I first met Ali Wing, the founder and CEO of giggle, at the home of Kate Spade. Kate's daughter had designed a beautiful T-shirt to benefit the organization I founded a decade ago, Orphans International Worldwide (OIWW). I was impressed with it and so was Ali. That night, Ali decided to help the organization.
Ali decided upon a charitable, inexpensive, re-useable bag for the holidays -- the giggle Dot bag -- to sell through her juvenile products chain, Giggle, to generate proceeds for our kids. Given the earthquake and now epidemic, it brings much holiday cheer that the stunning bag generates funds specifically for our kids in Haiti!
I was taken by Ali, giggle's founder and CEO. She is a quick-study and knows her stuff, professionally and personally. Ali told me later:
I applaud Orphans International Worldwide's interfaith, interracial, international, intergenerational, and Internet-connected mission to help improve the lives of orphans worldwide. A priority for us at giggle is helping families of all kinds, combinations and walks of life. And since most of our giggle babies are lucky little ones with people around to take care of them, we think there's no more perfect cause to support than those babies and kids who need an extra set of hands. Giggle and OIWW are the perfect marriage of two organizations that want to make a better world for the our littlest citizens.
I learned quickly that giggle isn't just a baby store: it's a new parent store. As their colorful website explains, "When stocking a nursery, there's a lot to take into account, and the choices can be overwhelming. Our goal is to make your job a whole lot easier -- not by offering everything out there, but by offering the best of everything out there." Giggle has 14 stores from New York City to California. Locally, giggle can be found on the Upper East, the Upper West, SoHo and Long Island.
A few weeks later, Ali and I huddled for breakfast at Morandi on Waverly Place to catch up. I had returned from Haiti but just postponed my next trip due to safety concerns. Ali had been all over. She wanted to update me on the giggle campaign for their "charity of choice" for the holidays -- my orphans! I am pleased to say that no matter how bleak their lives, our kids will have a much better Christmas this year because of Ali's commitment to children.
Why does she care? Ali was one of nine children, five of whom were adopted from different cultures. With a lifelong focus on healthy living and community, she's been a champion from the beginning of ecological issues and a leader in seeking out organic products. Before giggle, Ali worked for companies such as NIKE. Her education includes an M.B.A. from Northwestern University's J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management and a J.D. from the Northwestern School of Law.
Community and involvement are important to Ali. She serves as executive director of the Tecumseh Foundation and is on several boards, including Baby Buggy, the New York Center for Children, Kids Today, and Northwestern University. I wrote about the incredible New York Center for kids last year (here). Ali also serves on the Directors' Council at the Children's Museum of the Arts. She continues to track new courses both personally and publicly, as an energetic and innovative businesswoman, an avid runner, a devoted wife, and an incredible mother.
My own son is now a teenager, I adopted him when he was 10 months. For most of us, luckily, a healthy baby is an expectation more than a hope. Giggle's own motto is "healthy.happy.baby." But in Haiti, like other countries where OIWW has a presence, healthy and happy' are frequently not the condition of many babies. My kid's name is Mathew, and more than a decade ago I promised that all children in our program would be treated the same way I treat my own kid, a founding principal we dubbed "Mathew's Rule."
When I brought Matt out of his Indonesian orphanage almost 16 years ago, all he had on was a ratty T-shirt. The staff asked me to leave behind that torn undershirt for the next child. Gasp. This is all too often the plight of many institutionalized children in the developing world. With the help of my mother, a child psychologist who would leave funds at her death to build the organization, I began to envision a better orphanage -- one revolving around small homes and a single caretaker.
Over time I discovered that "family care" was even better: encouraging the child to stay with extended family by contributing a monthly stipend to assist them with school books and extra rice. OIWW began to employ this method after the Tsunami in Indonesia and Sri Lanka.
Today, we are supporting orphaned children in Asia, Africa, and the Americas -- Raising Global Citizens.
In Indonesia and Haiti, some of our kids are approaching college age. Following "Mathew's Rule," I realize I now need to help these kids through the next four years, if they are up for it. In Haiti, that actually means founding a university. I am just one man. Yet I have realized over the last decade that if you are sincere and transparent, people reach out to you. People like Ali and the staff of giggle.
Thought leaders and global citizens like Ali Wing are what make America a truly great nation. By supporting Orphans International Worldwide, and more importantly -- by allowing her customers to support our children -- we are making it possible for Haiti to be a truly great nation again. The New Haiti will rise out of the rubble of the old, and our kids will lead it forward, thanks in large part to Ali and the customers of giggle. Happy Holidays, all of you. Our kids in Haiti thank you enormously!
Take giggle shopping! This reusable shopping tote features an exterior pocket for smaller items and folds compactly so you can take it along with you. Measures 16" sq. Give the gift of our reusable giggle shopping bag and help support children in need. Only $5. Go toGiggle.com to order. Proceeds benefit Orphans International Worldwide.