Dagmar Obert of Balsam Hill celebrates Christmas in July by giving back raising money for her chosen charity. Read her insights on her beneficiary and her answers to Balsam Hill’s questions about the virtues of generosity and compassion.

The holidays are not the only time we can embrace the spirit of generosity. In fact, we have the entire year to share our blessings with others. This July, Balsam Hill pledges to match up to $1,000 in donations to a selected charity through its Christmas in July Charity Campaign. Here is some information about the organization I intend to help, and why it has a special place in my heart.

Christmas in July charity recipient: Special olympics logo

Special Olympics

The Special Olympics was the natural choice for me since I have a child with special needs myself. The Special Olympics provides children, teens and adults an athletic experience with others who have the same condition. During this special occasion, they can join a team and compete in an exciting sporting event.

The Special Olympics builds so many positive connections for the children with special needs it serves. I chose this organization because it provides unique activities that are not available for children with special needs. Sometimes, people with special needs are kept in front of a TV to keep them busy and entertained. Getting them into indoor and outdoor activities like bowling, soccer, golf, skiing, snowboarding and track can help them stay healthy and give them an opportunity to interact with peers.

Established in 1968, the Special Olympics is a sports organization that provides a venue for individuals with intellectual disabilities to be more active and sociable. Offering training and competitions to over 4.2 million athletes across 170 countries, the Special Olympics has turned into a global social movement that empowers children with disabilities by helping them find their strengths and develop new skills.

Project Unified

I appreciate that the Special Olympics constantly makes an effort to improve its mission. For almost 20 years, its Project Unify program has been creating sport teams that break down the barrier between regular people and those with special needs. Through this project, people with and without intellectual disabilities are brought together through sports and friendly competition. The relationships that are fostered in this program make those team sports more fun and memorable.

Hundreds of thousands of people in the world participate in Unified Sports. It is heartening to learn that more US states are embracing this approach to promote the social inclusion of special needs children.

This Christmas in July, let’s donate or help out any way we can. Seeing someone struggle to do something that we take for granted is a reminder of how lucky we are. Our lives are good. We have a lot to be thankful for. Let’s always remember that. I hope you have a meaningful year helping others have a more fulfilled life.

A Special Olympics WInter Games competition in 2011
Photo by Forest Service Northern Region via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

BH: Could you tell us a bit about the cause you’re supporting and what it means to you?

Dagmar:  The Special Olympics builds so many positive connections for the children with special needs it serves.  It helps the mind understand rules of engagement.  It builds healthy bodies by teaching kids to exercise and enjoy activities. Finally, it builds relationships with coaches, volunteers and their peers.

BH: Deciding on a charity to support can be difficult. What led you to choose the charity you’re helping for this campaign?

Dagmar: Because I coach. I have seen all the wonderful and positive aspects of this great charity.  After spending time with Special Olympics kids, a great number of people realize that there are some aspects of life that can be so challenging.  It brings perspective and a sense of gratitude. It teaches them to focus on what’s good in their life and what they have to be thankful for.

BH: Giving should be more than once a year – and probably more than twice a year as well. Do you have any tips for how people can incorporate the spirit of giving more into their everyday lives?

Dagmar: Stop using ‘I’ and ‘me’ for a few days. Or even ‘I want this’ or ‘I need that.’  It’s so easy to be self-absorbed. I try to resists that way of thinking and speaking by immediately saying at least one thing I am thankful for in my life.  It’s best if I can think of two or three.

BH: Could you share a story about a time someone did something kind for you?

Dagmar:  When I was in the early stages of my interior design business, the mother of my daughter’s best friend would email me once a quarter and tell me what she had signed her daughter up for. These were activities like dance classes, horseback riding and park district classes.  She would research everything and basically email or text me about what to sign up for and which time slot or class her daughters was in. She wanted out daughter to be together.  This was a huge timesaver and also allowed my daughter to participate in things I simply did not have time to research due to my clientele and my expanding business.

BH: Could you tell us about a time you observed a random act of kindness that resonated with you?

Dagmar:  Recently, I saw a man freely give up his seat on the airplane so that a young family could sit together.  It seemed so small, but it was so kind. It made the flight better than it should have been.  It was a selfless act and that was inspiring.

BH: Could you share a story about a time you did something for a friend or family member?

Dagmar: During May of this year, I helped my sister decorate and plan my nephew’s rehearsal dinner. She had a wonderful group of friends and we were able to turn the rustic elegance of this barn into a beautiful venue for a celebration.

BH: How do you encourage your kids to be giving?

Dagmar: I use my creative gifts to serve and help others. I reflect the glory of the One who gave those gifts to me.  Whether it be making their home more beautiful or simply showing flexibility in being creative with schedules for meeting or even carpools, etc.

BH: Is there a time when your children acted generously in a way that surprised and delighted you?

Dagmar: When my daughter was in high school, she would babysit for the high school pastor for free.  It was very sweet and it was gratefully appreciated. There was also the time when my oldest came home from college for her first Thanksgiving. She was so appreciative of everything I had done for her over the years.  I was so touched when she wanted to help when I was cooking and cleaning. It was so heartfelt. She not only said she was appreciative, but she tried to lighten the workload at home while she was there.

BH: What do you think is a simple way people can give back to their communities?

Dagmar: Simply to get involved.  Go to the parades.  Go to the cleanup days for schools or help with fundraisers and auctions.  These build relationships and foster a caring community.  If you are lonely, you haven’t really tried to get out and meet people. Involvement builds a sense of dignity in oneself and brings the community together.

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If you would like to donate to the Special Olympics, please visit Balsam Hill’s Christmas Charity page.

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