Finding alternatives to fund-raising activities involving gambling

How do you say "no" when a freckle-faced youngster asks you for money for a good cause? Why would you want to? In these days of tight budgets, more and more organizations, including some connected with schools, are turning to forms of gambling to raise money. Projects such as drawing tickets for door prizes may not seem to fall into this category, since virtually everyone would have attended the even anyway. In other cases -- raffles, for example -- the element of chance is much stronger.

Whenever stand we take in particular instances, we should be alert to the importance of explaining to youngsters the nature of gambling and the problems associated with it. Pressures for a vast expansion of legalized gambling are increasing in many states. While small-scale games of chance for charity may seem harmless, they can encourage bad habits, which might be difficult to recognize and overcome later.

Beyond educating our children, is there anything else we can do? Based on my experience when my son is elementary school, there are at least two ways of dealing with the situation. First, when opportunities arise, point out tactfully to adult organizers the negative effects of encouraging youngsters to accept gambling.

Second, suggest and support alternative fund-raising activities. Children are more likely to understand and follow our views if we take a flexible, constructive approach, rather than simply refuse to participate. Here are a few ideas that have worked well and are adaptable to various age groups:

* School fairs, with games of skill, costumes, crafts, refreshments, pony rides.

* Saturday car washes or neighborhood cleanups.

* Amateur plays, concerts, sports events.

* "White elephant" sales.

These projects require time and effort, but they have the advantages of developing youngsters' creative talents -- and helping them discover they can't get "someting for n othing"!

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