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Two Local Non-Profits Who Offer Respite and Fun for Families of Children with Serious Medical Conditions and Developmental Disabilities

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Children with serious medical conditions and developmental disabilities deserve the chance to “just be a kid” every now and then. These two organizations offer kids that chance while also giving families respite, community and fun!

Thanks to Butch Bando’s Fantasy of Lights for partnering with me on this post.

You might think Butch Bando’s Fantasy of Lights is just a really cool drive through light display that pops up during the holidays and then goes into hibernation for the other 10 months out of the year. But you would be incorrect. I’ve had the chance to spend a little extra time outside of the drive thru with the family and employees behind the light show and what really shines is their desire to make a difference in the community around them. 

Butch Bando’s Fantasy of Lights isn’t just a holiday display, it’s a vehicle for good. Through donations, special nights at the show and involvement throughout the entire calendar year, Butch Bando’s Fantasy of Lights has been able to invest in several non-profit organizations that are making a difference in our community and they’ve asked me to share with you about two of those organizations that offer so much to Central Ohio families!

I was privileged to spend a couple of hours with each of these organizations, seeing first hand what they do and learning how others can benefit, volunteer and give! And now, I am honored to share with you what I have seen and learned!

Two Local Non-Profits Who Offer Respite and Fun for Families of Children with Serious Medical Conditions and Developmental Disabilities:

1. Recreation Unlimited

In May, I drove out to Ashley, Ohio to tour and learn about Recreation Unlimited. I came away completely impressed by the organization and its mission. Open since 1989, Recreation Unlimited is a 195 acre campus that provides camps for children and adults with physical and developmental disabilities.

Recreation Unlimited offers camping, canoeing, climbing and sports opportunities for kids and adults who might not otherwise be able to do these kinds of activities. Meanwhile, while the camper is at camp, parents and caregivers can have a time of respite. The organization provides summer and winter residential camps (one week long), summer day camps and year round respite weekend camps. 

When visiting the campus, it was hard to ignore the quality and high standards that were maintained. Major renovations have taken place over the past 10 years to continue to offer campers the highest quality experience thanks to generous donors. Meanwhile the organization  has remained debt free.

How to Participate:

Camps are available for kids and adults who are 5 years old and over with disabilities and/or health concerns. If you have a child (including adults) who could benefit from one of the camps at Recreation Unlimited, click this link to read a description of the camps offered and to complete a camper application online.

How to Volunteer:

This amazing camp experience is made possible through generous donors and volunteers. Volunteers are needed to help with camps, maintain landscaping and maintenance, and to participate in special events. Local businesses can also get involved as a group to work on specific projects or events that benefit Recreation Unlimited. You can call or email Recreation Unlimited to find out how to volunteer!

How to Give:

Campers are not turned away because of inability to pay! Your donations to Recreation Unlimited directly help campers and their caregivers have this unique experience. You can contribute to a scholarship fund or create your own camper scholarship fund to provide scholarships for campers. You can also click here to donate to the Butch Bando’s Fantasy of Lights Recreation Unlimited Camper Scholarship Fund!


2. A Kid Again

A Kid Again offers the opportunity for kids with serious medical conditions (and their families) the opportunity to be just that – “a kid again”. For kids and their families who have to spend so much of their time wrapped up in doctors appointments, medical tests, specialists, appointments and traveling to and from said visits, A Kid Again is a chance to get away from all of that for a few hours and spend time together as a family doing something really fun and special.

Once a month, the Central Ohio Chapter of A Kid Again plans an “adventure” for families. These adventures give families something to look forward to, a bright spot of hope and excitement in each month. Adventures include The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, Kings Island, Zoombezi Bay, and a night just for them at Butch Bando’s Fantasy of Lights!

I was privileged to join A Kid Again for their adventure to Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in June. The Columbus Zoo shut down early and was staffed by volunteer employees who gave their time to work the event. Families got admission and the opportunity to participate in everything the zoo has to offer at no cost to them. They could watch shows, ride the train and carousel, feed the giraffes, ride camels and anything else the zoo has to offer!

Kids got to be kids and families got to join right in!

How to Participate:

Participation in A Kid Again is open to children under 20 years old who have been qualified by a medical physician as having a life-threatening illness or condition. Children and their families can participate until the qualifying child is 20 years old. Families who want to participate must fill out the enrollment form and mail it to their local A Kid Again chapter. (A Kid Again was founded in Columbus and has three chapters in Ohio and one in Indiana.) There is no income requirement or cost to participate. A Kid Again is open to all who qualify.

How to Volunteer:

Volunteers are needed to support A Kid Again adventures! You might be able to provide administrative help, be a mentor, make hospital visits or be a hands-on volunteer at one of their events! Click the link to learn more and to fill out a volunteer application.

How to Give:

Participation in A Kid Again is FREE for all families therefore the success of each adventure depends on donations from our community! One adventure costs an average of $35 per child (or family member). You can give to A Kid Again by sponsoring a child, a family or an event. You can also take part in peer to peer fundraising, inviting your friends and family to join in with you by donating your birthday, running a race or hosting a special event to raise money for A Kid Again! Learn more about how how to give here.


Please share this information with families who might be in need of these services but do not know about them!

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7 Ways to Give Back in Columbus By Doing Things You Already Do

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Here are 7 ways to give back in Columbus by doing things you’re probably already doing!

In this age of social media and instant news, it can be overwhelming to figure out how to help when there are so many important causes, major issues and people in our own community who need help! Here are 7 ways you can help others in Columbus by doing things you’re already doing!

1. Light a Candle

Burning Candle from Eleventh Candle Co

Everyone likes their home to smell good, right? We’re already buying candles, diffusing oils and boiling cinnamon sticks on the stove, so put your money towards a good smelling candle or room spray that provides jobs for women who are at risk of or survivors of human trafficking right here in Columbus! The factory that makes the candles employs these women in Columbus and the profits from the company then go on to support an orphanage and at risk women in Ethiopia. Shop here (referral link): Eleventh Candle Co. Use my referral code “todaycolumbus” to get 10% off your purchase! They will also soon have a retail space at The Madery in Worthington!

2-4. Go Out for Coffee

Well, this is a no-brainer! If you’re planning a coffee date with your BFF, choose one of these 3 coffee shops where a portion of the profits are being given to a good cause:

Third Way Cafe

coffee mug at Third Way Cafe

Third Way Cafe is a venture of CleanTurn Enterprises whose mission is to “strengthen communities with an empowered workforce by creating profitable social enterprises.”

The cafe hosts a variety of community meetings, classes and informational sessions! Examples include: Entrepreneurship 101, Homework Clubs for neighborhood kids and meetings for parents of addicts. Join them for an open mic night, brunch pop up, card making class and more! Or just stop in for a bottomless cup of coffee for just $2 and browse their large book collection! Follow Third Way Cafe on Facebook to stay in the loop about all of their upcoming events.

Bottoms Up Coffee Co-Op

Outside of Bottoms Up Coffee Co-Op

Bottoms Up Coffee Co-Op is on a mission to reduce infant mortality in Columbus! The coffee shop is also part co-working space and you can rent a work space in the form of a desk or an office on a monthly basis. A portion of the proceeds are given to local non-profits that are working to reduce infant mortality.

Bottoms Up is actively involved in the Franklinton neighborhood and the coffee shop offers coffee, speciality drinks (my favorite is the Canary Island) and baked goods. Read more about them in 5 on Friday: Kid-Friendly Coffee Shops.

Roosevelt Cafe

Coffee mug at The Roosevelt Coffee House

The Roosevelt Coffeehouse is a coffee shop with a mission. Proceeds from the coffee shop support efforts in the areas of clean water, hunger and human trafficking. The coffeehouse partners with local and international organizations who are making a difference in these three areas.

Examples of local organizations the coffee shop supports are: Faith Mission, She Has a Name Cleaning Services (also part of CleanTurn Enterprises), Gracehaven, The Central Ohio Rescue and Restore Coalition and the Salvation Army. Read more about the causes and organizations your coffee dollars support here.

5. Bring a Snack to Share

Plate of brownies from Fourteen Twenty Nine

Next time you have to take a birthday treat to school, bring dessert to a potluck or just want to surprise a friend or family member with a special treat, consider ordering your baked goods from Fourteen Twenty Nine. Owner Amanda’s goal is to open a bakery that will support, train and hire women who are survivors of human trafficking and who don’t have easy  access to traditional avenues of employment.

Order your brownies here! All proceeds from the sale of brownies will go towards procuring a commercial kitchen space where Amanda can bake her brownies and begin to accept women who want to volunteer to learn baking skills. As the business grows, Fourteen Twenty Nine will be able to hire women to work in the kitchen space! Read more about Amanda and Fourteen Twenty Nine at Fight Human Trafficking in Columbus One Delicious Brownie at a Time!

6. Have a Family Night Out

Bowling Alley at Ten Pin Alley, Hilliard, Ohio

Ten Pin Alley has recently been remodeled and provides tons of family-friendly fun! There’s bowling, an arcade, laser tag, bocce ball and a full kitchen! (See New and Improved Ten Pin Alley Provides Family Friendly Fun in Hilliard!) But a night out can be more than just that. Ten Pin Alley has instituted Heart & Bowl, a way to give back to local non-profit organizations! For all of 2018, 2% of all sales will be given to Hilliard Food Pantry, Action for Children and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Ohio! You can see all of the information about Heart & Bowl here.

7. Take your Kids to the Library

baked goods at Freedom a la Cart

You’re already taking your kids to the library to pick out books and I’m guessing you’re swinging through the Starbucks drive-thru on the way for your coffee fix. (Why do I assume that? Because I do it ALL. THE. TIME. 😉 ) Next time, save yourself the drive thru wait and check out Columbus Metropolitan Library’s Northside Branch. This newly rebuilt library has a fun and bright children’s area AND it’s home to Annie Maude’s Café, named after Annie Maude Battelle, the first woman to serve on the Columbus Public Library Trustee Board, and run by Freedom a la Cart.

Freedom a la Cart employs survivors of human trafficking here in Columbus and by doing so gives them job skills and a safe place to learn, grow and heal. The cafe serves One Line Coffee drinks, snacks, cookies, brownies and other sweet treats. Read more about Freedom a la Cart here!

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downtown Columbus, Ohio

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Provide Sweet Dreams & Stories with Goldfish Swim School

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Now through December 21, Goldfish Swim School in Dublin and Westerville will be collecting pajamas and hard cover books for children working with two local organizations: Brightside Academy and Run The Race/Brian Muha Memorial Foundation. These organizations are serving at risk children on the near west side and inner city of Columbus.

If you would like to donate, you can bring any of the following items to either Goldfish Swim School location or to Trio Orthodontics or Legacy Dental:

– A new pair of kid’s pajamas size 3mos to 12 yrs.
– A hard cover or chapter book for kids ages 3 months to 10 years.

There are 50 children at Brightside Academy and the goal is to provide pajamas and books for each of them, plus some left over to donate to the Muha Foundation! Any help you can give is very appreciated!


Goldfish Swim School offers perpetual, year-round swim lessons for kids ages 4 months to 12 years old. Our pools are warm and inviting (90 degrees) and our class sizes are small (4:1) so kids receive the personalized attention from our Ellis-trained swim instructors. Our curriculum focuses on water safety so we teach kids at all levels how to be safe in and around water. Goldfish Swim School has two Central Ohio locations, in Dublin and Westerville, and for more information, visit http://westerville.goldfishswimschool.comand http://dublin.goldfishswimschool.com.


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