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Fairfield County Moms Take Back Mother's Day

GREENWICH, Conn. — What does your mother really want for Mother’s Day? Chocolates and flowers? Breakfast in bed? Brunch at a lovely restaurant? Maybe. But you might consider celebrating her with a more meaningful gift.

If you choose the predictable, commerce-oriented options, you are in good company. About $14 billion is spent ever year on Mother’s Day in the United States alone, according to the National Retail Federation.

The Mother’s Day Movement , however, might persuade you to reconsider your choice. Its sole mission is to raise money to help women in need around the world by asking people to rethink their giving priorities at Mother’s Day.

Started last year by Stephanie Norton, Kim Hausman Athan, Trish Hazelwood and Eva Hausman of Old Greenwich, the movement raised more than $125,000 for Shining Hope for Communities ( www.hopetoshine.org ), a nonprofit organization in Kenya that operates a school for girls, a community center and a health clinic in impoverished Kibera.

Norton and Athan met at their children’s preschool and subsequently “worked on everything from raising funds for the nursery school to helping to bring anti-bullying programs to our children's elementary school.”

They and the two other members of the team had read the book, “Half the Sky” by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn. Norton said, “We were left with a feeling that we had to do something. We were not sure quite what that meant, but we knew the book really was a call to action.”

Norton sites a subsequent article in The New York Times, wherein Kristof emphasized that the amount of money spent annually on gifts, flowers and cards in the United States was “enough to pay for a primary school education for all 60 million girls around the world who aren’t attending school.” This, he said, could end female illiteracy.

The article, said Norton, galvanized the mothers, who decided, “Maybe if we could redirect or help people see what could be done with just a portion of that money, we could help to change the course of women and children's lives around the globe.”

They decided to find charities that work to empower women globally, with a focus on education and health. “We believed — and still do — that mothers and women are the cornerstone of families and communities.”

Norton said she told Athan, “If I could just build a school, that would be amazing.” It seemed a lofty goal. But after being mentioned by Kristof in the Times right before Mother’s Day in 2011, the movement received nearly 2,000 donations that totaled more than $135,000.

“The Mother's Day campaign resonated with so many who were ready to rethink their giving priorities surrounding this holiday. They were willing to make Mother’s Day not just about one mother, but a world of mothers,” said Norton.

For its second campaign this year, the Mother's Day Movement has chosen Saving Mothers ( www.savingmothers.org ) as the recipient of its philanthropy. “It’s an organization dedicated to providing lay health-care providers in Guatemala and Liberia with the tools they need to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity," Norton said. "It is an amazing cause, and we are very excited to see what we can do for them and the communities they serve.”

Brunch, chocolates and flowers might be a fine way to fete your mom, but the movement’s work honors mothers throughout the world, which is a far-reaching and profound legacy for mothers and for their daughters, who may one day be mothers themselves.

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