causes & charities
For seven days in July, I and eleven other dads hiked 90+ miles along England’s historic Hadrian’s Wall. We walked to fund a camp for kids whose parents had been touched by cancer. We walked to honor our friend Oren Miller, who had died of cancer the year prior – and for whom the camp would be named. We walked for those in our own lives impacted by the disease, including several in our group. But we also walked for ourselves.
The experience was exhilarating and exhausting, thrilling and tedious; breathtaking — both literally and figuratively. It was the undisputed apex of my year, and near the top of any other.
Until now, I’d only shared about the walk on social media. Life and all its complications — and my perfectionist tendencies — kept me from documenting it properly here.
But in light of the announcement that the University of Maryland Camp Kesem will officially come to be this fall, I thought it high time I collected my thoughts, memories, and images from that life-changing week in a more permanent fashion.
I still haven’t decided if this can be done in one post or seven (or something in between), so bear with me as I return to the rolling hills of Northern England and allow this epic outing to re-unfold.
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Imagine yourself a kid at summer camp.
Perhaps it calls to mind bunk beds with flimsy mattresses. Potato sack races and three-legged races and racing around at dusk playing hide-and-seek. Scratching mosquito bites, catching fireflies, watching sparks swirl up from a fire into the night sky. A night sky so black and stars so bright, it’s like you’d never seen them before. An escape from school and parents and all the baggage that entails; a chance to be on your own, yet surrounded by others in the same, wonderfully wobbly paddleboat called childhood.
Now imagine one of your parents has cancer. Perhaps they’re in remission, or they’re enduring chemotherapy; or maybe they lost their battle and now you’re a teenager (or preteen, or younger) without a parent.
A friend recently asked if I was going to the Pride festivities in DC this year. And for the first time in nearly 20 years, not only was I not going — it had completely slipped my mind.
I came out as gay my first year in DC, and Pride has been an important part of my history ever since. I’ve braved the crowds as a newly single man, sung with the Gay Men’s Chorus from the main stage, took my brother to his first Pride as an out gay man, and marched in the parade with my husband and son, dressed as superheroes. DC Pride also falls near my birthday — often on the very day, as it did again this year.
But the weekend was already booked solid with decidedly non-gay activities, chores, and other familial stuff long before my friend’s reminder. On Friday night — as younger LGBTs were disco-napping and float-building — I was corralling my son into bed and mentally reviewing the weekend’s busy schedule, when I was inspired to create this graphic:
I posted it on Facebook Saturday morning, with this caption:
So how do LGBT parents celebrate gay pride? Well, for this gay dad, mimosas are replaced by juice boxes; Dykes on Bikes give way to tykes on trikes; shirtless go-go boys become toddlers streaking thru the sprinkler. And the only drag is us dragging our tired bodies to bed well before midnight.
Our hair may be grayer, but our lives couldn’t be any more colorful!
I don’t do a lot of memes, but I was feeling a bit out of the loop, and this made me feel a bit more Pride-y. By the reactions I got from many of my LGBT parent friends and readers, it rang true with them as well.
The “fallout” from the boycott of American Girl just keeps getting sweeter. In November, right-wing fringe group One Million Moms called for a boycott against the American Girl company for featuring an 11-year-old girl with two fathers in their magazine. As Amaya and her dads are friends of our family, it frustrated and saddened me to see them attacked. However, the controversy gave the family an amazing platform to share their story and the amazing work they do through their charity, Comfort Cases. In an ironic twist, the flurry of media coverage resulted in a banner year for Comfort Cases, with a 65% increase in goods delivered to children in the foster care system, and a 300% increase in donations.
So how could it get any sweeter than that?
Dads Rob and Reece, Amaya, and her three brothers were recently honored at Family Equality Council’s 2016 Impact Awards! The family was flown cross country to LA, where they got to walk the red carpet, hob-knob with celebs, and be recognized for their advocacy, their generosity, and for being such an inspiration to us all.
For both Rob and Reece, the most memorable part of the evening were the two standing ovations the family received from the crowd of over 500 celebrities, corporate sponsors, and activist. They were the only ovations of the night!
I was invited to the White House recently, and initially I had no idea why. That’s not to say I wasn’t thrilled to receive the invitation. I’ve lived in DC for 20 years, and while I’ve toured the West Wing and attended the Easter Egg Roll, I’d never been to an official event there. I’d never been inside – not really.
And this was about as “inside” as you could get. The invitation read: First Lady Michelle Obama invites you to a conversation about the health of our nation’s kids…
This was part of the First Lady’s Let’s Move initiative. You know, the one trying to get kids to eat healthier and exercise more. Now obviously I want my kid (and all kids) to be healthy, but had they not read my recent post, 19 Things My Kid Has Eaten Since He Last Had a Vegetable? Had they not seen photos of me? They had clearly slacked off in their vetting process.
So there I was, the overweight dad of an under-vegetabled kid, summoned to 1600 Penn to talk about fitness and nutrition. Not one to look a gift house in the portico, I excitedly RSVPed in the affirmative — all the while questioning my inclusion in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
One year ago today I lost my friend Oren Miller, and the absence of his voice and his friendship is still as profound.
I think of him often, particularly of his “Cancer” post, which not only announced the diagnosis of the disease that would eventually take his life, but also recalled a moment years earlier when he chose to step back into life and be present.
If you’ve never read it, please take a few minutes and do so, now. If you have read it before, read it again.
I think of him often, particularly when I’m feeling out of my element, unengaged, not taking life in as it comes to me. Oren’s epiphany of choosing to be involved in his own life resonated so deeply, and has continued its echo throughout the 365 days since his last.
Think for a moment about the last year of your life. Scroll back through your mental calendar, and consider the holidays, the birthdays, the everyday. Where you were, what you experienced, who you were with. The times you beamed with pride, fell in love all over again, cuddled during story time. And the times you shouted too loudly, held grudges too closely, cursed your job or the lack of one. Think about the losses you’ve suffered and the things you’ve gained.
Earlier this month I shared the story of 11-year-old Amaya, featured in the most recent issue of American Girl magazine, chosen from among thousands of submissions because of her inspiring story. Part of her story is that she and her brothers were adopted from the foster care system by two loving parents, both of whom are men.
This ruffled the right-wing feathers of One Million Moms, who called for a boycott of American Girl Doll and parent company Mattel over this supposed furthering of the Gay Agenda. From One Million Moms’ web site:
“The magazine… could have chosen another child to write about and remained neutral in the culture war.”
Yet One Million Moms were fighting a one-sided war, as their boycott all but backfired. Due to the group’s homophobia, the story gained momentum and went viral. Amaya, her family, and American Girl were discussed, interviewed, and featured in an endless number of publications and news outlets, among them local Fox and NBC affiliates, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Yahoo, ABC News, Good Housekeeping, Upworthy, Slate, Perez Hilton, and The View. Even Ellen DeGeneres posted in support of the family on her show’s Facebook page.
The other part of Amaya’s story is Comfort Cases — the charity co-founded by one of her dads — and its work supporting foster kids. As a result of the boycott and the related coverage, Comfort Cases is ending 2015 on a very, very good note.
THE BACKFIRED BOYCOTT, BY THE NUMBERS:
• Comfort Cases held its annual Holiday Packing Party on November 21, assembling 500 more cases than the previous year, a 70% increase.
• The total number of cases collected and distributed in 2015 topped 10,000 — 4,000 more than 2014, and an increase of 65%.
• With contributions coming in from all over the world, monetary donations to Comfort Cases will triple what they were in 2014. That’s 300%, folks.
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As National Adoption Month comes to a close and we enter the holiday season, please consider making a contribution to Comfort Cases or a similar organization in your area. Let’s keep showing those that boycott, fear or hate, that family, respect and love always win.
Five years ago today, a young girl named Amaya was legally adopted by her foster parents.
Two weeks ago, Amaya was featured in American Girl magazine. In her own words she shared the story of coming from the foster care system, becoming part of her permanent family, as well as the charity work she and her parents do in support of other foster kids.
Not long after the magazine was published, right-wing watchdogs One Million Moms called for a boycott of American Girl Doll and their magazine, warning parents against exposing their daughters to such a family.
And such a family it is.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, and A.C. Moore Arts & Crafts is sponsoring a campaign to raise both awareness and funds for breast cancer research. And to see how many of you are tough enough to wear a tutu.
As you can see, this challenge is not a huge stretch for me. However, as a tutu-wearing advocate, I want to encourage as many of you as possible to participate in this fun way to give a little — a way that doesn’t involve getting doused in a bucket of ice water.
And when you think about it, wearing a tutu (or doing a walk or giving money) involves very little bravery when compared to those living with and fighting breast cancer. I’ll wager there are very few people who read this who haven’t been affected by breast cancer, whether it’s a family member, friend, coworker, or yourself.
HOW TO PARTICIPATE:
1. Take a photo of yourself in a tutu.
Don’t have one lying around? Head to your closest A.C. Moore, where they sell a tutu-making kit, just for this occasion! For you crafty types, you can make your own using this short tutorial from A.C. Moore’s web site.
2. Share the photo on social media with #Not2Tough2Tutu.
And if you knew my late friend Oren, add a #Dads4Oren to it, too. While Oren didn’t have breast cancer, he had it pretty much everywhere else — and his life and death continue to motivate me to get more involved, to give back, and to live life to the fullest.
3. Tag 3 friends to join the challenge.
Call them out. Triple-dog-dare them. Throw down the frilly, tulle gauntlet. It can be anyone — man, woman or child. Big, hairy dudes are of course the funniest, but please don’t limit yourself to that.
HOW THIS MAKES A DIFFERENCE:
In addition to putting a smile (or a giggle) on everyone’s face who sees it, for every post on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, the AC Moore Foundation will donate $1 to the American Cancer Society.
As an added bonus, I’m matching that by donating an additional $1 for every social media post that also tags me. (DesignerDaddy on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) If you don’t have the time or inclination to don a tutu, please consider making a donation to the American Cancer Society anyway.
Got questions? Shoot me a message, leave a comment, or check out the official press release from A.C. Moore. It also explains their inspiration and motivation for the #Not2Tough2Tutu campaign.
And finally, here’s the original challenge video, from A.C. Moore’s CEO (and fellow fat, hairy dude), Pepe Piperno:
#Not2Tough2TutuOur CEO Pepe Piperno is #Not2Tough2Tutu, are you? A.C. Moore will donate $1, up to $25,000, to American Cancer Society Making Strides Against Breast Cancer for every picture we see. So put on the tutu, post a pic, use the hashtag, and prove you aren’t too tough to tutu!
Posted by A.C. Moore on Thursday, October 1, 2015
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To learn more about the American Cancer Society, or to make a donation directly, visit Cancer.org.
Everyone knows that The Gays love to shop. OK, maybe not all gays, but certainly a healthy percentage do. Stereotypes carry a measure of truth, after all.
Gay dads are no different. We still spend a lot of money on clothes, appliances and travel, it’s just that those clothes are now Onesies, the appliances are now Diaper Genies, and the travel is now to Disney World.
And just like the rest of the modern world, we do a ton of shopping on Amazon.
I’ve long been a subscriber to Amazon Prime, their frequent-shopper discount program. Then when Papa and I started stocking up for impending parenthood, Amazon began sending us emails and peppering us with ads about their family-focused program, Amazon Mom.
Being a two-dad family, it was a little annoying to see yet one more thing that made us feel invisible. However, we were still jumping through hoops to complete our adoption, and advocating in our home state to legalize same-sex marriage. We had more important battles to wage.