Give the Gift that Gives Back

Photo by joeduty

Photo by joeduty

Each holiday season, the retail marketing wheels start spinning and our loved ones create lists to share with inquiring family and friends. Depending on your faith — or your belief in Santa — gifts abound, from everyday home items to the most expensive gadgets on the market. Although watching a child tear open a carefully wrapped package brings a kind of joy not easily replicated, we can teach them that the world is larger than ourselves. Here is a sampling of businesses and organizations that offer numerous ways to give back, through branded merchandise, planting of trees, giving of educational materials, sponsoring a meal and much more. Make at least one of your gifts this year a gift that gives to others.

For your skateboarder: has long been a supporter of the environment. When you buy a pair of shoes, etnies will plant a tree in Sao Paolo, Brazil. Help stave off rain forest deforestation — and be cool!

For your surfer: “Malaria Sucks” t-shirts have been sold and proudly worn by many in the industry since SurfAid was founded in 2000. The organization, in partnership with communities and government, works to prevent disease, suffering and death through educational programs and health promotion that aim to change poor health behaviors and reduce the risk from natural disasters.

For your environmentalist: The National Resources Defense Council pursues efforts to preserve our lands, ensure safe water sources, promote clean energy, protect wildlife and foster sustainable communities.

For your conscientious shopper: Help eradicate HIV/AIDS while shopping.  A red iPod nano makes a good stocking stuffer.  Or give a Girl special edition Mike Carroll skateboard deck.  Recycled bottletop handbags and accessories are also available.

For your education enthusiast:  For more than 22 years, Teach for America has impacted the lives of 3 million children nationwide through education. Sponsor a teacher, make a planned gift or just donate. Teach for America alumni have sustained their commitment and work within education and across all sectors to help ensure that children growing up in low-income communities get an excellent education.

ClearinseFor your medical student: The valuable work of Doctors Without Borders field staff would not be possible without public international support. The organization relies on this support for two reasons: to ensure the freedom to provide humanitarian assistance whenever and wherever it is needed and to remain independent from political, religious and economic interests.

For your voice and the voice of others: RAINN created and operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline in partnership with more than 1,100 local rape crisis centers across the country, and it operates the DoD Safe Helpline for the Department of Defense. RAINN also carries out programs to prevent sexual violence, help victims and ensure that rapists are brought to justice.

By donating a car or shopping on, you can contribute to this organization, which supports an often-silent crisis.

For your papermaker and aesthetician: Give a home-spa experience or holiday aromas with Aveda’s gift sets wrapped in paper handmade in Nepal. Forty nine hundred people were hired to make more than 1,400,000 sheets of paper over the last six years, changing the lives of 2,400 families.

As a community, we can make a real difference this year by choosing gifts that give back.

Kelsey Combellick is a career-loving parent who is passionate about travel, food, wine and her family.  Email her at


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