I read this article http://www.cnn.com/2014/11/18/world/2014-cnn-hero-of-the-year-pen-farthing/index.html?hpt=hp_c2 this morning and tears just started streaming down my face. Here's my idea . . . we all have enough stuff. So rather than buy another gift for someone that doesn't need anything, and you know they don't need anything because it was really hard to figure out what to give them in the first place. Instead pick one of the organizations below and donate on behalf of your gift recipient. The CNN hero of 2014 is a man named Pen Farthing. He reunites soldiers with pets they have bonded with during their tour of duty. For whatever reason this organization touched me. I watched a show on soldiers in Afghanistan the other night. It's desolate there and scary, and to think the soldiers have a friend to go home to a night, to feed, to pet and buddy up with is special. And then to think someone is working to bring these soldiers pets back to them when they finish their tour of duty. It touched my heart, and that ain't easy! Here are the rest of the heros of the year.
Arthur Bloom: How the healing power of music helps wounded warriors Arthur Bloom has used the healing power of music to help hundreds of injured soldiers recover their lives. His program, MusiCorps, pairs professional musicians with troops recovering at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, helping them play instruments and write and record music. "By injecting music into this space, we can inject life," Bloom said. "There's nothing injured about the way they do it. It's just good music."
Jon Burns: Turning soccer fans into an army for good Jon Burns is rallying fellow soccer fans to help children from poor communities in cities hosting the World Cup and other major tournaments. Since 2006, his nonprofit, Lionsraw, has engaged more than 500 volunteers in construction projects and educational programs that have benefited nearly 6,000 children. "We're trying to harness the passion of football fans to make a difference," he said.
Pen Farthing: Reuniting soldiers with dogs they left behind Pen Farthing, a former Royal Marine sergeant, is reuniting soldiers with the stray dogs they befriend while serving in Afghanistan. His nonprofit, Nowzad Dogs -- named for the stray Farthing rescued during his tour -- has helped more than 700 soldiers from eight countries. "My connection with Afghanistan stayed alive because of Nowzad," Farthing said. "To be able to get that animal home to them, it closes the loop."
Rabbi Elimelech Goldberg: Helping kids kick the pain and fear out of cancer Rabbi Elimelech Goldberg lost his 2-year-old daughter to leukemia in 1981. Today, his nonprofit, Kids Kicking Cancer, uses martial arts to help children battling serious illnesses manage pain during medical treatments. The group has provided free lessons and support for 5,000 children and their families. "They're often so afraid," Goldberg said. "We teach kids how to control their pain and make them feel powerful."
Leela Hazzah: Transforming lion killers into 'Lion Guardians' Leela Hazzah has dedicated her life to lion conservation. In 2007, she started Lion Guardians, a nonprofit that works with African Maasai warriors to protect lions. The group now employs more than 70 Lion Guardians throughout East Africa and has helped the lion population grow. "I know we're making a difference," Hazzah said. "When I first moved here, I never heard lions roaring. But now I hear lions roaring all the time."
Patricia Kelly: Cowgirl uses horses to motivate at-risk kids Patricia Kelly is using horses to motivate at-risk children in Hartford, Connecticut. Her nonprofit, Ebony Horsewomen, provides horseback riding lessons and teaches animal science to more than 300 young people a year. "We use horses as a hook to create pride, esteem and healing," said Kelly. "They learn that they have ability. They just have to unlock it."
Annette March-Grier: Helping Baltimore's grieving kids heal Annette March-Grier grew up in her family's funeral home. After her mother's death, she created Roberta's House, a nonprofit in Baltimore that helps children and their families cope with grief. Since 2008, more than 1,000 children have benefited from the group's free programs. "We're giving families in this city a sense of hope," she said. "We're helping to heal wounds and bring families back together again."
Ned Norton: Fitness buff helps disabled find 'strength' For the last 25 years, Ned Norton has provided strength and conditioning training to people living with a variety of disabilities. He now trains more than 120 people every week through his nonprofit, Warriors on Wheels. "I'm building them up, building them stronger, so they can go out and live life like they're supposed to." Norton said.
Juan Pablo Romero Fuentes: Building a brighter future for Guatemala's kids Amid the violence in his native Guatemala, Juan Pablo Romero Fuentes turned his family's home into a haven for young people. Since 2006, his nonprofit, Los Patojos (the Little Ones), has provided educational opportunities and support to more than 1,000 children. I want to inspire these kids," he said. "They are the ones in charge of writing the new history in Guatemala."
Dr. Wendy Ross: Taking autistic kids out to a ball game Dr. Wendy Ross is opening new worlds to autistic children and their families. Since 2010, her nonprofit, Autism Inclusion Resources, has helped hundreds of families navigate challenging social situations, such as sporting events and airport travel. "If you start taking steps outside of your door, your world gets bigger and bigger," said Ross. "We just want people to have opportunities."