The Season of Giving

The Season of Giving.

We all know the phrase and hear it regularly throughout November and December every year. A cursory search for its origins turns up speculation, at best. But its meaning is implicitly understood – the end of the calendar year is marked by holiday celebrations which provide opportunities to both receive tokens of love and regard from friends and family, as well as to give to them, to demonstrate our own love and gratitude and support.

To this end, our children look wide eyed and expectant at us during television commercials, or while walking down a street filled with shop windows and stores. And while it may be possible to curtail our own desire for acquiring “stuff” as we reach adulthood (emphasis on may), the desire to find happiness and contentment never goes away, regardless of how many calendar pages we turn.

But one of the untold joys of getting older – I turn 52 next week – is the realization that as human beings, we can find much more satisfaction and genuine happiness in the act of giving rather than where we found it earlier, in the receiving. Now, I grant you, if that conundrum had been offered to me as a teenager, it would have just as likely provided another rationale for NOT growing up as it would have motivated me to keep maturing. Nonetheless, in my experience, the beauty of giving is one of the hidden benefits of age and the perspective which accompanies it.

I’ve been thinking a good deal about these topics lately, both as a father of two girls and as a non-profit executive – titles I’ve coincidentally held for two decades. And now, most recently, they have been filtered through the lens of my association with the Orange Effect Foundation (OEF). As a father, it’s made me grateful for the staggering blessings children provide us. Their insights, their struggles, their accomplishments, their failures, each provide a glimpse into the wonder and awe of what can be. They also carry with them the constant reminder of how responsible we all are for each other.

Concurrently, these thoughts have reminded me of the boundless compassion and goodness of so many people we pass on the street, talk with at school, live with in our neighborhoods; as well as the silent struggles and battles being fought by those very same people each day, often without our knowledge or awareness.

As Director of Business Development, my professional role at OEF, I am tasked with finding and cultivating new avenues of support for our mission and increasing the number of stakeholders who embrace it — “empowering children and young adults with speech disorders to communicate effectively.”

Of course, many, if not most of you know this mission, or you wouldn’t be reading this piece in the first place. But what you may not have considered, even as an ardent supporter of Orange Effect, is how far even a small gift can go in the life of a family who faces the challenges of a speech disorder.

A gift of $1,000 dollars funds 12 hours of specialized, personalized speech therapy for a young girl who has struggled mightily to express the ideas and images which have been walled off in her head for her whole life. A larger commitment of $5,000 funds a state of the art communications device, which can open doors of previously unknown progress, accomplishment, and pride in the life of a teenage boy.

Of course, all gifts help Orange Effect do what it does so well – provide the keys to unlocking the true, vital, beautiful nature of children from every walk of life, by helping them find their voice and share it.

These are remarkable chances to make a difference. For someone you may know and hold dear, or someone you may never meet, whose life you will change profoundly. The chance to invest in a child, a previously isolated child, but one with infinite promise, whose expression and growth has been limited only by the cruel isolation of a disability.

So in this 2017 Season of Giving, when we are faced with myriad challenges, and our compassion can sometimes feel like it’s merely casting a stone into the ocean, I ask you to consider two things –

One, that as Robert Kennedy said a half century ago, “in standing up for an ideal, or acting to improve the lot of another … we send forth a ripple of hope which builds to a current, which can sweep down the mightiest of walls.”

Two, that an investment in the Orange Effect Foundation is an investment in the simplest but most important thing any of us get to be a part of: the future and promise of a child.

Join me in supporting Orange Effect this year. And God bless you and yours this holiday.


Tom Harkness – Director, Business Development




Over the past two decades, Tom has led the philanthropic efforts of large institutions and smaller organizations, as well as his own fundraising consulting firm. From healthcare and higher education to nonprofit agencies and small business consulting, his varied background and contagious passion are invaluable assets.

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