Valley Voices

The unforgettable holiday gifts you can plan for now

For some of you, the holidays may seem far away. For others, it is right around the corner and you’re already in a frenzy trying to figure out what to get those “grown” kids – nieces, nephews, grandchildren – you name them.

I have a rather small family with just my brother’s son and daughter. I’m proud of them, as they’ve grown into responsible adults. It doesn’t matter what they do; their careers and chosen paths could belong to anyone. Well, since you asked, my niece is an elementary school teacher in San Diego and my nephew is a pilot for JetBlue.

Several months prior to the holidays two years ago, I sent them an email stating, “As you have all grown older (and wiser), I’ve decided to do something different this year. I am going to donate to a charity of your choosing in each of your names. You are successful in what you are doing and I thought this would be something that would benefit many.

“This is going to take a little work on your part. How much work you put into it is up to you. If you already have a charity or charitable organization in mind, that’s great. It can be local or national. It can be personal but doesn’t have to be. It can focus on physical or mental health or books or animals or the homeless. – just about anything that is important to you.”

I sat back and waited for their email responses. And I waited. And then they came. When they told me they thought it was a great idea, I knew I was on the right track. I couldn’t have asked for a better response from them. And then the other emails came, telling me the organizations they chose and why.

My niece “decided to go with WE (Women’s Empowerment). I like the idea that when you choose to donate, you’re providing loans for women in poverty, along with the correct tools they will need to work their way out of poverty. The women eventually have to pay back the money, and in a sense, the gift keeps on giving.”

My nephew shared a reason for his choice. “One of the community service and fundraising events I did while in college was the walk for cancer…this walk was done for the American Cancer Society and we would always gather a large group and raise a good deal of money every year.

“We would walk up this hill along with thousands of others with the goal to ‘fight’ cancer together while raising money and awareness. I truly enjoyed the people I met who volunteered their time to help out this society. Although this was only one of a few different organizations I was involved in while in college, it was my favorite.

“I’d like to donate the money to the American Cancer Society in hopes we can find at least one more cure for a type of cancer.”

The pride I felt in this next generation was overwhelming. They didn’t just give a flip answer to be done with this “assignment.” No, they obviously thought it through giving inspiring choices and explaining their reasons.

Last year, I wanted to do something different again. I don’t live in the same cities as they do and can’t enjoy casual lunches with them that many other aunts or uncles take for granted. My gift to them last year was actually a gift for me! I wanted time with them – alone time! We planned; they came. Individually.

The gift was for each of us as we spent “quality” time in deep discussions such as talking about their cousin, Russell, my son, who died by suicide over seven years ago at the age of 28. Hearing their descriptive memories and the emotions in their voices meant so much to me.

Like me, they know how important the gift of time can be with family. It’s nothing that can be returned or exchanged but is something to be cherished for as long as we have.

Fun stuff was on the schedule as well. As I told them, “What happens in Fresno, stays in Fresno.” I got to know them better and, of course, they got to know me better. It was time very well spent.

This year…..will be a challenge! Any ideas?

Robin Fox Avedisian is a resident of Fresno. Connect with her at