Saturday, April 28, 2007

NCLD Honors Champions of Children

CLAY IN AFGHANISTAN -- Amazing_CA's graphic captures several of the photos UNICEF released from Special Ambassador Clay Aiken's recent trip to the war-torn country.

Recital Rehearsal Tackles Nerves

Champions of Children Honored

On the same night that American Idol was completing a heavily-hyped, two-part West Coast special to "give back" by raising money for charitable causes, multi-platinum recording artist and special education activist Clay Aiken was being honored on the other coast by the National Center for Learning Disabilities for his tireless work on behalf of children's causes.

Celebrating its 30th anniversary at an annual benefit dinner, "Voices of Our Children, Voices of Our Future," at New York City's Marriott Marquis, NCLD "honored three outstanding individuals who have championed the needs of children with learning disabilities and have given them a strong public voice."

More complete biographies can be read in the links provided for the honorees below:

Arthur Ryan, chairman and CEO of Prudential financial, Inc., recipient of the Spirit of Achievement Award.

Clay Aiken, multi-platinum recording artist and special education activist, recipient of the Children's Advocacy Award.

Donald D. Deshler, Ph.D, professor in the School of Education and Director of the Center for Research on Learning at the University of Kansas, recipient of the Distinguished Education Achievement Award.

Link to Clay Aiken's NCLD Bio Page

Clay's Resume, Award Impressive

Fans know Clay's qualifications, but it's awesome that his resume and the award presentation announcement were distributed in press releases before and after the banquet:

Multi-platinum recording artist Clay Aiken's musical success has enabled him to fulfill his lifelong wish to support educational and children's causes. While the accolades that followed his stunningly close second-place finish on the second season of American Idol have validated him in ways that he never could have dreamed of when he was a teacher working with autistic children back in his home state of North Carolina, it is the charitable work that his musical career has enabled him to do that means more to him than anything else these days.

The singer created the Bubel/Aiken Foundation in 2003, an organization that promotes and funds educational and recreational programs for children with special needs. He also serves as a United States Fund for UNICEF National Ambassador, helping ensure that children everywhere can receive a primary education. In 2006 Mr. Aiken was appointed to the Presidential Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities.

Mr. Aiken holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in special education from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

From a nationwide pool, the NCLD selected Currey Ingram Academy of Brentwood, TN, as a featured school for its benefit dinner. As part of the program, the Currey Ingram rock band and middle school chorus serenaded the award-winning singer by performing “Shine” and “I Will Carry You" from his first album, Measure of a Man.

Congratulations to an entertainer who not only is making a difference in this world but also inspires others to do the same!

PHOTO INTERLUDE: This clickable interlude features graphic designs from Clay's Afghanistan trip, the Today Show, Entertainment Tonight, and promo for his latest CD, A Thousand Different Ways. Visual artists represented include ABeautifulMind, 1; MNmeesh, 2; Amazing_CA, 3 and 4; and Claystruck, 5.

Recital Rehearsal Reaps Rewards

The lure of seasonal outdoor activities and the need to prepare for a spring recital battle royally for a young musician's time and interests this time of year. Yet, somehow my flock had a productive pre-recital rehearsal Thursday afternoon.

Ranging from 4th through 9th grade, the string class was joined by a freshman flautist for our next-to-last run through of solo and ensemble selections for a May 20 concert.

One of the most enjoyable numbers will be our closing medley of Irish fiddle tunes -- Staten Island, Devil's Dream, Fishers Hornpipe, St. Patrick's Day in the Morning, and Irish Washerwoman -- in which each student plays an opening solo and is joined by various violin, viola, flute, and tutti combinations to complete the cycle.

For more than an hour, we put to good use our pencils, marking bowings, breath marks, dynamics, repeats, missed accidentals, etc. Then came the round robin of solos in which each, accompanied by their teacher at the piano, got a taste of playing for a room full of people.

Nerves Take Trial Run

Despite the occasional articulation of nerves, most performed well and received enthusiastic applause from their peers. Solo compositions range from the Baroque Period's Bach, Handel, and Lully to Schumann and Bizet of the Romantic era.

The flautist also studies oboe, and a couple of violinists remarked they were hearing this instrument up close for the first time. I think they decided strings are a bargain compared to maintaining premium double reeds.

As I reminded all about the particulars of May 20, my sixth grade violist raised his hand and asked, "Are we doing this for money?" Nope, but the recital is excellent preparation for when they do play for pay.

Even the members of Thursday's audience, the mother and younger brother of a violinist, concurred this was a favorable rehearsal. This teacher figures if little brother could sleep through the entire session, the sweet notes definitely outweigh the sour!

For sure, May 20 is circled in my book. Here is a clickable wallpaper calendar by Cindilu2 just in time for the new month:

Locate Your Birth Date's #1 Song

If you would like to know the #1 hit song on the airwaves the day you were born, check out this chart at Wikipedia.

In light of the previous recital discussion, mine is most appropriate -- "Comin' in on a Wing and a Prayer" by the The Song Spinners, LOL!

Below is a clickable of Amazing_CA's beautiful opening design:

Have a great weekend, Clay Nation!


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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

'Grand Central' at Music Lessons

YOU'RE GONNA SHINE -- Amazing_CA's lovely graphic features Pink Cocoa's photos of Clay Aiken at The Bubel/Aiken Foundation's March 31 Champions of Change Gala in Raleigh.

A Tale of Three Phones

'Grand Central' at Music Lessons

I imagine the two red-headed brothers who take music lessons here on Wednesdays sometimes think my house is a mini replica of Grand Central.

Once their arrival coincided with a four-engine fire alarm, complete with ladder truck. Students, mother, and teacher stood on the porch watching as a fireman with an ax entered a home across the street and determined all was well.

Almost every Wednesday, UPS deliveries for my Internet business seem synchronized for the minutes just prior to or during their weekly piano and violin instruction.

Being young southern gentlemen, the students usually help their teacher shove the boxes inside, temporarily stacking them beside the piano. As you may have read in the previous entry, one of those boxes last week included my computer coming home from its trip to a Charlotte repair shop.

I generally work through the stack of boxes as I need them; and some calmly wait behind the grand for days and, on rare occasions, weeks.

Everyone who has talked with me on the telephone during the past several months breathed a sigh of relief when I finally ordered a new cordless handset the end of February. My friend Sally had even sent me a discarded -- but still kicking -- cordless that worked well in tandem with the handset off my fax machine. The trouble with the latter was I often forgot to return the phone for its overnight recharge.

Cordless Order Hits Snag

When I placed the order with Circuit City, I lived up to my Scottish heritage and thriftily opted for the least expensive shipping plan. After one month and no phone, I dialed their 800 number. Customer Service promptly deemed the shipment lost and set up a replacement order. The next morning, however, they informed me the company was out of this particular item and my account would be credited.

Back to the drawing board, I decided to look for a telephone in town and continued alternating the old duo. One phone was actually more reliable on incoming calls, while the other was more successful in dialing out. Both, however, were prone to dispensing -- at will -- sudden loud screeches in the middle of a conversation.

About 10 days ago, I was searching for my latest shipment of food bars and remembered I still had one more box behind the piano. I picked up the package and immediately noticed that it was lighter than previous food bar orders.

There, waiting patiently by the piano for more than a month had been the missing cordless. I notified Circuit City, and so far the new telephone is purring like a dream!

PHOTO INTERLUDE: These clickable graphics feature the talents of five visual artists, who have captured singer Clay Aiken in concert and on his recent UNICEF trip to Afghanistan as a special ambassador. They include Cindilu2, 1 and 5; ABeautifulMind, photo by Scrpkym, 2; Amazing_CA, 3; and Ambassador of Love, 4.

Clay on WNYC Radio at Noon Thursday

Clay spoke about his UNICEF trip to Afghanistan on The Leonard Lopate Show on WNYC public radio at noon Thursday. The program airs weekdays at 12 noon on 93.9 FM and AM 820; fans were able to stream the interview from the site. This information appears online at WNYC:

In Another Light -- Clay Aiken became a household name through American Idol. He’s here today to talk about becoming a UNICEF ambassador, and working to bring the everyday lives of children in Afghanistan to the spotlight.

Underreported: Clay Aiken on Afghanistan -- Clay Aiken has had plenty of media exposure. But he joins us for today’s "Underreported" to talk about a subject that doesn’t get a lot of press: health care and education in Afghanistan. Clay Aiken recently returned from a trip to Afghanistan as a UNICEF Ambassador, where he helped launch the "$100,000 in 10 Days" campaign to support Afghanistan's health centers and schools.

Clay on TODAY -- Screen Cap by Geekette

Prior to his appearance on WNYC, Clay dropped by NBC's Today Show for a brief interview, which can be downloaded at Clack Unlimited or with these Sendspace links: Today 'Invisible' Intro and Afghanistan Today.

Special Thank You From Texas

Many thnx for your kind thoughts and prayers for my MIL. I have read her the messages for NinaB from the Gratefulness candle site, as well as in blog comments. She still awaits further tests and is amazed that many people from three countries have expressed such caring thoughts.

All the best to those dancing the "ticket tango" in this week's pre-sales for summer concerts in Knoxville, Los Angeles, Sterling Heights (4/26); and Newark (4/28)!

Below is a clickable of Amazing_CA 's opening gala graphic:

Have a great week, Clay Nation!


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Sunday, April 22, 2007

Some Days Are Diamonds

ALL DONE DARLIN' -- Administering medicine to an Afghanistani infant, UNICEF Ambassador Clay Aiken demonstrates love "A Thousand Different Ways" in this graphic designed by MNmeesh.

New Afghanistan Total: $181,783.03

Charities Complete Campaigns

Some days are diamonds, some days are stones
Sometimes the hard times won't leave me alone
Sometimes a cold wind blows a chill in my bones
Some days are diamonds, some days are stones.

Anywhere you turn, there are diamond moments contrasted by those of stone. When John Denver recorded Some Days Are Diamonds (Some Days Are Stone) in 1981, I doubt he -- or songwriter Dick Feller -- could have predicted the vast range this past week has wrought globally and even on personal fronts.

While the Virginia Tech tragedy and the mounting Iraq death toll battle daily for the "stone" headlines, Clay Aiken fans have rejoiced with several memorable "diamond days" in televised/online reports of his UNICEF Afghanistan trip and successful appeal for funds, as well as the official announcement that The Bubel/Aiken Foundation qualified for a $10,000 matching grant from Six Degrees.

Some personal diamond-stone musings follow; but, first, here are the latest updates from UNICEF and and TBAF.

Clay speaks about Afghanistan -- Cap by Cotton

Afghanistan Appeal Raises Over $180,000!

In a UNICEF Fieldnotes blog at 4:23 p.m. Monday, Chris Phillips made the following announcement:

Yesterday was the final day of Clay Aiken's 10-day appeal for Afghanistan.

Congratulations! We raised $181,783.03 for the kids of Afghanistan during this 10-day campaign. That's $80,000+ more than the original goal we set for this campaign!

This total includes all gifts made online in the U.S. and Canada. We're expecting some checks to come in through the mail and will post a final total next week.

We appreciate your generous support of this appeal. Hundreds of you posted this appeal on your web sites, blogs and boards and forwarded the campaign to your friends.

My colleagues and I will continue to keep you posted on UNICEF's work in Afghanistan and around the world. We'll show you how your gifts are being put to work in the field.

The above photo links to UNICEF's Homepage where you can view a video of clay thanking everyone for the overwhelming support.

The Afghanistan Donation Page remains active.

Videos of Clay discussing his trip to remote areas of Afghanistan and the fund-raising campaign have been shown on North American television, UNICEF, and various websites. There are nine clips on Yahoo Video and four on The News Market.

Clay appears on Entertainment Tonight -- Gerwhisp Cap

Friday the UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador appeared on Entertainment Tonight to talk about his trip to the war-torn country with Jann Carl. The interview also included Clay's thoughts about the Virginia Tech horrors, Sanjaya's boot from American Idol, and fame itself.

The video can be viewed at ET Online.

Kevin Bacon Makes It Official

By clicking on the picture below, you can listen to Kevin Bacon's telephone conversation with Kristy Barnes and Aron Hall in which he officially informed foundation staff members that TBAF will receive a $10,000 grant from Six Degrees.

Link to Six Degrees Announcement Page

During the phone call, Bacon was obviously thrilled to receive feedback about how they spread the word to Clay's fan base, as well as the connection that occurred between the top-donor charity, Autism Speaks, and Bubel/Aiken.

According to TBAF Charity Badges still featured in many blogsphere journals, the foundation's total stands at 2202 donors and $54,093 raised.

Mark Your Dance Card!

Dancing the Ticketmaster Tango continues for those hoping to attend the upcoming Summer Tour concerts, often encompassing many degrees between diamonds and stones.

Details of the ticket purchasing schedule are on the OFC homepage. All the best to those taking a spin around this dance floor:

4/27 Knoxville, TN - Pre-Sale: 4/26, 9 a.m. EDT
4/28 Los Angeles, CA - Pre-Sale: 4/26, 10 a.m. PDT
4/28 Sterling Heights, MI - Pre-Sale: 4/26, 10 a.m. PDT
5/3 Columbus, OH
5/4 Frisco, TX - Pre-Sale: 5/1, 10 a.m CDT
5/4 Indio, CA
5/4 Indio, CA
5/5 Cary, NC
5/9 Newark, NJ - Pre-Sale: 4/30, 10 a.m. EDT
5/12 Tulsa, OK
5/18 Atlanta, GA
5/23 Asheville, NC
5/25 Tampa, FL

PHOTO INTERLUDE: These clickable designs feature diamond graphics and photos of five visual artists, including Amazing_CA, 1 and 5; Cindilu2, 2; ABeautifulMind, photo by Scrpkym, 3; and MNmeesh, 4.

'Some Days Are Diamonds'

Friday, April 13, I recounted the impasse reached by online technicians and my nine-month-old Toshiba Qosmio. Together we tried every trick up their sleeves before finally agreeing I had to pack the machine for a UPS trip to a registered repair shop in Charlotte. To the tune of $91.09 round-trip, the Toshiba departed Thursday morning and was in certified hands by 9:27 a.m. the next day.

Meanwhile, my old Gateway laptop, abandoned since being replaced by newer technology last August, was called into service. After updating virus and spy sweeping software, we began surfing Cyberspace and even compiled a pair of blogs during the interim.

Wednesday morning, I phoned the Charlotte shop to see how repairs were progressing and was told the computer was on its way back. Preparing to welcome afternoon music students, I opened the door and was shocked to find my laptop patiently waiting on my porch.

Signature No Longer Required

Having lived through the Dark Ages, I thought I would have to sign for a delivery of this magnitude. No more, according to the mother of my students, a former UPS employee. That requirement was long ago abandoned for neighborhoods that are deemed safe.

The last part is good to know, but what if it had rained or I hadn't been home? I'm not yet sure this is progress, but I was glad to have that computer home again. The fact the Toshiba is still under warranty puts the invoice of $110 for an hour's work in the "diamond" column -- and makes me wonder if I'm in the wrong business.

Thursday is my busiest teaching day, so I didn't even start digging through the peanut packing material until Friday morning. I already knew the computer had been wiped clean, and I dreaded the sight of my empty picture and music folders.

S.O.S. Aids Sound of Silence

My Photobucket contains every picture/graphic I have run in 211 blogs, but not the many that were saved and yet to be used. The Gateway, bless its soul, still houses copies of all photos and music through August 2006. I was able to send a few family photos to my g-mail account before shipping the computer.

Friday I gradually began reloading software and bookmarks I had saved. I am a musician and by the afternoon, the devastation of the loss of these files struck hard. I didn't even have A Thousand Different Ways because I had passed my CD along to a relative.

An S.O.S. to friends Sally and Aspiegirl soon had my mailbox overflowing with musical attachments; and I have been listening to an eclectic playlist of Clay, Enya, Evanescence, James Galway, John Denver, Sarah Brightman, Willie Nelson, Sheryl Crow, and Bette Midler ever since. This definitely turned into a "diamond" event.

The latest stony twist in this saga has been the untimely demise of my external hard drive, which contains many beloved videos and montages and now refuses to work with either computer.

I have ordered a 250-GB drive that is supposed to be better, so I will have plenty of space to start a new CLACK collection, as well as begin my new routine of saving/backing up files.

I suppose a learning experience qualifies as a "diamond" episode, too.

Clay Aiken in Afghanistan

All Done, Darlin', All Done

My MIL, the West Texas Claymate, is having a really rough time. She is home from the hospital fighting an infection so her cardiologist can run tests for blockages, to be followed by a possible stent intervention. I relit the NinaB candle at the Gratefulness site this weekend.

These are not fun times around her house, so she welcomes any entertaining news or story I can relate. I can safely say there's not a Clay fan around who derived as much pleasure from hearing Clay coo "All done, darlin'" after administering medicine to the Afghanistani infant in the above scene than my MIL.

Through my computer speakers, she listened to that tiny recording countless times during our phone conversation. With each repeat came more laughter.

If you need a lift, here's a Sendspace of All Done, Darlin' capped by Pixieglitter. Definitely a "diamond" moment!

Below is a clickable of Meesh's headline graphic:

Have a wonderful week, Clay Nation!


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Thursday, April 19, 2007

World Embraces Hokie Nation

THE BEAUTY OF DREAMS -- Cindilu2 designed this beautiful graphic with photos of UNICEF Ambassador Clay Aiken's recent trip to Afghanistan.

UNICEF Update: $161,798.82 on Day 8

World Embraces Hokie Nation

Like most areas of North Carolina, the Piedmont Triad's ties to Virginia Tech are many. With the large percentage of international students and the mass media coverage of Monday's horrific slaying of 32 innocent victims, citizens of the world have this week have become vested in this Blacksburg, Va., college community, almost as if we are adjunct members of the "Hokie Nation."

Between teaching music lessons and keeping tabs on new totals of Clay Aiken's Afghanistan Appeal for UNICEF funds, I took a tour of sevearl boards communicating messages of sympathy, healing, and hope for Virginia Tech from around the globe.

The boards I visited reminded me of personal posts about blessings and sadness that weave themselves into linear thread discussions or the special forums CA fans maintain for times like these.

A long-awaited promotion, a terrible car accident, a daughter-in-law's difficult pregnancy, the birth of a new child or grandchild -- whatever life brings, Clay Cyberspace shares joys and sorrows daily. None, however, of the tragic magnitude of the Virginia Tech Massacre.

VT students share their grief. -- Photo by Amy Sancetta

Grieving Community Turns to Internet

The Virginia Tech boards/blogs I visited contain endless pages of communiques, starting with the frantic early searches for word of family members and friends who possibly could have been victims.

Even as the list of the departed was being confirmed, the grief-stricken community turned to the Internet to share info and remembrances, ask questions, and comfort each other.

Sites I visited include God Bless Virginia Tech, MSNBC Clicked, CNN: In Honor of the Victims, Crimeblog, Gateway Pundit, and Facebook (registration required).

Thoughtful Missives Fill Websites

Caring posts of hope and tribute have poured in from students and professors of other campuses, as well as citizens from every corner of the globe. These represent a small sampling of the touching messages, many anonymous, I encountered:

Here in Belgium we are confused and heart broken that a a person can do this to others. Our world is not as beautiful as we think, yet we can show the true nature of beauty through our resolve. Hold strong, the world recoils together and heals together. Love, thought, and prayer to all the untimely departed.

Kevin Sterne is from PA too (Eighty-four, PA). He saved his life by making himself a tourniquet out of an electrical cord. He knew how to thanks to Eagle Scout training.

You know, for all the stammering about how the Internet takes away privacy, and "net neutrality", and criticisms that technology has either invaded or taken over our really can be a great tool that coalesces our nation and enables us to reach out and comfort those in their time of need, when before we would have been helpless, distant witnesses. -- Alex, Lawrence, KS

I have worked with Ryan Clark every summer for the last eight years at Camp Big Heart. He was an amazing person, counselor, and friend. Ryan was always there when you needed him and was always ready with a joke and a smile. It makes to me sad to think of all of the hundreds and thousands of people who will never have the chance to know Ryan and to have their lives touched by. -- Liz, GA

On Yom Hashoah 2007 — Holocaust Remembrance Day — Liviu Librescu, an internationally respected aeronautics engineer who taught at Virginia Tech for 20 years, gave his life so his students could live. Librescu, age 76, blocked the door to his classroom in Norris Hall, giving students time to escape from windows in the room.

VT Candlelight Ceremony -- Photo by Andrew Russell

Colleges Unite in Candlelight Vigils

Candlelight vigils similar the one held at Virginia Tech Monday night have occurred on many other college campuses this week. According to NBC News, prayer services were conducted on 400 campuses Thursday.

Several of my music students were excited that their school will participate in Friday's "Hokie Hope," a day when many in the nation will don maroon and orange in honor of the VT students and faculty.

Distinguished English professor, poet, and activist Nikki Giovanni offered words of encouragement at the convocation Tuesday (4/17). This is the video of her moving tribute: We Are Virginia Tech!

In one morning, a community of higher learning was forever changed. Endless expressions of sadness mixed with hope for the Virginia Tech family continue to appear on message boards everywhere. These thoughts were posted by fans in the Clay Aiken community:

The ripples of this horror reach out and affect so many. Hopefully, the ripples of love and comfort can reach back to uphold those who are suffering and will continue to suffer in the weeks, months and years ahead. -- Anntherese54

The murderer did even more than end lives and change the lives of everyone on that campus. He also affected individuals throughout the country, and, I daresay, the world. And it is a shame that one madman was able to have that kind of power. Still, I have to believe that in the long run those working for good and through love will change ever so many more lives -- in wonderful ways. -- Brightstar

PHOTO INTERLUDE: This clickable interlude features graphics from Clay Aiken's recent Afghanistan trip for UNICEF. Visual artists include Amazing_CA, 1 and 5; Katt45, 2; ABeautifulMind, 3; and Betty897x, 4.

Afghanistan Appeal Stands at $161,798.82

UNICEF announced that Ambassador's Clay Aiken's Afghanistan Appeal reached $161,798.82 at 9 a.m. Friday. The new total represents donations made in the US and in Canada.

The Day 8 update for Clay's $100,000-in-10 days challenge was released in a Fieldnotes blog at 1:05 p.m. Friday. There is a video of Clay thanking everyone for helping to exceed the Afghanistan goal.

The campaign will continue through April 22, and donations can be made at this UNICEF page.

Clay Featured on UNICEF Opening Page

The above photo will take you to UNICEF's Home Page. On Wednesday, the organization posted a new article about Clay's experiences in Afghanistan.

UNICEF Ambassador Visits Afghanistan

NEW YORK, USA, 18 April 2007 – UNICEF National Ambassador Clay Aiken has visited central Afghanistan to see for himself how UNICEF is trying to improve life for children in the region.

“We met a number of young women who have an amazing outlook on their future now in post-conflict Afghanistan,” said the US pop star. “There is an amazing sense of hope, an amazing sense of promise, not only in the country but in the youth as well.”

At the Sadat Health Clinic near Bamyan, Mr. Aiken saw lifesaving measures in action and even administered the oral polio vaccination to a newborn baby. Besides providing immunization, the clinic offers family planning services and midwives to advise mothers on breastfeeding and good hygiene practices.

People from other villages sometimes walk up to four hours in order to reach the clinic. To read the remainder of the article, view new photos, and watch a short video, see Afghanistan.

Below is a clickable of Cindilu2's opening graphic:

These are Cindy's words about the contrasts drawn between the lives of two men presented in this blog, as well as the quote from her lovely graphic:

Hope and despair, peace and chaos, love and hate ... everything about the two men who, for better or for worse, inspire this blog is a study in contrasts. One a good, kind loving man striving to make the world a better place, the other only taking and destroying, shattering the lives of so many. I can't even begin to fathom what makes a person like this Cho do what he did.

The quote in my graphic says, 'The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.' I mourn for those whose dreams were cut short, and I give heartfelt thanks I am in the world at the same time as the man in that graphic. He makes me believe in dreams.

WORD to all of that!

Be sure to check out Friday's Entertainment Tonight where Clay will speak about his trip to Afghanistan. Have a great weekend, Clay Nation!


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Monday, April 16, 2007

Afghanistan Aid Response Amazes UNICEF

THROUGH MY EYES -- ABeautifulMind designed this inclusive graphic with scenes from Clay Aiken's UNICEF trips around the globe.

$145,902.31 in Seven Days!

Response Astonishes UNICEF

"I've just returned from Afghanistan and see that the need is urgent. Let's aim high and work together to raise $100,000 in 10 days. Join me in standing with UNICEF to help these kids." -- Clay Aiken

4/18/07 UPDATE: 145,902.31 IN ONE WEEK!

In a Fieldnotes blog at 11:04 a.m. Wednesday, Chris Phillips of UNICEF announced that $139,778.60 has been raised in seven days of Clay's 10-day appeal for funds for the children of Afghanistan.

By 5:15 p.m. the new total stood at $145,902.31 in the US. Figures from Canada will be posted at UNICEF Fieldnotes later.

Today is Day 7 of the challenge. We've got three more days left and we've already exceeded Clay's $100,000 goal. How much more do you think we can raise for the children of Afghanistan in three more days?

Look at it this way: If this campaign raises $200,000, UNICEF could provide 333 tents or 970 water pumps. Large tents are used for temporary classrooms and community programs. Each tent costs $700. Hand pumps bring clean water to families in Afghanistan.

My colleagues in the field in Afghanistan tell us that only 23% of people living in Afghanistan have access to clean water. The Mark II hand pumps UNICEF is providing in Afghanistan cost about $206.29 each.

What a powerful way to make a difference in the lives of thousands of kids in Afghanistan!

You can still help provide clean water and education for children in Afghanistan by making a donation at UNICEF.

[April 16 blog continues here.]

When Special Ambassador Clay Aiken returned from his trip to Afghanistan and issued the above appeal for $100,000 in 10 days on Thursday, UNICEF had no idea the speed with which the money would come pouring in. Within 24 hours, the total stood at $70,000; and by the weekend, the tally was $90,000.

News of the appeal has spread throughout Clay Cyberspace and beyond via blogs, email, and word of mouth. Message boards are keeping tabs on the progress at the UNICEF Page where donations are made and visual tallies documented.

When the 10-day campaign began, the thermometer was empty. The total currently stands at $90,000:

Monday afternoon Clay reflected on his visit to UNICEF field sites in Afghanistan with a blog at Fieldnotes, and three new photos from the trip were uploaded to Flickr, one of which is posted in the final segment below.

Blog Traces Surprising Totals

A Fieldnotes blog update traced the thermometer's surprising $60,000 total by 3 p.m. Friday, followed less than two hours later with a second post proclaiming a new total of $70,000.

This is part of the first Fieldnotes update:

Thank you, Clay Fans!

What an excellent Friday! It is only 3 p.m. on Day 2 of Clay Aiken's $100,000 Challenge for Afghanistan. We're thrilled to tell you that we've already raised $59,635. That's more than half of our original goal . . . and we've got eight more days to go.

This money will be used to help kids in Afghanistan. UNICEF will provide medical supplies, text books and meet other urgent needs.

Thanks to so many of you for forwarding Clay's appeal to fund UNICEF's work in Afghanistan to your friends and posting it on your blog.

Donors To Receive Reports, Photos

Contributors who reply to the appeal with a $50 or more contribution by April 22 will receive a link to Clay's exclusive field report, as well as additional photos from his trip to Afghanistan that won't appear anywhere else. Those donating $1,000 or more will receive an autographed copy of the report.

In the second Fieldnotes update Friday, readers were informed that Clay would blog about the Afghanistan trip -- and he did.

The original goal may be near, but the call for funds continues through the 22nd. The generosity of Clay's fans and UNICEF supporters will insure that urgent medical and educational needs are met in Afghanistan. Donations can be made at this UNICEF page.

In my ideal world, no child would suffer. Charitable instincts would prevail. There would be global acceptance of all different types of people. -- Clay Aiken

PHOTO INTERLUDE: This clickable intermission features the beautiful graphics CA fans have created from UNICEF trip photos and screen caps. They include Amazing_CA, 1 and 2; J4Clay, 3; Clayquebec1, 4; and Claysmelody, 5.

Raleigh Paper Welcomes Clay Home

The Raleigh Chronicle featured an excellent story -- Clay Aiken Returns from Afghanistan -- on Saturday, April 14. This is just the beginning:

RALEIGH - United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) Goodwill Ambassador and singer Clay Aiken just returned to his hometown of Raleigh from his first visit to Afghanistan, where he aimed to raise awareness about the hope and promise he has seen in the young people of the war-torn country.

"The people here are very strong and they are very proud of their country," Mr. Aiken told reporters in Kabul on Wednesday, praising the "strength and conviction of the Afghan people and their ability to make sure that this country returns to its glory after such a long darkness."

Clay Aiken in Afghanistan with UNICEF

A Very Special Coincidence

A mailbag blog here is long overdue. The comments written by OFC readers always provide amazing additional insight into the featured topics. One from the 4/13 "Clay Appeals for Afghanistan Aid" entry could not be more relevant, and I would like to close this edition with smz80219's very special remark.

I was so impressed that I encouraged my friend Smz, a passionate knitter and Clay fan, to include the account in Smz's OFC journal, which she did. Here is one fan's very special story:

I thought one of my new knitting projects was very timely, to say the least. Afghans for Afghans is one of the organizations for which I knit. Their turn came up in my rotation, and on the 28th of March I started a wool baby blanket for them.

I will always have a soft spot for that blanket since it was being done while Clay was actually in the country. I can honestly say that since starting this blanket I have felt the need to pray -- deep inside -- a lot more than usual. That happens sometimes.

Much prayer has happened while sitting and knitting on this blanket. I hope those blessings are in each stitch and wrap around that baby who eventually uses this offering from a US knitter who has a heart for that country and its people.

Below is a clickable of the opening graphic by ABeautifulMind:

Have an awesome week, Clay Nation!


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