Making A Difference: The World of Giving Get Moving!

Summer is a season of extremes - from the "lazy days of summer" version epitomized by relaxing, resting, reading and recuperation all the way to the "get outside and get active" version that features beach volleyball, hiking, baseball, running and lots of outside activities.

Did you know that the natural human need to get outside and get moving is a perfect way to Make a Difference?

That's right; just take a look around and you'll find all kinds of ways to get moving, join your friends, meet new people AND make a difference through walkathons, marathons, bikeathons, even car washes (pretty good exercise if you really use that elbow grease) and much more.

As with so many things, getting active and involved on behalf of charity started with a simple idea and an important and compelling cause. Over 40 years ago the March of Dimes launched WalkAmerica with a mission to "walk together for stronger, healthier babies." Each year more than 7 million people participate and over its history WalkAmerica has raised over $2 billion.

But that's just one example. Here are just a few more of the hundreds you can find online for activity-based charity events in spring, summer and fall:

• There are AIDSWalks around the country which, for more than 25 years, have brought people together to fund essential programs combating the plague that is AIDS
• The Avon Walk for Breast Cancer has major walks in many cities and has raised over $440 million since 2003
• The American Cancer Society has run bike-a-thons for 40 years to spread the word and raise critical dollars for research into the wide spectrum of cancers
• Fannie Mae - yes, Fannie Mae - provides information on participating in charitable walks around the country as part of their program to Help The Homeless
• The official charities program of the Boston Marathon raises over $11 million a year in support of 31 charities
• The Alzheimer's Association's Walk to End Alzheimer's takes place in more than 600 communities and is the country's largest event to raise funds and awareness for Alzheimer's under the banner "We walk so future generations won't have to face Alzheimer's"
• And there are also many local events where you can be active and support a cause - everything from Wellsboro, Pennsylvania's Pedal-for-Pets Bike-a-thon and Ann Arbor, Michigan's Ecology Center bike-a-thon to the Derricks & Diamonds annual charity softball tournament in League City, Texas benefiting Texas Children's Hospital
You might even want to consider supporting a local cause by starting your own active charitable event. Take a look at the Walkathon Guide for ideas and tips for creating your own event to Make a Difference.

Why walk? Or run or bike or, simply, get outside and raise money? Because:

• It's good for you - mentally, physically and socially
• It makes a difference while you're doing something you probably love to do anyway
• The dollars you raise are critical to the causes you care about, providing billions of dollars - and a great deal of new awareness through newspapers, TV and online - every year
• They are a perfect match for the natural human need to get outside, and exercise goes by much faster when you're participating with lots of other people in a positive environment

Here are five recommendations and tips on how you can match your activity level and interest in a cause to Make a Difference:

1. Get online and search for an organization you can get behind and a walk-a-thon or bike-a-thon or marathon that supports it
2. Understand what you're getting into in terms of the agreement you'll make to raise money; some events require a registration fee, for example
3. Get your friends, family and colleagues excited by supporting you with their donations - or joining you by participating
4. Make sure you set reasonable goals for yourself in terms of activity and fundraising, so you can be safe and successful and have a great time
5. Ask your employer to match the money you raise

And here's a bonus tip: if you're an active individual who is already planning to run, walk, bike or hike this summer - alone or with others - consider turning it into an opportunity to Make a Difference by asking people to contribute to a cause of your choice in support of your activity. The charity you give the donations to will be thrilled, and you may just be starting a new event!

Time outdoors is a perfect way to Make a Difference (M.A.D.), get exercise and meet and be with people. Will you be M.A.D. today?