Traditionally, families gather around the Christmas tree to open presents––but at the American Cancer Society Christmas Fantasy House, individual traditions are magnified. The 2009 house, for example, featured not one but five Christmas trees, each draped in ribbons and white lights. Other years' open houses have featured a jolly Santa Claus, dining room chairs hung with pinecone wreaths, and flower-festooned light fixtures. Visitors not only peruse the Christmas-themed home for charity, they can also shop for sweets or enter holiday-themed raffles.
Proceeds from the event go to the American Cancer Society, a volunteer-based program that reaches 3,400 communities nationwide. The ACS supports research, education, advocacy for all types of cancer, and helps a large number of cancer patients, offering phone counseling 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
In 1928, John H. Harris, the manager of the Sheridan Square Theatre in Pittsburgh, found a month-old baby girl abandoned in one of the theater chairs with a note asking someone to take care of her. He took her in, dedicated his social club—the Variety Club—to underwriting her support and education, and named her Catherine Variety Sheridan. Harris’s efforts drew support from other entertainers internationally, who joined together to provide aid to disadvantaged youth and children with disabilities. Today, Variety – The Children’s Charity has chapters in 14 countries and 10,000 members and works to enrich the lives of children around the world.
The Wisconsin chapter was started in 1935 by businessmen with ties to show business, and it assists children with disabilities through three programs. The Freedom Program funds durable medical equipment to grant youth greater mobility, and the Caring for Kids program donates medical equipment and therapeutic devices to local clinics and hospitals. The Future Kids program provides educational experiences for young people, including trips to museums, sporting events, and shows.
The stylists and aestheticians at Executive Edge get folks looking dapper and dashing with a roster of beautifications that range from low-commitment bang trims to full-on bridal makeovers. Gents can pop in for a quick beard shaping, and women can enjoy an in-and-out bang trim. Guests in the market for total hair eradication can opt for body waxing or threading services.
As part of its FamilyLink program, CCHD organizes community outings to help parents build strong support systems and children with hearing loss interact with peers who face similar challenges. The field trips also foster spontaneous language development for children, and their parents get opportunities to meet others who have had similar experiences, helping to form a larger network of support.
Munich, Germany, has plenty to offer by way of Bavarian beer, cuisine, and music—but so does Glendale, Wisconsin, site of the Bock Bier Festival. For two days, visitors flock to the Bavarian Soccer Club Complex of Heidelberg Park, where they dance to live German musicians such as Austrian Express and Johnny Hoffman. To replenish their energies, they can dine on German sausages from the kitchen or American snacks such as coleslaw and nachos. German maibock beer washes everything down in 16-ounce cups, 1-liter glass steins, or pitchers. Parking is complimentary, so visitors can dance the night away without pausing to deposit more bratwurst in the meter.
Will Allen has worn many hats in his lifetime. The son of a sharecropper, he founded his urban farming foundation Growing Power in 1993 after a brief career in professional basketball, going on to earn a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship and a spot on Time magazine's Top 100 of 2010 list. From Milwaukee to Chicago, his city farms thrive, tended by a volunteer team of all ages who gain the all-too-uncommon satisfaction of knowing the "who, when, where, and how" of their vegetables’ origins. Besides providing the seeds, tools, and educational resources to green the thumbs of any willing student, the farms also foster community bonds by filling the pantries of select local restaurants and locavore squirrels.