Kyras Blog

Autism Awareness

Hi!

As this rainy month ends, I wanted to take a moment to talk about awareness, particularly Autism Awareness. I want all of my readers, all of you, to be able to see the “light it up blue” campaigns and understand what it really means. I’m not going to talk about the diagnostic criteria or behavioral patterns associated with ASD. Doctors can explain those logistics far better than I can. Instead I’m going to tell you what Autism means to me.

I see Autism as a feather weighing a thousand tons.

The weight that Autism carries is taken on by those on the Autistic Spectrum, their families, teachers, and communities. An action as “natural” as eye contact can take countless professionals, an endless supply of family support, and years of practice for someone on the Autistic Spectrum. Yet, this massive weight is a feather. For a feather has no weight, no constraints. This feather can be as light as we make it. With a change is perception, a warm heart and an open mind can lift that weight.

Having family friends whose children deal with the struggles of autism daily, opened my eyes to how important it is to learn more about the disorder. Becoming friends with those children made me realize that we need to do something about it. My friends are not all that different from me. We laugh at the same jokes, watch the same movies, and play the same games. I want everyone to be open to our friends with autism, so that we all have the opportunity to get to know these amazing people. Therefore, I will leave you with this challenge: I challenge you to become aware. Awareness isn’t just a month; awareness is constantly educating yourself. Let April be the start of your education of Autism. Do some reading on what Autism Spectrum Disorder is, educate a friend, and embrace what differences every person has to offer.

Till the next blog,
Kyra

Some Great News for Spring!

I have some great news to share.

Each year the Meridian Health hosts an event called the Superhero Soiree to recognize those who are making a difference in their community. This year they have chosen to honor me as their Hometown Hero Award recipient. I am so humbled and appreciative to receive an award from such a great, caring hospital.

The Superhero Soiree is a celebration to recognize the everyday heroes at the hospital – especially the most deserving ones: kids, families, and caregivers. Similar to our Champions of Change, they also select someone to honor who has made a positive difference in the community. This year, they selected me, and I can’t tell you how excited I am.

I have worked with a lot of different organizations and have seen many different needs. One of the areas that really impacts me is seeing kids not be able to be kids. Kids want to have sleep-overs at their friends’ homes; they want to climb the monkey bars and put their books in their school locker each morning. No matter how incredible a hospital can be, a hospital is no place for a kid.

Years ago, as the holiday season was approaching, we did a grant visit at a hospital. After my mom and Jennifer asked all the financial questions, I asked about what I knew, “What happens on Christmas morning?” I knew what was suppose to happen, the trees and gifts, the family, food, and smiles. I realized that my Christmas morning wasn’t the morning kids in the hospital would wake up to.

After some secretive holiday list inquiries and extensive shopping, we made the holiday season come alive for the kids. I donned my Santa’s Helper suit, officially named myself Kyra Claus (Santa’s Jewish niece), and made an annual event of delivering toys to different children’s hospitals in the area. I love carrying around my Santa sack of gifts. I would walk into each room, deliver a gift, and receive a smile. I can’t begin to explain the joy I felt from each smile and I can’t explain the knots I felt in my chest as I entered each room. My day as Kyra Claus is one of my favorite days of the year.

If you have ever been honored for the work you do in your community I would love to hear about it! And if you haven’t, let me know what you are up too! No matter how big or small, keep pushing to make a difference in your community. If you need any suggestions on how, CLF has plenty. There are so many opportunities to help others. And who knows, maybe you will be our next Champion for Change or your own hometown’s hero. :) (http://charleslafitte.org/kids-corner/champions-of-change/)

New Thoughts on the New Year

The beginning of the year marks resolutions for being a better you and a better community. But, with our busy lives, these January 1st resolutions lose their momentum by the time Valentine’s Day cards are sent. The ambition that starts our year fades fast, so we need to get motivated and stay motivated for the new year. This year, to avoid the New Year drag, I have a list of helpful ways to get active and stay motivated!

1. Helping others can help you! Whether it’s asking how someone’s day is and actually listening or offering help; compassion for others creates a passion to help.

2. Get involved in your community! Towns and schools have great programs and facilities that most people don’t know about. Try to get involved in your community events (and possibly make your own).

3. Look for new ideas! Inspiration is everywhere. Check out our book drive tools here (http://charleslafitte.org/kids-corner/champions-of-change/book-drive-toolkit/). There are so many great places to find new ways to be a positive person in your community. Keep your eyes open.

4. Set a tangible goal! From getting 8 hours of sleep a night or participating in 5 service projects during the year, setting a number helps to stick to the plan. Write out the things you want to do this year and place it somewhere you check every day, maybe your desk or on your door. As you complete your year, check off your goals.

5. Stay inspired! When I was writing my 333 (Exeter’s most difficult paper that students write), my teacher sent this video to our class the day before our paper was due. It was the extra push we all needed to finish our work.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d6wRkzCW5qI

 

And remember, have a Happy New Year!

 

Active Minds

Hi, everyone!
I hope school is going well and that with all of your busy schedules, you are still finding a way to serve your community.
In the past I have written a few blogs on Active Minds, a national organization committed to ending mental health stigma. At Exeter, our Exeter Social Service Organization (ESSO), which is our umbrella organization for all our community service groups, has an Active Minds chapter. I am one of the two co-heads of this chapter and wanted to share a project we recently ran called, “I am more than…” The “I am more than” project reached out to Exeter’s community to ask people about personal stigma and self-image. We were working to combat the stigma infused identity issues that people, especially teens, face. Some examples from the project were: “I am more than my GPA.” to “I am more than my Anxiety Disorder”. People shared a wide range of things to show that they are a multi-faceted person. Over two days, we collected peoples statements. Students were allowed to either tape their statement on a poster board themselves, to help show the world that they are not their stigma, or submit it anonymously.
Overall, the event was a huge success. We even had to make extra boards to cater to the volume of responses.
Check out activeminds.org to see more of what this national organization’s mission is.

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is meant as a time to reflect. Not just on the year that has gone by or the joys you have experienced, but also what you have done for yourself and others. A common phrase is, “Charity begins at home.” Kids Corner completely agrees with this sentiment, but challenges you all with a twist. People say that charity starts at home because they believe that is the easiest way to give to the world. People often forget that you are part of your home. Charity begins at home and that includes all of you. So this Thanksgiving break, take care of family, friends, strangers, but most importantly I challenge you to take care of yourself. Rest up!

Switch It Up

Hey Everyone!

In May, CLF launched their Champions of Change initiative by providing a step-by-step guide on how to run a book drive. A book drive is a great way for you and your community to get involved in service.

When I first started book drives in 7th grade, I didn’t realize the weight a book. Not in pounds, pages, or letters, but in the impact of as story. Book collections and donations not only help improve literacy rates, but help improve quality of life. Growing up, a book was a portal off of my couch and into the world. Books don’t just catalogus information, they create a memory for you to store.

As Thanksgiving approaches, we remember the most basic needs: food, water, and shelter. Sadly, people around the world don’t have their basic needs met. According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs one must first have physiological comfort before they can get to the expanding knowledge that books give.

Now is the time to trade books for food and collect cans and nonperishable food items instead of books. All of the tools included in our guide can still be used for your drive. All you have to do is change the word ‘books’ to ‘food’.

Thanksgiving  also marks the winter chills. The weather is getting colder and many children do not have winter coats to fulfill their basic needs. Winter coats are very expensive and children grow out their previous coats each year. This can be very costly to families. Try running a coat drive to help keep your community warm as the winter months approach. Collect new or gently used coats to give to those in need. Again, use the guide and change ‘books’ to ‘coats’.

There are so many other things you could collect! I’d love to hear your thoughts and see even more of you running a drive to benefit your community.

Check out our guide HERE!

Rise Against Bullies!

Hi, everyone! In the midst of Halloween prep, Phillips Exeter Academy came together to combat a monster that affects us all-  bullying. During the 2012-2013 school year, stopbullying.gov reported that 22% of people between the ages of 12 and 18 are bullied. They also reported that on average 34% of high school students do not report bullying when it occurs.

This is our call to end the silence and stand with PACER for their National Unity Day. PACER’s campaign encourages everyone to wear orange to send out one giant message of kindness, acceptance, and inclusion. For the second year, CLF handed out orange anti-bullying t-shirts and help spread PACER’s message. Last year CLF handed out about 100 t-shirts to kids across the country. This year, we are proud to say that we distributed more than 7 times more shirts, sharing PACER’s mission with 7 times the people than last year.

National Bully Awareness month is important to mark in your calendar each year, but anti-bullying awareness isn’t just about a month. Bullying has been proven to increase the development of mental illness social problems and lower academic achievement.

Quick shout out to all of my fellow Exonians for banding together to unite against bullying. Also, a huge thank you to the swimmers of KING Aquatic Club and the Academy for Precision Learning.

Thank you all for help spreading the message. And remember that success of this year can mark the success of years to come with a few more helping hands.


 

It’s National Bully Awareness Month!

CLF’s Unity Day shirts for 2015 arrived today. I can’t wait to give these to everyone at my school that signs a pledge against bullying. We hope to reach as many kids as possible and encourage the community to be a better and happier place for everyone to live.

On a different note, have you started reading for CLF’s National Anti-Bullying Essay Contest yet? All of these stories have powerful messages of kindness, acceptance, and inclusion. I’m excited to read all of your essays about how those messages affected you. Remember your choices are:

Grades 3-5 (Max of 650 words)

  • Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick
  • Goblinheart by Brett Axel

Grades 6-8 (Max of 750 words)

  • One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullay Hunt
  • Schooled by Gordon Korman

High School (Max of 850 words)

  • Just Listened by Sarah Dessen
  • It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini

Entries must be typed and emailed to kidscorner@charleslafitte.org by November 13, 2015. Entries must include writer’s name, grade, school, school address and email.

I look forward to your participation.

 

Anti-Bullying Month Kick-Off

I am so excited to announce our next essay contest! The Charles Lafitte Foundation will be participating in National Anti-Bullying Month and want to incorporate our stand against bullying with our essay contest. Read one of the following books and tell us how the story related to challenges you have faced when it comes to the acceptance of yourself and/or others in your community. You could win $1,000 for your school library and your own Kindle Fire. Entries are due by November 13th, 2015 and must be emailed to kidscorner@charleslafitte.org.

I will also be raising awareness for Anti-Bullying month at my school by participating in PACER’s Unity Day Celebration on October 21st, 2015. I will be passing out t-shirts to everyone who signs our banner and pledges to ban together against bullying and unite for kindness, acceptance, and inclusion. If you are interested in running an event similar to this, check out PACER’s website for Unity Day!

Do you know how to help?

Did you know that September is National Suicide Prevention Month?

According to SAVE.org, about 105 Americans commit suicide everyday; 105 family mourning, 105 communities shocked, 105 friends lost. The best way to help prevent suicide is to be informed. If someone is displaying warning signs of suicidal behavior, it is important to tell an adult right away. Another resource is the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

The beneficiary of our 2013 Golf Classic, The Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide, has some great resources as well. Check them out at www.sptsusa.org.