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Devin D. Thorpe

Devin Thorpe

Monthly Archives: April 2017

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Northern NJ Community Foundation Supports Statewide Creative Placemaking Leadership Summit

Press Release – (Englewood, New Jersey; April 28, 2017) — The Northern New Jersey Community Foundation (NNJCF), a leader in creative placemaking in the region, returns for a second year as a sponsor at The Creative Placemaking Leadership Summit. This year’s event, The Creative Placemaking Leadership Summit 2017 — Thriving Together, is produced by The National Consortium for Creative Placemaking, and will be held on May 5 at the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark, New Jersey.

Creative placemaking is the practice of integrating arts and culture into the fabric of a region, town, or city block. “The Northern New Jersey Community Foundation is strengthening its position as an advocate and practitioner of creative placemaking in Northern New Jersey by being a sponsor and supporter of this summit. We are convinced creative placemaking represents a win-win opportunity for any municipality interested in improving quality-of-life and boosting economic vitality in the community,” said Danielle De Laurentis, Associate Director, NNJCF.

The Summit brings together hundreds of creative placemakers from various fields. Public officials, developers, funders, urban planners, and cultural organization leaders learn and gain insights from others and share their interests in connecting public policy and the arts. The 2017 program focuses on some of these key issues: best practices to use sustain creative placemaking, developing high performing partnerships, and developing and promoting social equity. For further information about the Summit, visit The National Consortium for Creative Placemaking’s web site,

NNJCF: A Proponent of Creative Placemaking

The Northern New Jersey Community Foundation, an Englewood-based not-for-profit organization, presented “The Smart Person’s Guide to Creative Placemaking” at the 2016 Summit, and has been an active proponent of creative placemaking in several forums throughout Bergen County. The NNJCF’s initiative, ArtsBergen, holds it quarterly networking event, Connect the Dots, attracting artists, arts administrators, municipal and community leaders, business owners, and arts supporters living or working in Bergen County, who are interested in cultivating connections. Through Connect the Dots, ArtsBergen’s goal is to build a unified local arts community and encourage collaborations between artists and arts organizations to develop community-based arts projects in the area.

Creative Placemaking in Hackensack

Since 2013, NNJCF’s ArtsBergen has been an ongoing partner with the City of Hackensack and the Hackensack Main Street Alliance, assisting in using creative placemaking to integrate arts and culture into the Main Street redevelopment plan. Partnering with the National Consortium for Creative Placemaking of Union, New Jersey has been essential to form and coach the Hackensack Creative Arts Team (CAT), a group of local stakeholders that developed a shared creative placemaking vision plan for the city.

To achieve the plan’s goals, ArtsBergen has worked extensively with CAT on many projects, such as the downtown public art project — the Main Gateway Mural, a 60 foot mural beautifying a burnt down building, and “Art on a Stick: Raccoons”, a series of anthropomorphic raccoons bringing the ordinary to life, at the Johnson Public Library. ArtsBergen is also managing a call for artists for the “Utility ARTBox Project”, a street art project that presents anti-littering messages via art on utility boxes along Main Street and beyond.

“ArtsBergen is invested in helping Hackensack’s downtown become a cultural and economic center — walkable, livable, and sustainable. We envision Hackensack becoming a model of creative placemaking in Bergen County,” said De Laurentis.


The Northern New Jersey Community Foundation (NNJCF), a not-for-profit 501(c)3 organization based in Englewood, New Jersey, focuses primarily on civic engagement, education, public health, the arts, and the environment. NNJCF works with local governments, school districts, businesses, non-profit organizations, and citizen groups in Northern New Jersey to improve community life. The Foundation’s partners identify and resolve regional problems and opportunities by talking and learning from each other, by sharing ideas, best practices, services, and resources.

For more information, visit, send an email to, or call (201) 568-5608. Follow the NNJCF on Facebook at Northern NJ Community Foundation/ArtsBergen and Twitter @NNJCF.

About ArtsBergen

ArtsBergen, an initiative of the Northern New Jersey Community Foundation, is an emerging arts alliance in Bergen County, New Jersey that supports and encourages creative placemaking, the practice of integrating arts and culture into a neighborhood, town, or region to build community and livability and boost local economy. The initiative’s mission is to energize and unify artists and arts organizations and connect the Bergen County community to the arts. For more information, visit, send an email to, or call 201-568-5608.

Defenders Of Wildife Joins People’s Climate Movement March

Press Release – WASHINGTON (Apr. 29, 2017) – Defenders of Wildlife is participating in the People’s Climate Movement March in Washington, D.C. today.

Aimee Delach, senior climate adaptation policy analyst for Defenders of Wildlife, issued the following statement:

Climate change is happening in our own backyard, but its effects are felt far and wide. Climate change does not discriminate; wildlife and their habitat, and communities here and around the world are all vulnerable to a changing climate.

“There are ways we can prepare for and respond to a warming climate. But we cannot implement these solutions if our leaders outright deny climate change. Our most imperiled wildlife and our global community don’t stand a chance without strong leadership on climate science and climate solutions. That’s why I’m marching today.”


Defenders of Wildlife is a proud partner of the People’s Climate Movement March.

As carbon dioxide levels continue to increase, so does the planet’s temperature. This exacerbates severe weather and climate-related events, like the years-long drought in California, wildfires across the American West and strong cyclones that formed in the Pacific Ocean.

Devastating, severe weather and other climate-related events have become a leading threat to wildlife and their habitat. Erratic weather and severe drought have taken a toll on the monarch butterfly along its extensive migration route and in its winter range. Rising sea levels threaten habitat for the red wolf, North America’s most endangered wolf. Some populations of polar bears are in dire straits due to melting Arctic sea ice. Thousands of species daily contend with the effects of our warming planet.

Games For Change Announces The First “VR For Change” Summit As Part Of Its 14th Annual Games For Change Festival

Three Day Festival to Feature Keynote Presentations by Megan Smith, (former White House Chief Technology Officer); Gabo Arora, (Creative Director & Senior Advisor at the United Nations); Luke Crane, (Head of Games at Kickstarter) and Anjali Bhimani, (Actress/voice of Symmetra in “Overwatch” and Nisha in “Fallout: 4”)

Tickets Currently on Sale via

Press Release – (NEW YORK, NY) April 27, 2017Games for Change, the leading global advocate for the power of games as drivers of social impact, today announced the programming for its 14th Annual Games for Change Festival, with an expanded focus on virtual reality with their first VR for Change Summit. The Festival will take place from July 31-August 2, 2017, at Parsons School of Design at The New School in New York City.

The first of its kind, the VR for Change Summit will focus on advancing virtual technologies for positive social change, bringing together developers, artists, storytellers, journalists, researchers, activists and policymakers for dialogue, connections and debates focused on new initiatives to advance the field. Erik Martin, former Policy Advisor at White House Office of Science and Technology Policy under the Obama Administration, is the VR Summit’s curator.

“With over a decade of experience bringing together the gaming for social impact community and having established partnerships and credibility with nonprofits, foundations and government across a broad spectrum of issue areas, Games for Change is uniquely positioned to convene this emerging community,” said Susanna Pollack, President of Games for Change. “Very little has been done to directly bring together the VR and social impact community, and organizations that are creating compelling VR experiences and tools to advance their cause-oriented missions have few opportunities to connect and engage in focused and relevant conversations. We are excited to create this new platform where the VR community can finally come together for good.”

“The state of VR technologies today presents an opportunity to affect positive social change in radically new ways,” said Erik Martin, former Policy Advisor at White House Office of Science and Technology Policy under the Obama Administration. “The emerging landscape of VR technology, such as new headsets and mobile capabilities, as well as augmented reality, are making new kinds of media content and storytelling techniques possible to engage people with critical issues and causes. We are excited to grow the community and amplify impact with the VR for Change Summit.”

The VR for Change Summit will drive pioneering discussions focused on the most exciting technology and experiences being built with VR and ways to support and grow a VR for Change community, with an emphasis on diversity throughout all programming. The Summit will build on Games for Change’s community-sourced model, providing opportunities for curated presentations and discussions, as well as demos, networking, and awards with topical themes around a few critical societal challenges.

Notable speakers for the VR for Change Summit include:

  • A keynote by Megan Smith, the third White House Chief Technology Officer of the United States (U.S. CTO), who will be sharing a vision for how VR and AR technologies could empower people, improve civic engagement and create social change, sharing her experiences and stories as U.S. CTO in the Obama Administration.
  • Dawn Laguens, Executive Vice President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, will illustrate that use of virtual reality and innovative apps have impacted empathy and continue to revolutionize the way people access reproductive health care.
  • Gabo Arora, Creative Director & Senior Advisor at the United Nations, is the founder of, the United Nations’ virtual reality lab. He has directed and produced a series of pioneering, and widely acclaimed, virtual reality documentaries focusing on vulnerable populations in crisis: “Clouds Over Sidra,” “Waves of Grace,” and “My Mother’s Wing.”
  • Ryan and Amy Green, founders of Numinous Games and the creator of award-winning autobiographical game, “That Dragon Cancer,” about their son who was diagnosed with cancer at 12-months old. They will discuss the game’s new VR experience.
  • Aldis Sipolins, Head of Virtual Reality and Game Design, IBM, will discuss why VR is good for science and give an overview of presence and ecological validity in psychological research.

In addition, programming for the VR for Change Summit will include:

  • The U.S. Department of Education EdSim Challenge winners will be featured. This challenge calls upon the VR, video game and edtech communities to submit concepts for VR and AR immersive simulations that strengthen students’ technical skills, preparing them for the 21st century workforce.
  • Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) Student Game – Each year Games for Change challenges CMU students from the Entertainment Technology Center to design a game to be played at the annual Festival. This year’s game will be a live crowd-gaming experience using virtual reality to explore competitive social media.
  • VR Brain Jam – On Friday, July 28th – Sunday, July 30th, Games for Change will host an invitation only event, the VR and Neuroscience Game Jam. It will pair neuroscience experts with game developer teams and charge them with exploring the intersection of their domains.

The Games for Change Festival will once again feature three focused tracks: Games for Learning, Neurogaming & Health and Civics & Social Issues, to highlight the impact that games are having in these major sectors and beyond entertainment. Each track will feature Keynote presentations from:

Madeline Di Nonno, CEO of the Geena Davis Institute; Luke Crane, Head of Games at Kickstarter; Alan Lewis, Vice President of Corporate Communications and Public Affairs at Take-Two Interactive Software; Anjali Bhimani, Actress/voice of Symmetra in “Overwatch” and Nisha in “Fallout: 4”; Louise Dubé, Executive Director of iCivics.

TRACK 1: Civics & Social Issues: The ability of games to inspire empathy and understanding make them a powerful tool for bringing people together and bridging gaps between perspectives. This track will highlight the gaming medium’s ability to engage with contemporary concerns regarding social justice and responsible citizenship.

Speakers Include: Tracy Fullerton, USC Game Innovation Labor; Paolo Pedercini, Professor at Carnegie Mellon University; Colleen Macklin, Associate Professor at Parsons School of Design; Mary Flanagan, Director of Tiltfactor Lab at Dartmouth College; Austin Walker, Editor-in-Chief of Waypoint, Vice’s gaming site; Nicole Rustad, Former Corporate Citizenship Program Manager at Disney.

TRACK 2: Neurogaming & Health: Advances in science and technology enable innovative collaborations between researchers and game makers to produce games with remarkable, measurable outcomes. Festival attendees will be able to take a deep dive into the interactive experiences that aim to improve our brains and bodies.

Speakers include: Luc St-Onge, Associate Producer at Ubisoft; Joseph Koziak, CEO of Amblyotech; Moran Cerf, TED Speaker, Neuroscientist and Behavioral Economist; Attila Szantner, Co-founder of Massively Multiplayer Online Science; Hugo Spiers, Neuroscientist; David Miller, Program Officer at the NIH; Seth Cooper of Fold It; Wolfgang Kampbartold, VP of International Marketing Communications at Deutsche Telekom.

TRACK 3: Games for Learning: The 3rd annual Games for Learning Summit will explore how games are transforming education. Festival attendees will have the opportunity to hear from emerging leaders in game-based learning and join in workshops.

Speakers include: Constance Steinkuehler, Professor at University of California Irvine; Ingrid Simone, Executive Editor of TocaBoca Magazine; Deborah Quazzo, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of GSV Acceleration; David Edery, CEO of Spry Fox; Neal Shenoy, CEO of Speakaboos; Nicole Neal, CEO of Noodle Markets; Jane Robinson, CFO of First Book.

Other Notable Sessions include Minecraft Game Jam; a screening of the film Gaming in the Real World; Ad Council + National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Challenge; Games for Change Student Challenge Awards program.

Additional speakers and programming information can be found on the Games for Change website. To purchase tickets, please visit

Registration includes access to the full Games for Change program on July 31st – August 2nd 2017 at Parsons School of Design. The Games for Change Festival runs daily from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. ET.

About Games for Change

Since 2004, Games for Change (G4C) has been empowering game creators and innovators to drive real-world change, using games that help people to learn, improve their communities, and contribute to make the world a better place. G4C partners with technology and gaming companies as well as nonprofits, foundations and government agencies, to run world class events, public arcades, design challenges and youth programs. G4C supports a global community of game developers working to use games to tackle real-world challenges, from humanitarian conflicts to climate change and education.

About Parsons School of Design

Parsons School of Design is one of the world’s leading institutions for art and design education. Based in New York but active around the world, the school offers undergraduate and graduate programs in the full spectrum of art and design disciplines. Critical thinking and collaboration are at the heart of a Parsons education. Parsons graduates are leaders in their fields, with a shared commitment to creatively and critically addressing the complexities of life in the 21st century.

Dream Foundation and Amedisys Foundation Fulfill Hospice Patient’s Final Dream

Sixty-nine-year-old to receive new scooter

Press Release – Santa Barbara, Calif. — Dream Foundation, in partnership with the Amedisys Foundation, will fulfill the final Dream of Carolyn Essien, 69, when she receives a new motorized scooter that will enable her to regain her mobility.

Essien, who is a patient at Amedisys Hospice in West Virginia, has relied on a scooter to help her get around with the oxygen she needs to help her breathe for the last five years. When her scooter stopped working, she lost her mobility.

Essien, who is described as feisty and spunky, writes, “I would be so appreciative if you could grant my Dream so I can go outside and visit my friends.” Thanks to the partnership between Dream Foundation, the only national dream-granting organization for terminally-ill adults, and Amedisys Foundation, Essien’s Dream will become a reality when she receives a new Golden Technologies Buzzaround XL 4-wheel scooter.

In December 2016, Amedisys, Inc., One of the nation’s leading home health, hospice and personal care companies, announced a partnership between the Amedisys Foundation and Dream Foundation enabling Amedisys hospice care centers across the nation to have an opportunity to turn patients Dreams into reality.

About Dream Foundation:

Dream Foundation, the only national dream-granting organization for terminally-ill adults, fulfills final Dreams that provide inspiration, comfort and closure at the end of life. With the support of a nationwide network of volunteers, hospices, health care organizations and committed donors, Dream Foundation has given life to more than 25,000 final Dreams over the past two decades and has never turned down a qualified applicant. The Foundation is proud to maintain Charity Navigator’s four-star rating—its highest—for sound fiscal management ensuring its donors and partners that their investment will be used wisely. Dream Foundation receives no state of federal funding—we rely solely on private donations. To support our mission please visit

The Role of Pediatric Services in Mental Health Treatment

SDSU researchers find that providing mental health care to young people in a primary care setting can help fight stigma, other barriers to receiving treatment.

Press Release – SAN DIEGO, Calif. (April 27, 2017) — Anxiety and depression are the most common mental health problems in children and adolescents. Youth with these disorders often go to their primary care physicians for referrals, but only a small number of them obtain much-needed mental health care. A new study led by researchers at San Diego State University suggests that providing a brief behavioral therapy in the pediatric primary care setting can help more young people get the help they need. The brief intervention’s benefits were especially noteworthy in Latino youth, more than three quarters of whom showed significant improvement.

About three in ten children and adolescents suffer from significant anxiety and/or depression that affects their ability to learn in school, form and maintain meaningful relationships, and engage in activities. The study’s lead author, V. Robin Weersing, professor in SDSU’s Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology, said that our mental health system is not currently suited to identify and successfully treat this many youth. Additionally, families report barriers to pursuing mental health referrals that they might receive, including stigma, limited time, transportation and financial difficulties. However, statistics show that nine out of ten kids and teens do regularly see a pediatrician, presenting an opportunity to piggyback mental health services on top of their existing medical care.

To learn how effective that approach may be, Weersing and colleagues recruited 185 ethnically diverse children and adolescents ages 8 to 16 who were identified by their pediatrician as struggling with anxiety and/or depression. The study occurred at several pediatricians’ offices in San Diego and Pittsburgh. Half of these youth received outpatient referrals to standard outpatient mental health care, with the researchers continuing to contact families to help ensure that they followed through with referrals. The other half of youth received brief behavioral therapy (BBT) involving between eight and twelve weekly 45-minute therapy sessions at their doctor’s office. The BBT intervention involved learning and practicing strategies that would help youths face their fears and participate in daily life activities—school, social, and family—that they had previously avoided. No psychiatric medications were prescribed as part of BBT.

“In these interventions, kids learn not to withdraw from what’s upsetting them,” Weersing said. “Slowly they learn to approach and actively problem solve. Step by step, they re-engage with the tasks that they need to do or want to do, but previously struggled to do, because negative emotions were in the way.”

After 16 weeks of receiving either outpatient referrals or the BBT intervention, youth and their parents completed interviews and questionnaires that assessed anxiety and depression symptoms. While 28 percent of youth in the outpatient referral group improved significantly, more than twice as many (57 percent) in the BBT group showed significant improvement.

The results were even more dramatic for Latino children and adolescents: An impressive 76 percent showed significant improvement in the BBT group, while only 7 percent showed significant improvement in the outpatient referral group. The researchers recently published their results in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.

“Overall, we view this study as providing really promising evidence that anxious and depressed kids can be treated safely and effectively within their pediatricians’ offices,” Weersing said. “This has great promise for improving access to care, particularly for Latino youth.”

An editorial accompanying the paper in JAMA Psychiatry notes that use of brief behavioral techniques in the medical setting might be the only realistic way to meet the mental health needs of young people.

“Bringing mental health care to pediatric primary care is the only chance we have to meet the behavioral health needs of the approximately 20% of children and adolescents who are likely to develop mental health problems before graduating from high school,” write the editorial’s authors. “Although we still have a long way to go, the pioneering intervention … is a big step in the right direction.”

About San Diego State University

San Diego State University is a major public research institution that provides transformative experiences, both inside and outside of the classroom, for its more than 36,000 students. The university offers bachelor’s degrees in 91 areas, master’s degrees in 78 areas and doctorates in 22 areas. Students participate in research, international experiences, sustainability and entrepreneurship initiatives, internships and mentoring, and a broad range of student life and leadership opportunities. The university’s rich campus life features opportunities for students to participate in, and engage with, the creative and performing arts, a Division I athletics program and the vibrant cultural life of the San Diego region. For more information, visit

Bloomberg Square Mile Relay Returns To New York City

More Than 70 Companies to Race in Exclusive Global Relay through Wall Street on May 4, supporting the National September 11 Memorial & Museum

Press Release – April 27, 2017, New York – The globally renowned Bloomberg Square Mile Relay is returning to the streets of NYC’s Financial District on May 4th. The corporate relay now takes place in ten major cities around the world – last year more than 5,500 runners from 430 companies took part in this global series.

The one-of-a-kind, immersive team building experience will feature more than 70 teams from the city’s leading institutions who compete to win the coveted trophy and bragging rights as the ‘fastest firm in the city’, in support of the race’s Community Partner – the National September 11 Memorial & Museum – who will receive a charity check on race night:

“We are grateful to the Bloomberg Square Mile Relay for selecting us as its official community partner for a second year. Partnerships such as these are critical to help ensure the Memorial and Museum is sustained, and that visitors from around the world will be able to experience this world-class learning institution and living tribute for years to come,” said Cathy Blaney, 9/11 Memorial’s Executive Vice President of Institutional Advancement.

First launched in the heart of London in 2007, the internationally-renowned race has become synonymous with the city’s financial district – the ‘Square Mile’. Bloomberg has since expanded the race series to Dubai, Sydney, New York, Tokyo, San Francisco, Sao Paulo, Shanghai, Singapore and Hong Kong.

The event places strong emphasis on teamwork and employee interaction, making it a compelling attraction for New York’s corporates and financial institutions such as Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Citi, MasterCard, Standard Chartered, Wells Fargo and many others who will be on the start line next week.

Each team includes 10 runners, each of whom will run a unique one-mile course that traverses Water Street and Wall Street. The race culminates with a celebratory ‘After-Party,’ where runners and supporters will be treated to a live DJ set and complimentary food and drinks in the Race Village throughout the evening.

“The Bloomberg Square Mile Relay is a unique sporting event which offers a perfect opportunity for the city’s most competitive institutions to come together for a night of camaraderie, teamwork, celebration and networking. Our goal is to offer a platform for teams from local corporations to express their sporting enthusiasm, while bonding with fellow colleagues. The event is open to all levels of experience – whether you are an elite or leisure runner – we want everyone to enjoy this relay,” said Nick Keller, Managing Director of event organizer Square Mile Sport.

Participation will also help fund a local revitalization project, allowing runners to volunteer with the local Bloomberg Square Mile Relay community and have a positive impact on New York City. The collective effort of over 7,500 runners across 10 cites will positively impact the global community of race cities, reinforcing Bloomberg’s long-standing commitment to strengthening and improving lives in the communities where people live and work.

For further information on the Bloomberg Square Mile Relay or to enter a team please visit:

Facebook: Bloomberg Square Mile Relay
Twitter: @SquareMileNYC
Instagram: BloombergSquareMileRelay
Official hashtag: #WeRunThisCity

About Bloomberg Square Mile Relay New York:

Registration for the Bloomberg Square Mile Relay is now live on the event website ­ visit General entry for a team of ten runners is $1,800. Only one representative from the participating corporation will need to register and pay on behalf of the team. Rates include entry to the after-race party that includes hospitality with a main meal, dessert and three soft or alcoholic drinks. Additional hospitality packages will be available to purchase online at a later date for supporters.

About Bloomberg:

Bloomberg, the global business and financial information and news leader, gives influential decision makers a critical edge by connecting them to a dynamic network of information, people and ideas. The company’s strength – delivering data, news and analytics through innovative technology, quickly and accurately – is at the core of the Bloomberg Professional service. Bloomberg’s enterprise solutions build on the company’s core strength: leveraging technology to allow customers to access, integrate, distribute and manage data and information across organizations more efficiently and effectively. For more information, visit or request a demo.

About The National September 11 Memorial & Museum:

The National September 11 Memorial & Museum is the nonprofit organization that oversees operations for the 9/11 Memorial and 9/11 Memorial Museum. Located on eight of the 16 acres of the World Trade Center site, the Memorial and Museum remember and honor the 2,983 people who were killed in the horrific attacks of September 11, 2001 and February 26, 1993. For more information or to reserve a ticket to the 9/11 Memorial Museum, please visit

About Square Mile Sport:

Square Mile Sport is the event owner and delivery agency of the Bloomberg Square Mile Relay – a unique event series designed exclusively to provide businessmen and women with an outlet for their sporting passion. Established in 2007 in London, Square Mile Sport plans to replicate the event in cities across the world. Square Mile Sport is wholly owned by Benchmark Sport, which operates leading international brands including the Sport Industry Group and Beyond Sport.

Starlight Children’s Foundation And Michaels Celebrate National Volunteer Week With Nationwide Donation Of Michaels Backpacks For Seriously Ill Children

Michaels to Deliver Backpacks Loaded with Arts and Crafts Supplies to 30,000 Kids

Press Release – LOS ANGELES, Calif. (April 25, 2017) – Celebrating National Volunteer Week, Starlight Children’s Foundation and Michaels have teamed up to deliver Michaels backpacks that will bring joy and comfort to hospitalized children across the U.S. and Canada. Generously provided by Michaels and assembled by team members across North America, Michaels backpacks are filled with cool arts, crafts, and other supplies to inspire creativity and bring smiles to seriously ill children of all ages. From April 23-29, Michaels’ team members will deliver a total of 30,000 backpacks to kids at over 380 hospitals and other healthcare facilities.

“Michaels is helping to bring moments of joy and comfort to millions of seriously ill children and their families,” said Chris Helfrich, CEO of Starlight Children’s Foundation. “Michaels backpacks will bring smiles to 30,000 children and we’re grateful for their continued generosity in communities across North America.”

LAC+USC Medical Center in Los Angeles and Children’s Health in Dallas will host special kick off events on April 25 and April 28, respectively, during National Volunteer Week. Michaels team members from 1,300 participating local stores and corporate headquarters will deliver hundreds of bags room-to-room and take part in art and craft activities with hospitalized children and their families.

“Giving back is a key value at Michaels, and we are grateful to have a partner in Starlight Children’s Foundation that supports us in bringing our commitment to life. We are proud to have our team members across the country celebrating National Volunteer Week this way and hope the backpacks being delivered this week provide some comfort, amusement, and inspire creativity for both the kids and their families,” said Chuck Rubin, CEO of Michaels.

From Incredible Jumps To Record-Breaking Dives, Purina Pro Plan Celebrates 20 Years Of The Incredible Dog Challenge

Brand Partners with Andy Roddick and America’s VetDogs to Launch “Call for Incredible” Campaign Highlighting Incredible Dog Stories

Press Release – ST. LOUIS, (April 25, 2017) – For two decades, the Purina Pro Plan Incredible Dog Challenge (IDC) has been giving competitive canine athletes a stage to demonstrate their amazing abilities in Olympic-style events around the country. To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the IDC, Pro Plan is partnering with Tennis Hall of Famer Andy Roddick to kick off the “Call for Incredible” campaign to highlight all the ways dogs are “incredible” and call on dog owners to share their own stories. For every entry in the Call for Incredible Sweepstakes[1] on, Purina Pro Plan will make a donation to America’s VetDogs, to support the “incredible” and important work they do with service dogs and veterans with disabilities.

“Call for Incredible” is a year-long celebration showcasing all kinds of incredible dogs – from canine athletes like Incredible Dog Challenge competitors, to military dogs, and lovable couch companions like Andy Roddick’s two English bulldogs, Bob Costas and Billie Jean. Purina Pro Plan is calling for dog owners to share a photo and story on what makes their own dog incredible by visiting Here, dog lovers can also enter for a chance to win a trip to San Diego during Veterans Week in November to attend a special Incredible Dog Challenge on the historic USS Midway Museum, featuring some of the most incredible canine athletes and working military canines in the country. And for every entry, Purina Pro Plan will donate one pound of dog food, up to 20,000 pounds, to America’s VetDogs, which trains and places guide and service dogs to veterans with disabilities.

“The Incredible Dog Challenge is more than a competition; it’s a passionate community of dog owners, who feel the same way that we do – that all dogs are capable of amazing things,” said Christi Maginn, Brand Director, Purina Pro Plan. “’Call for Incredible’ gives us the chance to celebrate 20 years of these amazing athletes, as well as the incredible dogs that have impacted our own lives.”

The “Call for Incredible” campaign will also highlight incredible dogs whose lives are dedicated to helping military veterans, such as the guide and service dogs that work with America’s VetDogs. America’s VetDogs recognizes the powerful impact dogs can have on a person’s life and is committed to training and placing assistance dogs with veterans to help better their quality of life.

“We’re excited to partner with Purina Pro Plan to highlight the impact that highly-skilled service dogs can have to help veterans live with dignity and independence when they return from duty,” said Wells B. Jones, CEO from America’s VetDogs. “We know they are incredible and deserve recognition for the unwavering love, companionship and care they provide to their owners.”

Purina Pro Plan is committed to delivering high quality nutrition to help fuel dogs so they can do the incredible. Whether they’re jumping off docks, opening doors or napping on the patio, there’s a Pro Plan formula specially designed to fit each dog’s specific needs. Purina Pro Plan is dedicated to helping promote healthy living in dogs of all ages and activity levels through nutrition that performs.

For more information on the Purina Pro Plan Incredible Dog Challenge or “Call for Incredible” campaign, visit

About Purina Pro Plan:

Purina Pro Plan is the food of choice for 10 of the past 11 Westminster Best in Show winners*. Our goal is to give your dog the nutrition to be his absolute best, helping him to be energetic and resilient, and maintain an ideal body condition, healthy skin, and a stunning coat. Because being the best he can be means something different for every dog, our wide range of dry and wet foods and snacks, sold exclusively at pet specialty stores, can be found in five specialized categories formulated for a dog’s unique needs. For more information, visit or follow @ProPlan on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or Google+. The brand is manufactured by Nestle Purina PetCare, which promotes responsible pet care, humane education, community involvement, and the positive bond between people and their pets. A premiere global manufacturer of pet products, Nestle Purina PetCare is part of Swiss-based Nestle S.A., a global leader in nutrition, health, and wellness.

*Handlers or owners of these champions may have received food or compensation as a Purina ambassador.

About America’s VetDogs

Since 2003, America’s VetDogs ( has trained and placed guide and service dogs to provide independence, enhanced mobility, and companionship to veterans with disabilities from all eras. In 2015, VetDogs opened its programs to first responders, including fire, police, and emergency medical personnel. America’s VetDogs is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization founded by the Guide Dog Foundation. VetDogs relies on contributions from generous individuals, corporations, service clubs, and foundations to fund its mission to help those who have served our country live with dignity and independence. It costs over $50,000 to breed, raise, train, and place one assistance dog, but America’s VetDogs provides its services completely free of charge to the individual.

Be sure to catch Charlie, the VetDogs ‘Puppy with a Purpose’ daily on NBC’s TODAY.

America’s VetDogs has been accredited by both the International Guide Dog Federation and Assistance Dogs International.

About USS Midway Museum

The USS Midway Museum is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization established in 1992. The Museum opened in June 2004. It is governed by a board of directors. Its vision is to become America’s living symbol of freedom, and its mission to preserve the historic USS Midway and the legacy of those who serve, inspire and educate future generations, and entertain museum guests.

[1] NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Sweepstakes begins 12:00:01 a.m. ET on 4/17/17 & ends 11:59:59 p.m. ET on 9/30/17. Open to 50 U.S./D.C. residents who are at least age 21 in MS, age 19 in AL/NE or age 18 in other states/D.C. at the time of entry. To enter & for prizes, odds & full Official Rules, go to Void outside 50 U.S./D.C. & where prohibited. Sponsor: Nestlé Purina PetCare Company.

Beginning at 12:00:01 a.m. ET on 04/17/2017 and ending at 11:59:59 p.m. ET on 09/30/2017, Nestlé Purina PetCare Company (“Purina”) will donate one (1) pound of food to America’s VetDogs for each entry into the Purina Pro Plan Call for Incredible Sweepstakes, with a minimum donation of 10,000 lbs. and a maximum donation of 20,000 lbs. of food. For more information about America’s VetDogs, please visit

Projects Abroad Continues Earth Month Momentum

Conservation Projects available for volunteers to protect the environment

Projects Abroad conservation volunteers inspect a reforestation nursery in Peru

Press Release – NEW YORK – April 26, 2017 – Earth Day was celebrated by more than 1 billion people in nearly 200 countries around the world on Saturday April 22nd. As the world celebrates Earth Month throughout April, Projects Abroad recognizes the importance of collective action to protect the environment.

Projects Abroad offers 12 Conservation & Environment volunteering programs in destinations around the world. Through service work, volunteers contribute to ongoing conservation efforts in specific areas of need. The types of projects available vary, and take place in destinations across Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the South Pacific.

Climate change and global warming were major focuses of hundreds of campaigns in support of Earth Day. Many of Projects Abroad’s conservation programs directly address the realities of climate change. Reforestation efforts in Madagascar, research into recent major global coral bleaching events, and protecting biodiversity in the Amazon Rainforest, are among the projects a volunteer can be exposed to during a trip.

A number of projects also focus on protecting specific threatened animal species. The Shark Conservation Project in Fiji produces groundbreaking research to better understand these predators at the top of our oceans’ food chain. On the African Savannah Project in Kenya, volunteers work in a team to monitor and count endangered giraffe.

“As we start to realize the severity of our planet’s condition, protecting the environment has to become a priority for all,” says Tom Pastorius, Head of Global Recruitment for Projects Abroad. “From the tiniest of hatched sea turtles, to the vast Amazon jungle, our conservation projects make it possible for someone to do their bit to make a difference.”

Earth Month ends next week, but the need to protect the planet does not end with it. Volunteers of all ages can sign up and join a passionate Projects Abroad team of conservationists in a destination abroad, to contribute to saving planet Earth.

About Projects Abroad

Projects Abroad was founded in 1992 by Dr. Peter Slowe, a geography professor, as a program for students to travel and work while on break from full-time study. The program had its genesis in post-USSR Romania, where students were given the chance to teach conversational English. After a few years just sending volunteers to Eastern Europe for teaching, the company expanded to sending volunteers of all ages around the world on a wide range of projects.

Projects Abroad is a global leader in short-term international volunteer programs with projects in 30 countries and recruitment offices in the UK, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Holland, Hong Kong, Norway, Poland, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden and the United States.

For details on volunteering abroad, visit Projects Abroad’s web site at

USCIRF Releases 2017 Annual Report

USCIRF Recommends Russia be Designated a Country of Particular Concern

Press Release – WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) released its 2017 Annual Report on the state of religious freedom in selected countries. “Overall,” said USCIRF Chair Thomas Reese, S.J., “The Commission has concluded that the state of affairs for international religious freedom is worsening in both the depth and breadth of violations. In the 2017 report, the Commission calls for Congress and the administration to stress consistently the importance of religious freedom abroad, for everyone, everywhere, in public statements and public and private meetings.”

The International Religious Freedom Act requires the U.S. government to designate as a “country of particular concern,” or CPC, any country whose government engages in or tolerates particularly severe religious freedom violations that are systematic, ongoing, and egregious. To fulfill USCIRF’s mandate to advise the State Department on which countries should be designated as CPC, the Commission researches and monitors religious freedom conditions abroad and issues an annual report on countries with serious violations of religious freedom.

This year’s report calls on the Secretary of State to designate Russia as a CPC partly due to its continued use of its “anti-extremism” law as a tool to repeatedly curtail religious freedoms for various faiths, most recently the Jehovah’s Witnesses. “The Jehovah’s Witnesses’ right to religious freedom is being eliminated through a flawed application of this law,” commented USCIRF’s Chair, Thomas Reese, S.J. “The recent Russian Supreme Court ruling bans the legal existence of the group throughout Russia.”

In 2017, USCIRF recommends that the State Department again designate the following 10 countries as CPCs: Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. USCIRF also finds that six other countries meet the CPC standard and should be so designated: Central African Republic, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, Syria, and Vietnam.

In 2017, USCIRF places the following 12 countries, where religious freedom violations are severe but do not fully meet the CPC standard, on the Commission’s Tier 2 list: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Cuba, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Laos, Malaysia, and Turkey.

USCIRF remains concerned about the “securitization” of religious freedom, citing Bahrain as an example where the government has cracked down on the Shi’a Muslim majority yet the U.S. administration is lifting human rights conditions on weapons sales to that country. USCIRF Chair, Thomas Reese, S.J., said that “Religious freedom should not suffer under the guise of seeking to ensure national security.”

Some governments have made efforts to address religious freedom concerns. For example, USCIRF does not recommend Egypt and Iraq for CPC designation in 2017, as it had for Egypt since 2011 and Iraq since 2008. In Egypt, while ISIS affiliates increasingly targeted Coptic Christians, the government took some positive steps to address religious freedom concerns, although the rest of its human rights record has been abysmal. In Iraq, while the Iraqi government has sought to curb sectarian tensions, ISIS has committed genocide, ruthlessly targeting anyone who does not espouse its extremist ideology.

For years, USCIRF has recognized and documented how non-state actors are some of the most egregious violators of religious freedom. The Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act of 2016 requires the President to identify non-state actors engaging in particularly severe violations of religious freedom and designate each as an “entity of particular concern” (EPC). The act defines a non-state actor as “a non-sovereign entity that exercises significant political power and territorial control; is outside the control of a sovereign government; and often employs violence in pursuit of its objectives.”

Accordingly, for the first time, USCIRF recommends that the following three non-state actors be designated as EPCs: the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria; the Taliban in Afghanistan; and al-Shabaab in Somalia.

To view the full USCIRF 2017 Annual Report visit

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