kidsnewsroom.gifToday�s FamilyFirst site is provides children with a family-safe, kid-friendly site loaded with stories, pictures, contests and opportunities for learning. Each week, a new issue is added to the site with the latest news in sports, music & entertainment, health, history, local events and happenings around the world, all designed with kids in mind.
The site has a wealth of knowledge for the news-savvy kid! Browsing the headlines at press time, I noticed stories about John Gotti�s release from prison, the voluntary efforts of New York City skyscraper owners to dim their lights to help migratory birds, the recent release of footage of a giant squid feeding in its deepwater environment, and the recent marketing of a push-free skateboard.

In other words, it�s current news, but aimed at a younger audience.
Kids can take the current events quiz to see how well they�re keeping up with the world�s daily goings-on.
They can also write their own stories commenting on the articles that they read. And more significantly, kids with a knack for writing can actually become staff writers themselves! Imagine your child�s self-esteem if he or she picked up a writing gig!
Parents, this is a valuable site indeed. Kids can get all sorts of info here that will be valuable in their schoolwork. History, science, mathematics, language, geography, and art are all indexed and searchable.
Of course, it�s not ALL work. There are a plethora of online games to play. Plus, don�t miss Aford Turtle, the resident comic strip.
To sum up, your kids will have lots of fun here while they actually learn stuff!

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  1. Elves are needed to help Santa make Christmas merry for kids battling cancer and other serious illnesses!!!!! You can help let folks know that we need volunteers. Send them to
    written by Russ Mancl
    Santa really does exist, or at least his spirit exists in the Hugs and Hope Club for sick children.
    When Marsha Jordan of Harshaw learned of a young boy with a brain tumor, she asked all her friends to pray for him; but she wanted to do more. “After considering what resources I had,” said Jordan, “I knew I could not do a lot, but I could do something; and I determined to do what I could.” She created a web page with the little boy’s photo and story, and she hoped others would send cheery mail to the boy or assist his family in any way they could.
    What began as one grandma’s single handed effort has now grown to a network of over 2,500 volunteers nationwide with The HUGS and HOPE Club for sick kids. The club provides a 24-hour chat group where parents of sick children can meet other parents and volunteers for emotional support and information. The HUGS and HOPE Foundation also sponsors a Parent Pal program, which matches up a volunteer “pal” with an isolated parent. The pal stays in close contact with the parent providing the rare commodity of friendship. HUGS and HOPE also grants wishes for children, sends balloon bouquets to hospitals, and provides birthday party packages and Christmas gifts. “Older adults might be interested in this program,” Marsha said.
    Once an energetic volunteer, Jordan’s life took a sudden sharp turn when she fell victim to a connective tissue disease. Her busy schedule came to a screeching halt because of migraines, fatigue, fibromyalgia, and joint pain. Due to complications of the illness, she was also struck blind for several months. She knows how it feels to be in pain, isolated, and afraid. This is why she can relate to children who are seriously ill.
    After Jordan’s grandson was severely burned, she learned first hand how helpless parents feel when their little ones are hurting and no one can stop the pain. Jordan’s hobby of sending cheery cards to hospitalized children and notes of encouragement to their parents soon blossomed into a fulltime job.
    “We all experience bad things, but it’s always harder when you see a child suffer, because they don’t understand. I had to hold my grandson down while the doctor ripped the burned skin off his hand. I could tell by the way he looked at me he was thinking, “Why aren’t you helping me?” I was helping him, but he didn’t realize it,” Jordan said.
    During the holiday season, HUGS and HOPE volunteers work on Project Elf. Jordan said that a lot of people get together as a group to sponsor children. One group of co-workers sponsored an entire family. In addition to gifts for all the siblings, the group had a Christmas tree delivered to the family as well as a turkey dinner.
    “The parents are often too poor or too busy and stressed out to celebrate Christmas or think about shopping. A lot of them just can’t afford it because of medical bills. Many parents lose their jobs because they spend so much time in emergency rooms and intensive care units with their children,” Jordan said.
    When I talked with Marsha in the Jordan home, which also serves as her office, she told me that she was a little surprised because the HUGS and HOPE charity is known nationwide, but right here in the Northwoods many people have never heard about it.
    In her home, Jordan displays a board which includes photos of many of the kids that HUGS and HOPE has helped. Some graduate to good health and some lose their battles and pass away. Currently there are about 250 children on the website.
    Perhaps this holiday season Marsha’s message might go a long way in spreading the cheer. “Helping other people is fantastic for your own well being. If you’re depressed, thinking about somebody else helps. Focus on others, and pretty soon you’re not depressed at all,” she said. “No matter how old you are, or what your skills are (or lack of skills), you can still be useful and make a difference. There are a lot of grandmothers in their 80’s and in wheelchairs who get on their computers every day to read those stories of the kids and send their moms letters or mail the kids little gifts like stickers. The kids live for that, and the volunteers enjoy the satisfaction of knowing that they’re making a child’s life brighter. The kids look forward to receiving their own mail and volunteers love to send it; so everybody wins,” Jordan said.
    Watch for more information on Marsha’s book called “Hugs, Hope, and Peanut Butter.” In it, she shares her own experiences of living with chronic pain and depression and the lessons she’s learned from them. The book is illustrated with drawings by the sick HUGS and HOPE Club kids and their siblings. Proceeds from the book will go to the kids. The book’s release has been pushed back because the publisher was affected by hurricane Katrina.
    Jordan, also known as the “Peanut Butter Queen,” believes that hope and love are sticky like peanut butter. “When you spread them around,” she says, “you can’t help but get some on yourself too.”
    Another favorite quote from Jordan is, “Don’t be fooled by the wrapper.” She says, “Many things seem to come in bad packages, but there’s always something good in there if you take the time to look.”
    Yes, Santa still exists. He lives in the hearts of Hugs and Hope Club members! The group is always looking for more hug givers and hope builders. To learn more becoming a volunteer or helping in some way, visit the Hugs and Hope web site at or call (715) 282-7271.

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