causes + charities

The Long Road to Camp Kesem at the University of Maryland

August 27, 2018 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, MAKING MEMORIES

It was one week, more than three years in the making. At long last, Camp Kesem at the University of Maryland was a reality.

The campsite was set on a tiny peninsula in southern Maryland, where the Potomac feeds into the Chesapeake. It looked like any other summer camp — bunk houses surrounded picnic tables beneath a giant oak; paddles and canoes stacked alongside a murky, green river; a swimming pool, a mess hall, a fire pit. But this camp was unique. It had a history; a tragic yet inspiring origin story. Created by the literal blood, sweat, and tears of a family, a community, and a university.

To tell the full tale would require more words than a single blog post warrants. However, if you’ve known me or this site for any length of time, you’re probably familiar. All you really need to know is that a loving father named Oren lost his life to cancer; this inspired 12 other fathers to hike across Northern England to raise money for a camp in his honor. This is that camp.

As with every Kesem chapter, the campers are kids whose parents have been touched by cancer — whether a survivor, in treatment, or victim. Yet much more than “cancer camp,” I’ve attempted to do it justice with a few pictures and a smattering of words.
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CAMP KESEM, IN PICTURES
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Camp Kesem at the University of Maryland

The day before camp, I attended the staff’s final training session to share about Oren, Dads4Kesem, and the ways this camp is special to so many. They cheered when I told them Oren’s children would be attending.

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Gay Dads (Us!) Featured in ACLU Voter Video

August 16, 2018 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, LGBT STUFF

aclu voter video

Our family is featured in a new spot for the ACLU! We were excited and honored to share our story with an organization we’ve long admired for their commitment to social justice. Along with Jon, Papa and I, the two-minute ACLU Voter video highlights several other families … and several examples of why it’s more important than ever to make our voices heard through voting.

Check it out…

Racial justice, travel bans, disability rights, reproductive freedom, immigration, LGBTQ rights — all of these issues have been through an upheaval under the Trump administration. And as mid-term elections loom across the country, they are in further danger .

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Amplifying the Young Voices of March for Our Lives

March 29, 2018 | By Brent Almond | LESSONS LEARNED

and On March 24, 2018, hundreds of thousands of people attended March for Our Lives — a protest and call to action held in hundreds of cities in every state across the U.S. Yet even more amazing than the massive crowds were the many young speakers raising their voices in frustration, fear, anger, and mourning.

They voiced their frustration at the lack of any real change to America’s gun laws in the last decade. They voiced the fear they experienced at school or in their neighborhoods as they were terrorized at gunpoint. They voiced their anger at the NRA and its influence over Congress, local legislators, and gun owners in general. And they voiced their sorrow — mourning siblings, cousins, classmates, teachers, friends and neighbors whose lives were — and continue to be — cut short by a culture of unfettered gun violence.

Yet with all of this against them, they spoke out — bravely, with purpose, and with hope.

On February 14, 2018, the latest (at this writing) mass shooting occurred in Parkland, Florida. Seventeen people were murdered at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, fourteen of them students. As there’s not much new I can add to the conversation, I thought the best way to honor the silenced students was to amplify the same number of young voices from March for Our Lives.

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EMMA GONZÁLEZ – 17, Parkland FL
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Students rally for gun control at March for Our Lives

Watch Emma’s entire speech to get the full effect of her message. And then please (PLEASE) leave a positive comment on YouTube to counter the avalanche of hatred she’s enduring.


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Gay Men, #MeToo, and Contributing to Toxic Masculinity

January 2, 2018 | By Brent Almond | LESSONS LEARNED, LGBT STUFF

The latter part of 2017 saw an endless parade of powerful men exposed for predatory behavior. As we enter the new year, I wanted to share some #MeToo stories that had an impact on me. At one point I thought this wouldn’t be timely any longer, but quickly realized what a weak (and completely inaccurate) reason that is for not joining the conversation. It’s never too late to examine how I’ve played a part in our culture of misogyny and abuse; never too late to explore how I can do better; and never too late to amplify the voices of the women who’ve shared their stories… and the countless more who haven’t.

Gay Men, #MeToo, and Toxic Masculinity

For a long time, I’ve considered myself an advocate for women. I’m very much for a woman’s right to choose; I cheer when women excel in areas historically dominated by men; I’ve raised my son on female superheroes and discouraged gender-bias in toys, media, occupations, and the like. Hell, I even attended a conference at the White House on women and girls, marched in the Women’s March, and voted for Hillary — twice.

Plus I’m gay, which grants me Automatic Ally status, right? Seeing as I’m not a sexual threat to women, how could I possibly be a misogynist? How could I be part of the problem?
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Give Your Kids the Gift of Teaching Them About Racism

November 27, 2017 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, LESSONS LEARNED
Safety Pin Box - Racism

© Safety Pin Box LLC

For a long time, I prided myself on being a good dad when it came to teaching my son about race. But I’ve fallen short; and in all likelihood, so have most white parents.

I think back to when Jon was little, and how we didn’t use the words “Black” or “white” when referring to race; instead using “brown” and “peach” to indicate skin color. And whenever he would tell me about a new friend or teacher, I’d do this uptight, liberal, word-twist thing where I’d ask him to describe the person using everything but their skin color. And I’ll admit to still feeling a bit of pride every time my eight-year-old makes a non-white friend.

All of these may seem good-hearted or complimentary, but all they accomplish is centering me and my white child; not really teaching either of us anything about racism. I thought that if I avoided the terms “Black” and “white,” I’d somehow avoid exposing my child to the scariness of racism. Yet all I’ve done is dilute its true impact on people of color.

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Meet A Drag Queen (or Two) at Comfort Cases Fundraiser!

November 15, 2017 | By Brent Almond | LGBT STUFF, POP CULTURE

If you’ve read this blog for any amount of time, you know Comfort Cases is one of my all-time favorite organizations. Founded by my dear friend Rob Scheer, Comfort Cases provides overnight cases and other personal items to kids in the foster care system. The charity was inspired by the fact that Rob, his own four children, and millions of other kids arrive at foster homes with very few belongings, typically stuffed into garbage bags. #NoMoreTrashBags

Comfort Cases Fundraiser

This Thanksgiving weekend, Comfort Cases is helping boost spirits (and hoping to raise LOTS of money) with an AMAZING drag show featuring two of the sparkling stars of RuPaul’s Drag RaceMrs. Kasha Davis and Tatianna!

THE DEETS:

Saturday, November 25 at Town Danceboutique. Doors open at 7pm. Tickets are $50 a person, and all proceeds benefit Comfort Cases. This is a 21 and over event. All tickets are general admission, so seating is first come, first served. Drag show virgins: BRING DOLLAR BILLS, Y’ALL (Here’s more helpful drag show tips)

Look, I know this is Thanksgiving weekend and all, but can you think of any better counter-programming to ALL THE DAMN FOOTBALL than this?!? Leave the dude-bros to their sportsball, grab your favorite girlfriends/boyfriends, and head to Town to raise a ruckus and some money for a great cause!

EXCLUSIVE DESIGNER DADDY BONUS PERK:

I’m giving away a Meet & Greet/Photo Op with Mrs. Kasha Davis & Tatianna to one lucky reader and a friend!

How to win:
  BUY YOUR TICKET (GO HERE. NOW.)
  Come back to this post (or Facebook, Twitter, and wherever else I share this), and leave a comment telling me what you’re most thankful for.
  Cross your fingers, snatch a four-leaf clover, kick a black cat out of the way, and hope you win!

Only one entry, per social media platform, per person. Winner will be notified by Friday, November 24. If you don’t show up, I will hunt you down and force-feed you an entire turducken.

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Transgender Crisis: How You Can Help

August 7, 2017 | By Brent Almond | LGBT STUFF

AN EPIDEMIC OF HATE

In 2015, nineteen transgender people were murdered in the United States. The following year, that number rose to 26, an all-time high. In 2017 there have already been 26 trans people murdered, the vast majority of them women of color.

The map below illustrates that these brutal killings occur in every region of the U.S. (23 states + DC). And bear in mind these statistics include only documented murders. Also missing are the countless acts of rape and assault against transgender people.

trans murders in the united states

Click map to enlarge. Data source: Wikipedia (updated 11/20/2017)

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Dads4Kesem Day 1: Beginning

July 11, 2017 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, MAKING MEMORIES

For seven days, I and eleven other dads hiked more than 90 miles along England’s historic Hadrian’s Wall. Complications of life (and perfectionist tendencies) kept me from writing about it at the time. Here, now, are some thoughts and images from that life-changing week.

Dads4Kesem Day 1: Beginning

07.10.16, DAY 1: Bowness-on-Solway to Carlisle – 17 miles

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Today it’s actually happening.
I’m trying to figure out the pay-by-the-minute shower, packing up all my gear, guzzling some caffeine to make up for a restless night’s sleep. As someone who’s inherently aware of their shortcomings — especially when it comes to anything physical — I double and triple check what I’ve stuffed into my backpack, trying to imagine every scenario possible. I will come to learn along the way what I need more of (water, foot bandages), and of what I need less (pretty much everything else); but this first day I was flying blind.

Last night at the lone pub in town, we chatted over dinner and beers with a grandfather and grandson who had just completed the walk. Having traveled from the opposite direction, they advised wearing long pants for the several patches of nettles, and to be prepared for lots of diversions.

“Diversion” is British for “detour” — a word with which we would become intimately, frequently acquainted.

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Comfort Cases Gay Dads Meet Ellen

June 7, 2017 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, LGBT STUFF

“Their story is one of the reasons I love my job.”

– Ellen

A couple of my favorite gay dads (and favorite people in general) recently appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show to talk about one of my favorite charities, Comfort Cases. I got some behind-the-scenes scoop on the experience from this amazing family I’m privileged to call friends.

The latest adventures of Rob and Reece Scheer & family found them being contacted by Ellen’s people back in February. They had seen the video produced by Upworthy, which at that point had over 11 million views. (It currently has over 83 million.) Inspired by the Scheer’s story and Comfort Cases mission, Ellen asked them to be on her show.

The interview happened back in March, but Ellen was so moved by the Scheers, that she decided to produce an original video segment to accompany their appearance on her show. If you haven’t watched the video yet, scroll up and do it now to avoid any spoilers! 🙂

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Celebrating Oren, Camp Kesem & Brotherhood at the Iris Awards

May 23, 2017 | By Brent Almond | MAKING MEMORIES

Iris Awards

I’m continuously amazed at the evolution of Oren Miller’s legacy. Last summer’s walk along Hadrian’s Wall (to open a camp in Oren’s name) recently received recognition at the 2017 Iris Awards. Winning in the Philanthropic Work of the Year category, now even more people are aware of Oren, Camp Kesem, and the cause to support families touched by cancer.

The Iris Awards are given out at a swanky ceremony held in conjunction with the Mom 2.0 Summit. Nominees and voters are from within the parent blogging community, so it’s particularly meaningful to receive kudos from dear friends and respected colleagues.

But it was also pretty amazing being honored alongside the 12 men I now consider my brothers. Being able to celebrate with them only amplified my excitement, as well as my pride in our achievement of walking nearly 100 miles and raising over $40,000.

Iris Awards

Check out the video of our award being announced (and of me speaking), beginning at the 24-minute mark.

And the story has chapters yet to be written. The Camp Kesem started in Oren’s name at the University of Maryland is training counselors this fall, and will hold its first summer camp next year. You can bet I will be there, cutting a ribbon or rowing a kayak or whatever I can to celebrate my friend, his life, and the hope and strength for kids affected by their parents’ cancer.

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