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Autism: To give is human, to receive, divine

Allison Ziering Walmark

Some of us like to shop. Many of us love to shop. All of us need to shop. So next time you reach for your credit card to make a necessary (or not so necessary purchase), consider shoplanthrophy — a new way to shop while giving back to those in need.

Online shopping

My son and I both learned new words last week. His word of the week was “parody” which means an imitation of the style of a particular writer, artist or genre with deliberate exaggeration for comic effect.

At least I’m fairly certain he meant “parody” a la “Weird Al” Yankovic and not “parity” as in the property of oddness or evenness of a quantum mechanical function; the symmetry of behavior in an interaction of a physical entity (as a subatomic particle) with that of its mirror image; or the state or fact of having borne offspring. With Ethan, I never know what to expect, so whether parody or parity, a new word is a blessed and welcome event.

A new way to give: Shoplanthrophy

My new word of the week was “shoplanthropy,” which, it turns out, is a nice complement to “shopaholic.” Shoplanthropy — a hybrid and completely invented word — combines what is also a blessed and welcome event for me: Shopping and philanthropy.

Anyone who knows me knows that based on moral, ethical, social, metaphysical, spiritual, philosophical and/or “religious” principles (not to mention the challenge of “finding-the-same-thing-less-expensive-someplace-else”) I will never buy retail… unless, of course, desperate times for desperate measures. (Like the time Ethan was asked — with less than 24 hours notice — to play piano on the Today show. Ethan’s suit was pressed and ready, but my clothing options weren’t giving me the “warm and fuzzies”… hence, retail. As I said, desperate times call for desperate measures.) Then, something unexpected happened that caused me rethink my entire retail animosity philosophy.

Gifts that Give

At a friend’s suggestion (said friend works with children on the autism spectrum), I researched a site called Gifts That Give. Gifts That Give was founded in 2008 by people with a passion for helping fund nonprofit organizations, and the myriad of humanity each nonprofit serves. As they created a business plan, they understood that people don’t want to — or can’t — spend full price in retail stores, so they decided to dangle the proverbial carrot in front of consumers (like me) that makes retail more palatable.

What if, the creators thought, we offer a full-range of products (sports, travel, bath and body, candles, pets, gourmet, picture frames, fragrance, technology, home, etc.) from well-known to lesser-known retailers in every price range. And, what if every time a gift is purchased on the Gifts That Give website, Gifts That Give immediately donates a 20 percent tax-deductible donation to the cause of the shopper’s choice? Hence, the term Shoplanthropy.

There are over 1.8 million nonprofits to choose from including Autism Speaks, the Association for Science in Autism Treatment, St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, Save the Children and the American Red Cross. You find a cause that you love. You shop for the items you want. You check out as you would on any other e-commerce site, and 20 percent of your purchase price is immediately donated to your chosen charity. Just one purchase has the ability to make millions happy without spending one extra dollar.

Shoplanthropy is the new way to give, and I’m definitely buyin’ what they’re sellin’.

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