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Top Tricks to Make Halloween a Treat

Happy Halloween! This week is filled with the fresh smell of leaves in the air, the site of pumpkins sitting on doorsteps and of course, the sound of children laughing as they prepare their costumes to go trick or treating. If you celebrate Halloween, you know how fun and festive the holiday can be for everyone involved. 

However, despite all of the spooks and laughs, Halloween isn’t always a joyful holiday for everyone. For some, Halloween be difficult to celebrate for a variety of reasons—money, time or even health concerns. Fortunately, if you strive to live an altruistic lifestyle, there are lots of ways to help out this Halloween. Here are some top tricks to make Halloween a treat for everyone.

1. Donate your goodies.
What’s one of the simplest things you can do this Halloween to help make a difference? Donate your goodies! Both local and national programs will offer to take your extra goodies and give them to those in need, such as children in the hospital, children from low-income neighborhoods or even troops overseas. For instance, Operation Gratitude takes leftover candy and sends it to deployed troops, veterans and first responders. You can wait until after Halloween to see what candy you have leftover, or buy an extra bag during your trip to the store to donate.

2. Offer other treats than candy. 
Unfortunately, many children cannot celebrate Halloween due to severe allergies, such as peanuts or gluten. You can have a major impact with just a simple change this Halloween by offering other treats than just candy at your door. Buy colored pencils, small toys or a pack of glow sticks to hand out to children who might struggle finding candy they can eat. Not only will you relieve some of the stress for parents, but you’ll make the night for a child who struggles celebrating Halloween that much sweeter.

3. Invite others to your house.
Sometimes, Halloween can be difficult to enjoy, depending on the neighborhood you live in. For example, some children aren’t able to trick or treat because of a particularly dangerous area they live in. Or, perhaps you know a senior citizen who would love to hand out candy, but no longer lives in a neighborhood with kids. Help everyone get in the spirit of the season by inviting others to your house who want to celebrate. Whether the kids can trick-or-treat safely or the senior citizen enjoys passing out treats, you can definitely brighten someone’s night.

4. Host a Halloween fundraiser.
If you’re into throwing parties, then consider hosting a Halloween fundraiser this week. Invite friends or family over for delicious food, spooky games and even a costume contest. Then, charge admission at the door with a small donation fee, can of food or clothing item. Everyone can have fun, and you can donate the proceeds to a worthy cause in your area. This simple trick is a great way to treat an organization you care about this season.

5. Give away old costumes.
Finally, as Halloween winds down at the end of the week, consider giving away your old costumes. Research nonprofit organizations and shelters in your area to see if they accept Halloween costumes for the children they serve. Or, check out national charities like Ween Dream, which collect old costumes and give them to families that wouldn’t be able to afford them otherwise. This simple gesture is the perfect way to make others feel valued and supported both now and for next Halloween.

Halloween is fun and festive holiday to celebrate, but it can often come with its own sets of challenges for those in need. If you want to live an altruistic lifestyle, take advantage of these top tricks so you can make others’ Halloween a real treat.

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Getting Kids Involved in Giving Back

You’ve probably heard it said before: “Children are the future.” The values and morals we instill in children while they are young will only continue to grow as they enter adulthood. This means that raising up children as respectful, responsible and altruistic people will help them to be respectful, responsible and altruistic adults. 

And what’s one of the most effective ways to instill good values and compassion in kids? Through giving back. Oftentimes when we think of volunteering or donating, we don’t consider children. However, kids are actually critical members of our community—particularly because they are the next generation of philanthropists. So, how can you encourage the children in your life to be active and volunteer with their community? We have some ideas for how to get kids involved in giving back.

1. Volunteer as a family.
One of the biggest things you can do to teach children the value of volunteering is leading by example. Oftentimes, children follow the examples set by adults in their lives. Therefore, if you want your child to give back, then show them how you give back by volunteering as a family. Some organizations will allow entire families to volunteer with them, or you can get creative and make up your own activity to do together. Not only will you enjoy family time together, but you will help instill the value of giving in your children from an early age.

2. Donate items together.
If you don’t have much time to volunteer, don’t worry. Donating new or gently used items is another great way to get your kids invested in their community. Go through their toys, old clothes or other items together and ask what they want to give to children less fortunate than them. Or, go shopping together to pick out a few new toys they can give away to someone else.  However you decide to donate, do it as a family so your kids will feel included and invested throughout the entire process.

3. Find a walk.
No matter what organization or cause you care about, there are plenty of fundraiser walks and runs your entire family can do together. Particularly during the fall season, there are lots of walks to join in to raise money for an important issue. Teach your child the value of fundraising by having them involved from the very beginning—signing up the team, raising money for the cause and walking the event. Walks are a simple, one-time event your whole family can join to make a difference.

4. Visit a home.
One place children are always welcome is at the local retirement or nursing home. Get connected with a home near you and invest in the residents by visiting with your children. Oftentimes, kids do a great job of cheering up the residents and inspiring new friendships. With consistent visits, you can even build relationships between the residents and your children. Check what organizations and homes are in your area and see how your whole family can get involved through visiting.

5. Send a package.
Finally, inspire your kids to get involved and give back through sending a care package. Build a package to send overseas, create a package to donate to a shelter or even put together a care package to give to the child’s teacher. Whatever type of package you create and whoever you give it to, have your children be as involved as possible. For instance, write letters to servicemen and women serving overseas. Or, have the kids draw pictures for other children in the hospital. By sending a package, your kids can be involved the entire time and truly feel like they helped brighten someone’s day.

Getting kids involved in giving back is a critical step in building up the future generation. Teach your children the value of altruism by trying out some of these ideas to help them get involved. Then, you can feel confident that they will grow into respectful, responsible and altruistic adult members of society.

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Bridle Paths and Brain Injury Group Equine Therapy Program

A wonderful partnership with Bridle Paths and Brain Injury Services (BIS) is emerging.  Bridle Paths, a nonprofit organization based in Leesburg, Virginia, offers strength, support and healing to individuals and families through safe, effective, and high-quality equine-assisted activities and therapies.  BIS Case Manager Iva Ward, MSW, CBIS, and Bridle Paths Founder and President Katie Fallon met at a Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce event and instantly connected.  Katie has been an equine-assisted activities professional for more than fifteen years, and Iva a case manager for three years. 

They began exploring what survivors’ needs might be for post-injury recovery, and developed a therapeutic equine curriculum focused on relationship, communication, and trust.   Katie notes, “There is a wide spectrum of outcomes for people experiencing a brain injury. We wanted to address the emotional aspect of the injury, recognizing that people’s relationships and connections change.”  

Why horses?  There are two reasons, shares Katie.  Horses are uniquely suited to helping participants address challenges.  Horses are prey animals, attuned to their environments and to nonverbal communication. They live and engage in a herd environment that offers safety and community.  Although difficult emotions can arise when working with horses – such as anxiety, distrust, and perhaps even fear – those emotions can be processed in a safe way when working with professional staff.  Participants can employ problem-solving skills to address issues relating to boundaries, relationships, leadership, and communication, and then can proceed to learning new skills, finding trust, and taking responsible risks with the horses.  These skills translate directly to experiences outside the barn environment, and enable participants to reconnect and relate with the world in a more authentic way.  

To date, Iva and Katie have hosted three groups through the eight-week program.  The groups, along with a staff member and volunteers, meet for two hours each week.The first few sessions starts with the group working on the ground with the horses.  Iva and Katie describe the program:

Groups of up to four participants (supported and facilitated by BIS and Bridle Paths staff and volunteers from the community) begin by working on the ground, learning about how to interact with, care for, and build relationships with individual horses. Through herd observations, hands-on grooming, and horse care activities, group participants address challenges related to sequencing, attention, and memory that often accompany brain injuries. A consistent framework and progression of skills, reinforced through directed individual and group activities on the ground each week, helps participants to enhance self-awareness, communication, and emotional regulation. The series culminates in mounted sessions, for those who are medically cleared to do so, during which participants draw upon the abilities and strengths that they cultivated in the program to prepare their horses and support one another in engaging in mounted activities.

Iva shares, “Our clients gain a massive sense of confidence.  It is rewarding for them to have something to give and to share. It is a safe environment to self-explore, and work on the social skills that have been impacted with the brain injury.”  Since program completion, one participant has landed a full-time job and several have signed up to volunteer for the program.

Earlier this year, this program received funding through the J. Field Foundation; the foundation’s namesake, Jennifer Field, is herself a brain injury survivor.  Funds were also received from the Community Foundation for Loudoun and Northern Fauquier Counties’ BENEFIT fund.  These funds help support group sessions. Iva notes, “Each session is a little different.  We work with the group to set goals and revisit the goals each time we meet.  It is a trusting and sharing environment and each person realizes success, growth and understanding.” Brain Injury Services plans to offer this program to adults a few times throughout the year.

Katie Fallon, Iva Ward, and brain injury survivor and group participant Su Meck will present their program at the upcoming Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International Conference and Annual Meeting in October.   For more information on the program and how you can support this effort, contact:  Iva Ward iward@braininjurysvcs.org.  For more information about equine assisted instruction and learning visit www.bridlepathsva.org.  

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6 Volunteering Ideas for October

Welcome to the month of October, where the crunchy leaves drift across the road and the faint smell of pumpkin spice drifts through the air. October tends to be a fan-favorite month. Whether it’s watching football games, heading out to the pumpkin patch or getting dressed up for Halloween, there are lots of fun, family-friendly activities to do during October. And of course, one thing you can always do is volunteer to give back in your community.

Sometimes, we want to volunteer, but aren’t quite sure where to start. Should you volunteer with an organization, or come up with a project on your own? The options are endless, and it can be daunting to figure out. But, there are plenty of ways to get involved in your community this month. To get you started, we came up with six spooky-fun volunteering ideas for October.

1. Help clean up the neighborhood.
Fall tends to bring seasonal changes that affect the neighborhood. Leaves fall, gardens start to freeze and plants start to get crisp in the cool air. Volunteer to give back this month by helping clean up the neighborhood. For instance, offer to help your elderly neighbor rake up leaves in the front yard; or, help clean up the community garden and prepare it for winter. By cleaning up the neighborhood, you can embrace the season and give back at the same time.

2. Run in a fundraiser race.
Many nonprofit organizations—both local and national—offer fundraiser races during the month of October or the fall months. Volunteer to give back by running in a race you enjoy. Raise money to support the cause you care about and engage your family and friends. Then, show your support by running. Even if you’re not a huge runner, these events are fun to be a part of—and you can always raise money without actually lacing up your shoes.

3. Host a “paint your own pumpkin.”
What’s the first thing you think of with the month of October? Pumpkins, of course! Get into the spirit of the month by hosting a paint (or carve) your own pumpkin event. For example, contact your local school or community center to see if they would like to put on a pumpkin event for the children. Then, invite friends and family to bring their kids—and their pumpkins—while you supply the paint or carving equipment. Add in a few drinks or snacks and you have a fun event the whole community can enjoy!

4. Volunteer with a haunted house.
Throughout the month of October, plenty of pumpkin patches and haunted houses look for team members to help them get the show running. While some of these members are employed, you can give back by volunteering to work with a haunted house or pumpkin patch. Help bring smiles—and maybe a few screams—to children in your area, all for just a few hours of volunteering. Whether you dress up as a scarer, serve hot chocolate or drive the hayrack ride, your volunteering commitment can definitely brighten someone’s day.

5. Serve at a local kitchen.
Of course, with October comes cooler weather, which can often drive people in need indoors to local shelters or soup kitchens. Give back and show you care by volunteering to serve at a local kitchen. This can be as simple as a few hours on one single day, or as complex as a weekly commitment. And with Thanksgiving just around the corner, this is a great way to consistently get involved in the community.

6. Trick or treat with a purpose.
With the end of October quickly approaching, we look forward to one of our favorite holidays—Halloween! Volunteer to trick or treat with a purpose this year by signing up to raise money for a cause you care about. Lots of organizations have trick-or-treat programs on Halloween, or you can create your own by raising money for something unique. You could even volunteer to trick or treat for children who aren’t able to go out on Halloween. No matter how you choose to give back, Halloween is a great time to get involved.

October is officially here, which means there are plenty of ways to give back and volunteer. Try out some of these ideas this month to show others you care and make a tangible difference in your community.

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Brain Injury Services Elects Former NFL Player to its Board of Directors

CONTACT:

Aleena Gardezi

703-451-8881

SPRINGFIELD, VA (September 27, 2018) — Brain Injury Services, Inc., (BIS) elected retired NFL Player Chris Carr to the Board of Directors on September 10, 2018.

Carr adopted brain injury as a public platform after retiring from the NFL. He hung up his cleats at age 30 with nine NFL seasons under his belt.  Concerns about head injuries, a major issue for the NFL, made the decision to step away easier. Carr, like other players, had heard talk about brain trauma from medical experts. He didn’t have a history of concussions, but he had been playing football since he was a child, which means he had taken a lot of hits.

“The average career in football is three years, three and a half years,” Mr. Carr said in an interview, “But when it comes to the rest of your life, when you retire at 30, you want to be able to do something that inspires you.”

“Brain Injury Services is in the business of relationships. It is the foundation by which we accomplish our core mission — helping survivors live their best lives” says Denise Hyater, executive director for Brain Injury Services. “Whether it is cultivating partnerships with programs and services for our survivors, forging a trusting rapport with our donors or engaging with corporate giving programs, the common thread is connecting over a shared purpose. And our relationship with Chris is an important part of moving our mission forward.”

In May 2017, Carr graduated from the George Washington University Law School. He is currently an attorney at Zeman and Petterson, PLLC in Falls Church, Va., with a focus on immigration. Chris and his wife Sarah live in Virginia with their three children.

About Brain Injury Services:

Brain Injury Services helps children and adults with a brain injury build the skills and confidence they need to lead a fulfilling and productive life. For over 26 years, Brain Injury Services has been repairing lives, recovering possibility and restoring hope by offering the community innovative programs and services that meet the needs of survivors of brain injuries and their families. Each year, Brain Injury Services assists over 600 individuals and families who have experienced the devastating effects of brain injury, stroke, and concussion. We provide this assistance through core programs, including case management, specialized programs, and multiple support groups. Our services extend throughout Northern Virginia, Fredericksburg, Winchester, and the surrounding counties. Find out more at braininjurysvcs.org at www.braininjurysvcs.org.

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How Reading Makes You a Better Person

You’ve heard it said time and time again before: reading matters. No matter who you are, a love for reading books is a valuable life skill. Books can transport us to other times and places, let us walk in someone else’s shoes and show us entirely new worlds we never could have imagined. And of course, if fictional books create new worlds, then nonfiction books explain the world we live in. 

No matter what genre or type of literature you love, you can always learn something new from a book. In fact, reading books can even make you a better person. Books are a valuable source of information, creativity and empathy. If you’re not a book lover now, you will be soon. Here’s how reading makes you a better person.

1. Reading improves cognitive intelligence.
You may know by now that reading makes you more intelligent. Not only does reading strengthen your vocabulary, but it can actually change certain parts of the brain and even activate other areas. One 2013 study conducted by Emory University found reading novels could rewire certain parts of the brain, producing biological changes which lasted for up to five days. This “rewiring” of the brain improves the reader’s cognitive intelligence. Although, the cognitive effects from reading are not permanent unless they are consistently refreshed through—you guessed it—more reading.

2. Reading strengthens your empathy.
Reading fiction can also play a critical role in strengthening your level of empathy for others and the world around you. Reading gives you an inside look into a character’s life, their experiences and emotions. This intimate access opens up your critical thinking capabilities and activates empathy sensors. One study published in 2013 by Science found reading literary fiction helps improve people’s “Theory of Mind” (ToM), or their ability to understand someone else’s different beliefs and feelings. This makes you more aware and sensitive to others’ struggles, their cultures and their customs, causing you to be more forgiving and nurturing than before.

3. Reading improves your happiness.
This might come as a surprise, but reading can also improve your happiness with yourself and life. Researcher Josie Billington at the University of Liverpool shared a study in 2015 when she surveyed 4,164 adults, and found interesting contrasts between people who read regularly and those who didn’t. Consistent readers reported feeling less stressed and less depressed, with higher self-esteem levels and a greater ability to cope with challenges. Compared to non-readers, they also showed higher results in close friendships and community connections, with a stronger awareness for social issues and cultural diversity. All of this resulted in a stark difference between the happiness levels for consistent readers and their non-reader counterparts.

4. Reading protects your memory.
Brain-boosting activities like reading can also protect your memory, both short- and long-term. A 2013 study conducted by Rush University Medical Center in Chicago discovered consistent readers tend to show fewer signs of memory loss as they age. In the study, researchers conducted memory and thinking tests on 294 people during the last six years of their lives. After participants’’ deaths, they performed autopsies to look for signs of dementia. Researchers then discovered that participants who were avid, lifelong readers, showed 32% lower rates for memory decline at the end of their lives. Turns out, you can add a significant benefit to your life just by picking up a book.

There’s no doubt about it: reading improves wellbeing and can make you a better person. If you haven’t picked up a book in awhile, now might be the perfect time to do so. Try to incorporate more reading throughout your life and see how you can grow and influence others through it.