All right, I agree. It’s not a hard sell to convince you that a charity walk with a toddler is a good idea. You’re outside, required to run around, and people wave cow bells at you. Sometimes you even get a hand-held sign the little munchkins can swing (just not at your head). And all that money goes to charity.
The Challenge of Teaching a Toddler about Volunteerism
Due to the current state of things in the world, I admit my slight obsession with trying to teach my daughter kindness and compassion. I perused several blog ideas about how to ways to teach my two year some civic responsibility, and arrived at this conclusion: Two year olds are good at making crafts for people, and playing with the donated toys while you fill care packages.
Basically what I learned is the challenge of teaching a toddler how to be a good citizen. They are ego-centric. My daughter’s attention span runs about fifteen minutes, then she needs to do something else or go on an adventure. Could she really focus on another’s suffering?
So what to do? In my research (OK, extensive Googling while watching the last season of American Housewife), mirroring came up an awful lot. In short, kids will do what the parents do. If the parents volunteer and are active, so shall the kids.
On the flip side, volunteering seems overwhelming at times when you have a kid, a job, family, dinner needs to be on the table and it’s 2017, isn’t there a robot yet that can do this for me???
Robots aside, we decided to try to make more of an effort to fit little V into our volunteer activities. I “encouraged” her to contribute drawings for a care package we sent to the US Virgin Islands after the hurricanes. My husband takes her to the recycling center so she can help collect the cash refund that we will (before Christmas, I promise) send to Optimist Youth Homes and Family Services, a local charity we support.
We could all use a little more exercise though.
Evolution of the Charity Run/Walk
The History of the Charity Run/Walk really delves into how these events started, the logistics and financing of them, and why people do them in the first place. I will not repeat their excellent efforts, but please read it and enjoy.
The Martyrdom Effect
Why do people want to exercise in order to support charity?
Apparently, it boils down to “the martyrdom effect,” where people will more likely support a cause if they feel they have to sweat for it. This finally explains the Ice Bucket Challenge to me. I had considered it “slacktivism” but now I get that it has a base in the bizarre and convoluted world of human behavior. On a side note, the Ice Bucket Challenge actually raised over $100 million dollars, and researchers actually discovered a gene found in most cases of ALS. So all those soaked and beleaguered YouTubers made a huge difference.
Interestingly, in the Martyrdom Effect study one of the experiments showed that the effect is strongest for pro-social causes associated with human suffering.
Who would not want to teach that to their toddler?
The Statistics on Charity Walks
Let’s look at the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. It’s inclusive, people of any fitness type can participate. They started with one race and 800 people, and now offer over 140 races in 9 countries, and over 1 million participants. In 2016 alone, the Race for the Cure raised nearly $75 million. According to their 2016 financial report, 75% of the proceeds go towards improving breast cancer screening, education and treatment in the local host community. The remaining 25% goes to international research.
What about the Walk to End Alzheimer’s? It began in 1989 where 1250 participants raised $149,000. According to their website, in 2015 they raised over $75 million from 50,000 teams. 79% of funds raised goes towards research and the various programs they run.
Why mention all this?
- Charity Walks are extremely popular and gaining in popularity. I worry a little their ubiquity dilutes their fundraising capacity.
- Due to their popularity, you can really make one fit your work/school/travel schedule without too much ado.
- The costs of advertising these events can be staggering, so many charities are partnering with corporations in order to cover the costs of hosting these events. I don’t think this is a big deal as long as you expect it.
Why I Hesitated About a Charity Walk with a Toddler
Having now done my seriously A-type parent research, I admit some concerns about bringing my 2 year old on her first charity walk. Was I teaching her how to be a martyr, that she has to suffer in order to help others? What was I doing to myself, me whose child refuses to sit in a stroller so I would need to commit to carry her 2.2 miles? Do charities even benefit from this? Where would the money go? Would there be any toys there so she could play before I strapped her into the City Mini?
I need not have worried. As I mentioned before, we spent a lovely day outdoors supporting a good cause. No martyrdom here.
Tips on How to Enjoy a Charity Walk with a Toddler
- Pick a charity you support.
- Clearly this seems like a no-brainer. If you are going to be a martyr, you might as well pick a cause with the most human suffering. We chose the Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Why? They have a promise garden; I thought little V would enjoy the flowers. It is also near and dear to my heart, and I wanted V to be a part of that.
- Wear sunscreen and bring an umbrella.
- As the parent of a child, you undoubtedly know to plan for every circumstance. Which brings us to…
- Bring snacks. V cannot sit in her stroller for more than 10 minutes. I have known this since she was 15 months old. She exhausted the little yogurt cup and banana provided by the walk staff within fifteen minutes. That left 30 minutes of walking. Can I just say I love Annie’s Fruit Snacks?
- Arrive early (but not too early). Again, this helps build in potty time, time to run around and get grass stains on toddler-leggings before being strapped into the stroller. It helps give you time to grab a bottle of water, get them a snack if that’s offered, maybe meet up with some folks.
- Pre-register. Oops. I forgot this little tidbit pre-walk and my poor husband spent thirty extra minutes in line registering me and the little munchkin.
- Register early if you can online. The lines at the walk had a bit of a wait.
- Recruit others. It takes a village to raise a kid, right? Why should you be the only one responsible for their civic-mindedness? Just kidding. It simply is more fun to walk in groups. Maybe you can make up a team cheer. No better way for a toddler to burn energy than to learn a quick team cheer.
- Wear comfortable shoes. I know there are those of you who look beautiful and sweat-less at the gym with perfect make up and hair. I am not that girl.
The most important thing about charity walk with a toddler
Don’t forget why you are doing this. This is not about the hour you spend walking or the martyrdom effect or the money so and so raised. This is about people who suffer: suffer from breast cancer, Alzheimer’s, ALS, etc. We all want our kids to live in a better world. If you know someone affected by an illness, teach your kids about it. The more we shelter them, the less they will know, and ignorance breeds fear. I’m off my soapbox now.
Sharing Kindness with Your Kids
I struggle with this every day, as I am sure do you. How do we teach our kids to see and respect the world? This is my very biased opinion, but I think we teach them by showing them new things and exposing them to people who live different lives than they do. A charity walk can be a simple, family-friendly half-day where just for a few brief moments, you bring your kid into a community where everyone is trying their best. They are trying their best to help people who may not otherwise have a say. Sure, their popularity may overshadow their importance (here’s looking at you, Ice Bucket Challenge), but at their heart I feel they are just people trying to share kindness with others.
Other Blogs with Excellent Ideas about Service with a Toddler
Simple Play Ideas: service ideas with toddlers
Kara Carrero: 25 acts of service with toddlers
I hope you all have a wonderful day. Leave a comment below with a way that you teach your kids kindness, a story about how you have done a charity walk, or anything. I can’t wait to hear from you!