A Tribute to My Mom & A Giveaway

I have to say, I wasn’t that shocked the day I found out my fourth sister wasn’t my sister at all, but in fact was someone that my mom had taken in. I had no idea she was a young lady who had fallen on hard times. She was around the same age as my sisters. There’s ten years between the youngest of my older sisters and me; so to me, everyone was older. To me, she was my sister. That’s all I knew. It didn’t matter who she was; she was part of the family, and we loved her.


I guess it came as no surprise to me, because my mom was always helping others, even though she had nothing herself. It was common practice to help each other in the community. Passing around hand-me-down clothing, borrowing food until payday, babysitting for moms working late, and helping pay each other’s rent. It’s what you did. It takes strong bonds to build a community, and we had it in spades.

I remember my mom telling me stories of her brother, my uncle Bob, driving in a fierce snowstorm because we didn’t have any food, and I was out of formula. He’d also grab us a piece of furniture or two in his travels. To me, Uncle Bob was invincible. Rain, sleet, snow, or hail could not stop Uncle Bob. He was my superhero.

Growing up in this caring and giving environment has always stuck with me. That’s why every Christmas, The McDermotts adopt a family. It feels so great to give of yourself to help others. Shopping with my kids to fulfill our adopted family’s wish list is a great way to teach my children the values of charity, be it monetary or giving of your time. Their little faces beam as they carry the wrapped gifts up three flights of stairs to our special family. They know they are doing something good, and that is reaffirmed by the joy and excitement they see in our special family as they receive their gifts.

So please, be a superhero to someone this Christmas. Whether you donate some money or donate your time, it all goes into our big wonderful community and helps it grow stronger.

Share Your Story and You Might Win one of these Kids’ Ride-Ons!


I’m giving away a kid’s ride-on battery-powered Joovy vehicle to the fan who shares how they give back during the holiday season. I’d love to hear what your family does to help your community during the holidays. What causes do you support that are near and dear to your heart?

To enter my giveaway, just register for my site and share your charitable story in the comments below by 5 pm PST on December 26st, 2012. I’ll then select one winner from the submissions to receive your choice of the Joovy kids’ battery powered 4 x 4 or Joovy Race Car Ride-On

- Dean

UPDATE: I’ve selected the winner, and the story that touched me the most was sent by user Memwa0624. Her generousity did not stop at her story as she offered to give the Ride-On away to the children’s hospital of my choice. The 4 x 4 will be sent to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital this week. I was so impressed by all of your stories, but four additional user’s tales really stood out and I couldn’t help but award them something too. So, Natalie Steffen, TR4C33, Rhonda Nunley, and JPCaro will all be receiving a Foocot from Joovy.  Keep up the great work everyone, so many people appreciate it! -Dean

  • Keont

    Quality over quantity has always been my motto. During the holidays, a lot of gift-givers equate the amount of gifts given as a means of demonstrating their level of love. I beg to differ!

    To me, giving is about healing a person’s heart in some form. It requires attention on the part of the receiver — their needs, wants and wishes.

    As a parent, I watch my son grow each day. He can barely fit items that he once filled so comfortably the month before. Instead of trashing the items (which is a huge no-no), I give them to those who need them the most. The holidays are the perfect time to find a deserving family who can fill your clothes with appreciation and make you realize that giving makes the heart grow.

    When you are cleaning out your closet, house, storage, etc., remember that treasures come in all forms. “Trash” is always a treasure to those who need it…want it…deserve it…and welcome it with open arms.

    Merry Christmas!!

  • madhunt420

    I am a stay at home Mom. My husband is a corrections officer and we have 3 small children. Times are rough, but we usually try to volunteer at a soup kitchen for the holidays. We don’t have a lot to give, but time is always free. My whole family loves your family and we look forward to seeing more of you on TV. Merry Christmas to you all and Happy New Year!

  • Monica Donnelly

    Since I was a child, my family has always had this motto. I am now 31 and am so happy I was raised to give and not get. We do not exchange gifts with the adults at all what so ever. Instead, the adults pool together their money of what they “would have” spent on each other and donate to a charity. Each year we pick a new one depending on the needs on the community. Its been anything from Shriner’s Hospital for children, Battered womens shelters, Army Veterans, Families down on their luck, to this year, Griffin’s Friends. Which is an organization that gives families that have children suffering with cancer, a Christmas. We always make sure we can buy the items they need, no matter what it is, and then do it as a family. The gift to ourselves, is the time we spend together completing the project. This year, after all the shopping was done, we got together and wrapped all of the presents for the little kids and had pizza. We are working class families and don’t have tons of money, but we all save for this every year and in turn sacrifice receiving presents. I can’t say its a sacrifice really though, b/c the joy of knowing others are receiving, is the biggest gift.
    The part that warms my heart the most, is that my children are learning to do the same. My daughter is 4 and my son is 18 months old. They were with us this year when we did the wrapping and my daughter was helping and so excited to do so. We do not spoil her with gifts either. She receives only about 4-5 gifts and we do not spend more than $200 total. She is a very lucky girl who has a big family that spoils her and therefore, she is never ungreatful. Christmas is about the birth of Christ. And the children and giving… not adults and receiving, in my opinion.

  • Tamara muxlow

    I can also relate to the fact that I came from a very giving family, we have struggled throughout our lives but always believe in paying it forward.

    My family has started for the past two year reaching out to our community and organizing “A Night to Remember” We decorate our greenhouse to the most magical Santa Workshop with over a 1 000 000 Christmas lights, bring santa, train rides, catered dinner and give 30 local family’s “A Night to Remember.” They all leave with baskets of food and a fully wrapped (from Santa) christmas morning.

    This ride on car would make a child so happy on Christmas morning! Merry Christmas to you and your family!

  • brandonangelsmom

    I donated a bunch of toys, crayons, and coloring books to our local homeless shelter a week ago. It made me feel really good to be able to finally pay it forward after many years of struggling, my daughter and I being homeless and going through many horrific events including the death of my three and a half year old son Brandon who was murdered on the playground of his preschool in May of 1999. I hope I am able to continue to pay it forward as I know what it is like to be in need, homeless and hungry.

    I wish you and your family a very happy holiday and to everyone else around the world. Peace be with you all!

  • Rose129

    Me and My Husband are both disabled.We do not have alot of money. Heck,We dont even own a car since ours broke down this past summer. Yet, I find many ways to give back. My husband will snowplow a neighbors driveway, Smiles are always free.!! I bake cookies or bakegoods for neighbors. I will babysit a child if Mom or Dad needs to run to town. I would Love nothing more than to open a pet Motel one day so The towns peoples pets have a safe place to stay when their owners are working or on vacation. There are alot of ways one can give without alot of money…With that said,Wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas!

  • Gigi

    My husband and I have tried for almost a decade to have children. We have been unsuccessful. So for our anniversary we go to Toys R Us and fill two shopping carts full of toys and donate them to Toys for Tots. We figure we do not have any children together so we could give a few children a better Christmas each year.

  • JPCaro

    As a child my parents and I would deliver Thanksgiving meals to needy families. This made a major impact on me and I promised that when I had a family of my own I would make sure my children knew the importance of giving back and helping those in need. My oldest is a teenager and he never turns down requests for help. It can be an elderly friend who needs yard work or just to sit and talk. He volunteers on a weekly basis at Children’s Hospital and is going through training to work more with the kids. He logs many many hours volunteering at church, school and in the community. For being a teenager I don’t have any complaints other than he eats a lot! That’s okay though since he likes my cooking and baking and I love to do those things, too. My husband and I have two little ones (3 yrs and 18 months) in addition to our teenager but we find time to volunteer at the kids schools and at church. After the holidays I’ll be training to become a volunteer counselor helping mothers in crisis. I also love to shop for bargains and I have a passion for children’s items so I have a tradition of collecting things all year and making a big donation during the holidays for patients at the Children’s Hospital. I’m determined to teach my children how to love and that means helping others we know and don’t know. The world is a better place when can demonstrate compassion and kindness. We have become a stronger and happier family by giving our time, talent and treasure. Thank you for sharing your story. My family and I wish you a very Merry Christmas.

  • Jessica Provo

    We have a giving tree at our church, that is full of items that people need in the community. We pull a bunch of the tags off and go shopping for those items. One year however our girls were acting very spoiled a month before Christmas, so we took them shopping. On this shopping trip we told them to pick out whatever toys they wanted and put them in the shopping cart. We went to the cash register paid for all the toys and on our way out the store we stopped at the toys-for-tots drop off box. We then told them to put all the toys in the box and if they complained and wouldn’t do it we would ask Santa not to stop at our house this year. This year with 2 teenage girls and a new baby boy we are buying toys in there a groups and donating them to toys-for-tots.

  • TR4C33

    I don’t have kids of my own, they passed away shortly after being born. So every year, my mom and I try to get gifts for a couple of kids so they have a Christmas. In most cases, they never ask for much, just a doll or truck, but we add another gift in the packages, I want them to have a nice holiday. This year we donated items for Sandy victims, clothes, toys, baby and pet things. And we also helped collect gifts for a little girl that has cancer, she wanted to give back to kids who are in the hospital. She’s only 8 yrs old and has this huge, amazing beautiful heart to think of others this holiday. So after hearing her story, we collected a few things for her toy drive.

    Christmas has always been a rough time for me because I don’t have my babies here, so I always try to help a child have a Christmas. It fills my heart with happiness, instead of sadness.

  • Rhonda Nunley

    WOW! It feels strange to talk about all the little things you do , but I was taught not really to pay it foward just do the right thing reguardless! My husband and I decided to do foster care and these children had seen and done more in their sort lives then I had done in all my life! We were blessed and adopted three children over time. My oldest is 13 year old girl and I have two sons oldest 11 and we had a 4 month old that passed away from SIDS on 06/06/10. We had to take some time after we lost our son but we are now to the point that with help of our family and our involvement in our church looking at getting back into foster care and adopting again! Blessings … children are blessings! There have been many other things that my husband and I have got involved in to help over the years but I know adoption is the BEST and that is why I decided to share this part of our story! God Bless you for doing this … Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Ho! Ho! Ho! :)

  • Memaw0624

    The more I learn about You and Tori, the more I wish I lived next door to you. We could Have Coffee…or a shot in your whole Baaahhhh. (I still chuckle a little.) Back to the point, growing up we had enough to get by. As I grew, I noticed things others had and did not have, and compared to my families lives. My parents were not into giving much when I was little, because some days it was all they could do to take care of their own. I have had good years and bad years but one thing I Figured out young Possessions do not make you happy, nor does money. The best times my husband and I (and Children) have had was when money was tight. (sometimes more than I like) but I have always invited friends and family with open arms. Feed, clothed, and Housed when needed. Taught my children to share. Both were in Scouts which do community service. Our Churches in this area have a help get back on your feet program. To help people when they need it and want it. Always give when asked (it isn’t always money) time and friendship go along way. We keep a box (all year long) for when we outgrow our clothes, coats, etc we give to groups that give these things to people in need. (I love thrift stores and consignment shops, but they SELL NOT GIVE) Not my first choice of places to give unless they use the money for the cause. We always give GOOD used toys and Children’s clothes to the firehouse drive. I donate sets of handmade scarfs, hats, and mittens to winter drive. And years that money allows- New Toys. I make a lot of the gifts I give and always try to make extra of things to donate. I have even taken others throw aways, repaired, cleaned, rebuilt, polished (whatever needs to be in tip top shape) and donate. Doing these things make me feel GOOD and hopefully others will follow suit. Oh If You think I should get the Car GREAT- Please take it to the Childrens Hospital or local Orphanage in your Area and Gift Them In the Name of all of our Children. Wishing You and Yours A Very Merry Christmas!

  • LinnTwinMomma

    I love that you guys do this! We always adopt a child. I have four-year-old twin girls and this year we picked a girl their age and they had so much fun picking out things that they thought the girl would like based on her wish list. At the end when we were turning in our gifts, the girls saw the tree, still full of angels. They asked why there were so many kids left. I explained that those kids hadn’t gotten picked yet. They asked if we could get something for all of them. I told them I wish we could but our budget had a limit. Then they asked if we could get at least get two sisters next year. That way they could help two girls just like them, sisters! Before I could answer, they even offered to get fewer gifts themselves so we could. My heart melted. I said of course we could.
    There is also a fantastic charity here in our city run by a couple of morning DJs that gives bikes to kids that might never get a bike for Christmas. I just love the idea! I told my girls about it (they got new bikes for Christmas last year) and they wanted to help. So we came up with an idea to go to the off road bike path and off leash dog park by our house that we take our dog to every morning and sell water and tennis balls to raise money for the Bikes for Kids charity. They were the bests little fundraisers and they were so proud to turn in their donation!
    I love this time of year for the opportunity to give my daughters a chance to show their generous spirit and loving nature!
    Merry Christmas to you and your family!

  • callie washer

    I was featured on TLC’s Extreme Couponing so I can get TONS of stuff for really cheap or even free. Both my husband and I had grandfathers and immediate family either who served or our serving int eh Military, one who is on his 8th tour in Iraq. Since I am able to get lots of personal care items for free I work with a charity who sends care packages to our troops overseas. The men and woman who are serving our country overseas have to live and witness such heavy situations and it’s our goal to bring a little bit of home and comfort to them while they are away from their families and friends. Sometimes they even get kids to decorate the boxes that are sent ;-)

  • Clarper

    I am a single mom of a 2 year old boy, Harper, so we don’t have much that we can give to others, materialistically. But this holiday season, we volunteered our time as Salvation Army Bell Ringers! We talked and interacted with everyone who walked by, tried to spread Christmas and holiday cheer and walked away feeling good about the smiles we were able to put on people’s faces and the money, however small or large an amount, that we were able to raise for the Salvation Army. My son won’t be receiving a present from his father because of his decision to not be in his life, but we try to give out our support and love to all of those family and friends who give my son and I endless support and love. We are luckier than most with what we have and I love being able to instill a giving spirit in my child at such a young age. We wish you and your lovely family a most merry christmas!

  • Natalie Steffen

    Hi Dean and family! I love to help people in any way I can; I believe it is truly a joyful gift that must be passed on. I remember the time when I was a single pregnant Mom-to-be, and a group of ladies from a church I started attending embraced me and my situation unconditionally, and took me in as their family. They seriously provided for my baby girl everything a Mom would possibly need, right down to a washer and dryer. My doctor allowed 5 of them in my delivery room to watch the miracle of my baby girl, Skylar, being born. Since that day 8 years ago, I will always pass on all my childrens clothes, cribs, toddler beds, toys, anything that a Mom in need could use to provide for their child/children. By Gods incredible grace, I am now married to my soulmate and have 3 beautiful kids. Our son who is 3 was just diagnosed with autism, and I would LOVE to bless him with a motorized car. He is our miracle baby that we tried a lot to concieve, our precious Landen Von Steffen. Merry Christmas!!! :)

  • Amy Hertog

    I believe that helping others is good for the soul and I simply look for the opportunities. For example, I organized a small donation drive for our local Humane Society. This is a very easy thing to do with neighbors- we each donated a few items and then I took it to the shelter. No donation is too small- even paper towels are appreciated- so when everyone pools their resources, it ends up being a sizable help to the shelter. There are other ways to be kind- quietly slipping a little cash to someone who is hungry or collecting and donating blankets or coats for those who are in shelters. Other quiet giving opportunities: paying for someone’s grocery bill at the checkout when they couldn’t find their money, paying for someone’s lunch when the cashier had to tell them they didn’t take a certain credit card, and holding a funding drive for a family who has experienced a major set-back. Another quiet giving opportunity is to just give the gift of time. A mom who needs a break or an extra pair of hands, a school that needs a volunteer for a few hours- time is a commodity that can be given to others and it does not cost the giver. Another giving opportunity is to donate clothing and household items to organizations that sell those items to support their efforts. Hospices, shelters, and even Veteran’s organizations operate thrift stores and some will even come to our home to pickup your donations. To think that some unworn, unused clothing can be used to help pay for a patient’s hospice care is nothing short of miraculous! My spouse and I are blessed to have so many giving opportunities throughout the year, whether we are organizing a group effort or just quietly doing something. Happy Holidays!

  • mopargirl

    We are a large family, like yours, with 4 small children. Every year around we have our children go through their toys. Anything they haven’t played with in the last 6 months gets put into a bag. We then have the kids help us load the bags into a truck and we all go down to the local children’s shelter. On the way we remind the kids where we are going and why we are giving them the old toys. Once we get there we have our kids bring in the bags and hand them to the employees there. The shelter is always so thankful for the toys and while my children are sad while we are in the car, a smile shines over their faces as they give their old toys to the shelter. They know that the kids there don’t have what they have and are happy to share. We recently explained to our kids what foster care is, they are all willing to open our home to a child in need, hopefully by next year we will have that opportunity. I know this doesn’t seem like much, but it has taught our children to appreciate what they have and to give what they can. Happy holidays!!!!

  • Amy H

    I am a high school special education teacher and one thing I always hear my students talk about is what they are going to get for Christmas, but never what they are going to give. I try to teach by example and talk to them about what I am going to give people. I teach them that gifts don’t have to be materialistic, that they can give people the gift of their time, they can donate items they don’t use any more, and that they can do volunteer work. I have them write daily journals and near the holidays I ask them to brainstorm things they can do for other people. They like to read these aloud and we encourage each other to think of what we can give!

    I am also blessed to be a mom, and after seeing how much my high schoolers tend to focus on materialistic things, I have decided to raise my boys to know that we are very fortunate to have the things we do. We go through their toys before Christmas and make a pile to donate to children in need, and we recently started keeping things to keep in the car to distribute to people in need we see while driving. It’s not easy to explain homelessness to a three year old, but I can certainly explain compassion and giving. We have been in need of
    assistance ourselves, and now that we are back on our feet it just feels right to give back. That’s what makes the world go ’round :)

  • Marcie Geark

    I am a mom to 4 children. We have had it rough off and on this year with some good times in between. My children this Christmas were taught that even though life can be hard for us, that its always worse for someone else. Walking into Walmart a week and a half ago to buy groceries made me very sad. There were people everywhere with filled baskets and yet 2 Angel Trees were still filled with names of people who needed help for Christmas. I told my kids that we needed to help others instead of always thinking about ourselves. We grabbed a little girl named Anna and bought her a wonderful gift. That day, I wrote on Facebook encouraging my family and friends to do the same if they were able to. I found out through my post that my friends daughter wasnt going to have much of a Christmas. So I made her a Tutu and Wings and my other friend bought her 2 gifts. Its those little things that make somebody else feel good that brings out the true meaning of Christmas.

  • ChfMedic

    I’m a single 37yr old mom of 4 kids, I also have 2 grandsons ages 13 mo and 10 days old. Throughout my life, I’ve tried to always give back. During the holidays, we donate clothes, food toys to different charities in our region who need it for families. Reasons I give back, I have a father who suffers from psych issues stemming from Viet Nam. My parents no matter what they had or didn’t always chose two angel trees to help families, we gladly have up what we could if had to them. Being a EMT and helping during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita w/a priv Amb service I found out I had Multiple Sclerosis. I had to retire & go on disability. If I didn’t have the help and strength from others, I couldn’t have came back 3 times being basically paralyzed. I’m not a celebrity or one who has lots if money, I give everything I can. Donating clothes, household items someone needs, time helping organize or sorting items. One tends to help more during holidays, but I do it year round! I have 2 bdrm appt but I have a couch and floor for anyone who needs it! My kids friends or someone who gas needed it, I never refused help to them. I help Salvation Army, Gary Area Vet Center who provides help to Veterans and their families! I’ve been known to give gas cards throughout the year to our local men’s shelter who helps men who are homeless work and better themselves. I shop at local thrift stores who benefit the homeless. I have never since being a EMT, bought from a major chain for furniture, etc not because I couldn’t afford it, but because it helped the people who need it more than I do. The disease has progressed and I cannot volunteer my time like I used to but I as long as I have a breath on me or a dollar I my pocket, I’ll always find someone who needs it more than I do. I would love to win this so I can donate it to someone who couldn’t afford it. Sure I have grand kids who would love it, but I would love for then to learn even so young, the power of giving back!