Charity Logo

Charity Logo

Charity of the Month


In December I am riding for Heifer International. Founded in 1944, Heifer International works with communities around the world to end hunger and poverty and to care for the Earth. Its approach is more than a handout. Heifer provides animals (e.g., heifers, goats, water buffalos, chickens, rabbits, fish, and bees) and training to impoverished people in over 30 countries. The animals can give milk, meat, or eggs; provide draft power; or form the basis of a small business. Communities make their own decisions about what crops, animals, and market strategies make sense for their everyday conditions and experiences.

Heifer International is based on 12 Cornerstones, such as Sustainability; Genuine Need and Justice; and Gender and Family Focus. Perhaps the best known Cornerstone is Passing on the Gift, in which Heifer recipient families pass on the offspring of their animals to others in need. In this way, whole communities can raise their standard of living.

A donation to Heifer International also can make a wonderful alternative holiday gift. Instead of yet another sweater for Grandma that she really doesn’t need, why not donate a Heifer animal or a share of an animal in her honor? Does your child really need so many new toys? Instead of five new toys, give him/her three new toys and a Heifer flock of chicks. Heifer has honor cards to let your loved ones know of your gift on their behalf.

I have set up a Team Heifer page to support Heifer International through A Year of Centuries. My goal is to raise $500. Please make your donation through If you would like more information about Heifer’s work, please visit Whether you give to honor a loved one or make a regular donation, thank you for taking steps to transform the world for the better.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

MATHCOUNTS Coordinator Convention

The last several days were quite a treat.  I got to go to the MATHCOUNTS Coordinator Convention, the first such event in this wonderful program’s 31-year history.  Representatives from all 50 states plus the Virgin Islands met in Chicago to learn how MATHCOUNTS is getting even better.  (As a reminder, MATHCOUNTS is my February charity in A Year of Centuries.)

What is MATHCOUNTS?  MATHCOUNTS started out primarily as a math competition program for middle school students.  Although the coaching materials certainly can be used in the regular classroom, in reality it’s mainly been the brightest math students who have taken part in the competition series.  In more recent years, MATHCOUNTS has begun offering two other programs that have broader appeal: the National Math Club and the Math Video Challenge.  These two newer programs strengthen the math skills of students who might feel more comfortable with English, drama, or other subjects.  Over the last 18 months, the national MATHCOUNTS office has put a lot of effort into capturing its mission in a succinct yet complete description.  The staff presented this description to us coordinators, and it’s brilliant: MATHCOUNTS is an organization that helps students who love math and those who fear math.

The MATHCOUNTS staff did an outstanding job of providing gobs of information in a relatively short amount of time, and they did it in such a fun way.  For example, on Friday afternoon we had round robin pod sessions.  Everyone was divided into groups that rotated between four stations for 15-minute presentations about four MATHCOUNTS topics.  We received passports that were punched with a unique stamp at each station.  It was kind of like a MATHCOUNTS adventure race:

Later, the punched passports were entered into a drawing for a nice prize.

Even lunch was fun.  To help us get to know each other better, one of the staff members came up with a few math questions about some of the convention participants.  Each question was projected onto a screen in the dining room, and the first person to answer it correctly received a prize from a MATHCOUNTS vendor.  I got a huge kick out of my Strava data being featured in one of the questions:
Besides the excellent information that I gained at the conference, I thoroughly enjoyed meeting so many nice people.  One particularly friendly coordinator, Charlie from Connecticut, reminded me of my father.  Charlie is a part-time Santa Claus.  Although my father has not been an official Santa Claus, he once helped a friend of his who plays Santa at a mall, assisting with photo taking.  Some children were confused when they saw both Daddy and the actual Santa.  Daddy simply told the children that he was Santa’s brother.

Charlie and me

Daddy and me (photo taken this year at Georgia's state MATHCOUNTS competition!)

All of the coordinators received service pins based on the number of years we have volunteered: 1-4 years, 5-9 years, 10-14 years, 15-19 years, or 20+ years.  (Because I’m beginning my 16th year as a volunteer, I received a 15-19 year emerald pin.)  At first, the number of coordinators in each category decreased as the number of years served increased.  This changed, however, with the final category.  There are as many volunteers with 20+ years of service as there are with 1-4 years of service.  What a testimony to their dedication and passion!

Because the convention was at a hotel near the airport and the schedule was full, I had very little time to experience Chicago itself.  Even so, I eked out a few tidbits.  I arrived around lunchtime on Thursday.  Thus, my first order of business was to find some deep-dish pizza:


Additionally, the MATHCOUNTS staff planned a special outing for Friday night.  We had a dinner cruise on Lake Michigan that gave us a beautiful view of downtown Chicago:

Of course, we had more math fun while we were on the boat.  Three games were offered with prizes for the closest guess to the number of items: jellybeans (in honor of The Bean, a popular art attraction in downtown Chicago), Swedish fish, and sticks of Wrigley’s gum (in honor of Wrigley Field, where the Cubs play):

As if all of this weren’t great enough, I also got to see some friends and family while I was in town.  Ellen, a friend from high school whom I hadn’t seen in 15 years, rearranged her work schedule so that we could visit for a few hours when I first arrived on Thursday afternoon:

Then, on Saturday after the convention ended at noon, I got to spend a little time with cousins Lee and Denise.  They live in Chicago but plan to move back to Georgia next year.  We’ll be neighbors – yea!

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