For 15 years, starting at HuffPost and continuing at Thrive Global, I’ve had a tradition of giving sweaters or pajamas to team members as a holiday gift. But this holiday season, what we gave instead was the gift of giving. We gave each Thriver a $100 charity gift card from TisBest to give to the charity of their choice. It’s part of Ray Dalio’s campaign to #RedefineGifting. For the past two years, Ray has teamed up with various friends and partners, including me and Thrive Global, to give away thousands of TisBest charity gift cards for people to pass on to a charity of their choice.
As much as we’ve enjoyed our sweaters and PJs tradition over the years, this seemed like a perfect time to switch to a different kind of gift. After a challenging year of disrupted routines, difficulties connecting to those who mean the most to us and, for far too many, grief for a loved one, we’ve all been forced to think more deeply about what we truly value. And in fact, giving is one of our most powerful well-being tools, transforming the giver as much as the recipient. By connecting meaningfully with others through a cause we care about, we’re able to connect more deeply with ourselves.
All we’ve asked in return for the gift cards — in Ray’s campaign and at Thrive — is that people take a moment to reflect and write up a few sentences about the charity they chose and why.
And I have to say, the responses from the Thrive team have been so moving:
- MT Grant donated to The Foundation for Grieving Children. “After losing my mom unexpectedly at the age of 8, I personally see the value of this incredible organization,” she writes. “Its mission is to support children, teens, young adults and their families following the death of a loved one.”
- Emily Mias lost her uncle to suicide, and chose to give to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. “It makes me feel better to know I can help others avoid the devastating loss or comfort friends/family after the tragedy,” she writes. “Thank you Thrive.”
- Zach Egan’s grandmother passed away from breast cancer before he was born, which is why he chose The National Breast Cancer Foundation. “This has been an ongoing concern in my family for years and I am proud to be donating to support the cause,” he writes. “As breast cancer awareness is dear to my heart, I appreciate the opportunity to donate.”
- Lisa Chin Mollica gave to the Friends of Firefighters because “when my husband underwent open-heart surgery, they helped transport me back and forth to the hospital every day.” She adds, “this organization does a lot for the families of those who serve this city regularly. Thank you, Thrive Global, for helping to support them.”
- Laura Haberberger gave to Habitual Roots in Charlotte, N.C. “They bring people together for events and resources that help mental, physical and emotional well-being — like mindfulness and yoga,” she writes. “As someone who has been part of this community and who is a local yoga teacher in Charlotte, I am happy to have the opportunity to give back this holiday season.”
- Stephen Meyer selected Paralyzed Veterans of America to honor his wife’s cousin, Capt. Jason B. Jones. “On June 2, 2014 our family was devastated by a knock on the door,” Stephen writes. “Jason had lost his life in Jalalabad during combat operations. His photo is on my desk to motivate me during difficult times. Jason was an Army Special Forces officer, graduated top 10 in his class at West Point studying nuclear engineering, received two Bronze Stars and two Purple Hearts. He’s my hero and always will be. Thank you for allowing me to honor him.”
- Kasia Laskowski gave to Mustard Seed Communities, which provides food, medicine, therapy and residential care to over 650 children and adults with disabilities around the world. “I have volunteered with MSC both here in the states and in Jamaica and remain inspired by the incredible support and compassionate accompaniment they provide to the vulnerable communities they serve,” she writes.
- Because the son of Julia Coto’s neighbor has a rare genetic disorder called Dup15q, Julia donated to the Dup15q Alliance. “It has been amazing to see how much he has grown and how much the organization is able to support him and his family,” she writes.
- Katrianna Okamoto gave to the Charleston Museum and the Philadelphia Bail Fund — the former because her godfather is the director of the museum and she loved her childhood visits, and the latter because “thousands of people are in jail without being convicted of a crime simply because they cannot afford bail. This is just another way that poverty is criminalized.”
- Anna Griffin gave to the UFW Foundation — a group “that holds a very close place to my heart.” It provides support to the farmworker community including food, supplies, equipment, labor mobilization, immigration legal services and pandemic financial assistance.
- Jay Williams selected the Florida Wildlife Corridor, “in support of their rich storytelling efforts to combat climate change and ensure that Florida’s wildlife and lands are preserved for future generations.” And there’s a family connection, too — his mother is President of the Board of Directors.
- Victoria Spinelli chose the Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness. “I am in ED recovery and this support system among others saved my life,” she writes. “When I was given the freedom, space and permission to accept and love my body, I was able to heal and change my relationship with food and myself. It is a forever work-in-progress and the Alliance for ED Awareness helps change the narrative.”
- Miguelángel Fernández selected the Childrens Foundation of Venezuela. “Over the last couple of decades, Venezuela, the country where I was born and raised, has been going through a deep social, political and economic crisis. Venezuela’s children are the most vulnerable. Most suffer from malnutrition. Education has practically disappeared, and public health care is non-existent. While I normally donate to NGOs helping children in need around the world, on this occasion I’ve chosen to give specifically to the cause of helping provide for Venezuela’s children.”
And as for me? I donated to the Nashville Street Project, as did Meiko Boynton. It’s a group founded by Thriver Jeff Swafford that helps homeless people in Nashville find housing, employment and even COVID vaccines. Jeff is so passionate about the organization, and it’s been incredible to see the work he and other volunteers do.
It’s definitely a tradition we’re going to continue next year. The process has helped us learn more about each other, and introduced all of us to a lot of great causes and groups doing incredibly important work. And we don’t have to wait a year for the next holiday. Birthdays, graduations, anniversaries are all great moments to redefine gifting. Especially when we remember how many unmet needs there are while over $16 billion is spent on unwanted gifts each holiday season.
I hope you’ll help us spread the word and redefine gifting for a more meaningful holiday season.
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