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My first on air experience raising funds for the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation at age 15.

I was 8 years old when my Uncle Jeffrey lost his battle with Cystic Fibrosis. His life was cut short at age 27 but characterized by courage, determination and impressive accomplishments including graduating from Dentistry School.

After his passing, my parents became active in preserving his memory through a myriad of fundraising efforts. From radio-thons to walk-a-thons, holiday wrapping to auctions, so began my early exposure to loss and to opportunities for effecting change.

Looking back, I now know that the role I played and the contributions I made even at that tender age were as impactful as those of the adults I was surrounded by.
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My girls and I doing hands on volunteer work washing vegetables at a community centre.

Philanthropy is a big word and one usually reserved for the adult domain. We can call it many things to make it sounds more universal: giving back, helping others, repairing the world, playing a part, but ultimately philanthropy belongs to everyone, young and old.

And if our role as parents wasn’t broad enough already, “raising charitable children” is a key one to add to the list.

There is so much our children can do to change the world and to secure their future that we should not underestimate the value of youth and philanthropy and the tremendous impact it can have on the ‘adults’ we are raising.

Why Should Children Be Taught Philanthropy?

In addition to helping those in need, evidence shows that getting children involved in philanthropy has positive effects for the child, their families and society. It might also be the key to helping your children be happier, smarter, and more successful! According to developmental psychologists, children who perform acts of kindness experience increased well-being, popularity, and acceptance among peers.  This leads to better classroom behaviour and higher academic achievement. Now what parent doesn’t like the sound of that?

How Do We Teach Children About Philanthropy?

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My daughter all smiles raising $300 for the Montreal Children’s Hospital from her ECHOage birthday party and getting a new bike!

One of my favourite examples comes from a grandmother of three who when asked what she wanted for her birthday, told her grandchildren to “do something for someone else, draw a picture of what you did, and then tell me the story.” That’s how it all starts, simple and close to home!

Teaching children how to treat others and how to give of themselves is one of the most important things we may ever do as parents.

A few, small, tangible ideas, put into action early on in life, can really set the stage for a more charitably spirited and rewarding future.

  1. Start Small

Baby steps lead the way to giant strides! Ask your kids to do something small and kind hearted. Make a card for a loved one stating 3 reasons why they are so special.

  1. Lead By Example

Giving starts first thing in the morning. I always feel good when I give what I can to help my child’s day start with a smile. Giving to them encourages giving to others.

  1. Make Giving Imaginative

Kids are motivated by fun. Suggest they go through their gently used clothes and include a special note or wish for the child who will receive them. Personalizing the process can make it feel special and have greater impact.

  1. Watch and Learn Together

There are many inspiring videos on the web about young leaders in action. Watch them together and explore the topic of giving. Ask your child to image being a “giving” star in their own video and how they would make the world a better place.

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Encourage kids to donate a small portion of their allowance. This helps open up the dialogue about giving and establishes it as an important part of their life.

There are many wonderful ways to bring giving experiences into your life and those of your children. Volunteer together at a local food bank (check out my girls washing celery!), get involved in a fundraiser, host an ECHOage party and incorporate giving into a celebration or check out websites like mygivingmoment.ca for ideas on how Canadians give back in their communities.

What Do Children Take Away From Giving?

Whether individual or family-driven, children benefit big time from giving! They learn about worlds beyond their own experience.

They learn about tolerance and empathy. They build confidence in research, public speaking, fundraising, organizational and entrepreneurial skills – which they’ll need even if they are planning a lemonade stand! It is through these early experiences that they can also start to define the changes they would like to see in the world. Last I checked more change-makers are what we need!

How Can We Balance Living and Giving When It Comes to Kids?

We all enjoy doing things for our children – buying them something special, taking them on fun outings, throwing a great birthday party. But at the same time, many of us fear that without some balance, children may grow up thinking only of themselves.

How many times have we heard complaints or felt that children have too many things and don’t appreciate any of it?

All it takes is a small shift. Whether you have a little time or money or have a lot of both, you can absolutely make a difference in your child’s life by helping to instill cherished values, and possibly creating a new family tradition or two. There are endless approaches to raising charitable children. It is clear, however, that kicking this off at a young age and close to home will have positive flow on effects for the world in which these children live and give.

-Bonnie Levine

DSC_0583About Bonnie Levine:

Creating opportunities to inspire her children to be charitable has been a constant and something Bonnie was exposed to at a young age. This interest continued through her work in the healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors in a variety of business and management capacities. Bonnie is thrilled to be able to leverage her business consulting and communications background to help launch ECHOage (www.echoage.com) across new Canadian markets and to play a role in fostering kindness and generosity among the next generation.


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