right balance, and Izzy's response is one of the outcomes: a year and half later, she still felt empowered to help others in need. Soggy eyes and sloppy kisses ensued. I was so proud of her.

It also cued the light-bulb-above-head moment ...

When that sell the dolls moment happened, it got me thinking. If Izzy could be inspired at age 5 to help Japanese children, why not use that as an example to help more moms and daughters team up for a good cause. We already do a really neat contest with our Julie Foudy Sports Leadership Academy (JFSLA) campers. (Yes, I am biased, but if you don't find it really neat, I owe you that ice cream I don't have.)

The JFSLA "Choose to Matter" contest was created last year because we wanted the world to see the great service leadership our girls were enacting in their communities and reward the winning projects with a unique, service-oriented, grand-prize experience. This year, thanks to Disney Sports and our great supporter, The Century Council, we opened up the contest to the public. That's right, we are calling on all moms and daughters across the United States to team up, create a community service project together this fall, enter the contest simply by telling us about it online and have the chance to join happily doll-less me and (hopefully) happily doll-less Izzy at ESPN's Wide World of Sports complex at the Walt Disney World Resort.

While there, we will volunteer as youth leaders at the Special Olympics Games happening in May 2013. Four all-expenses-paid days of service, fun (prerequisite), leadership and, of course, park passes. Does it get any better than that?

Once you post your project online in January, America will vote on the finalists and the grand-prize winners will be announced in February. So, besides teaming up for a good cause, you will also get to share your inspiration with the rest of the world. Last year, more than 60,000 people were inspired to vote for their favorite service projects.

Challenge your teammates, classmates, PTAs, mommy groups, neighbors, churches, coaches, siblings and cousins (you get it) to join the contest and start a project of their own.

Contrary to public opinion, we all can make a difference. It is simply a choice. Go on, give it a try. A couple of hints for you mother/daughter teams:

• Choose something you are both passionate about. That will help ensure the project gets completed.

• Choose a service project that is achievable (although cleaning all the parks in America is a noble goal, start with organizing a local park cleanup one morning).

• Ask your teammates and friends to join you; working community service together is one of the best forms of bonding. (One of my favorites -- a team/club/school-wide Penalty Kick Shootoff; every player/student gets pledges from friends, family and strangers per shot made and records how many each player makes out of 10 PKs. Money made goes to your charity of choice.)

• Keep. It. Simple. Just participating is a huge step forward. If an idea is too big, it will become a burden rather than a joy.

• Whether you help one person or one million, you are making a difference. It is not in how many you help or how much you raise, but the act of giving back. Kindness reverberates.

• Quality time with family seems harder to come by nowadays. This gives you a wonderful excuse to take part in a meaningful project together and enjoy each other. Imagine that!

• Hey, the possibility of a trip to the happiest place on earth never hurts.

There you have it: Take part in a community service project together; inspire others by entering our contest; possibly win a trip to ESPN's Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World and serve as a youth leader in the Special Olympic Games. I promise I will not make you babysit my kids while you're there, but I do promise we will indulge in dessert.

Join me.

Choose to Matter.

Because you can.

Who is in?!

Click here to enter the JFSLA's Choose to Matter contest!