Happy New Year! Being Grateful and Giving Back

As the end of 2011 approaches, it’s a good time to reflect on all the things I’m grateful for – like my family, a writing career I love, and my wonderful readers who’ve helped make my books so successful!
This is also a good time to remember to give something back to the community. Times are tough, and charities are hurting just like everyone else. It’s not so much the amount we give, but if you are able and so inclined, giving anything to a worthy cause does make a positive difference – whether you donate money, goods, or time and talent.
I tend to focus on charities in my community of San Antonio. Wherever you live, whatever your interests, I’d encourage you get involved locally! Here are some of the groups I support in the San Antonio area:
San Antonio Youth Literacy: a great organization that sends volunteer reading tutors into the elementary schools to work one-on-one with at-risk kids who are struggling with reading. Illiteracy is a huge problem in South Texas, and SAYL does a great job helping kids at the most critical age, around second grade, develop reading skills that will help them succeed. Right after I quit teaching, I worked as a reading tutor for SAYL and I treasure the experience. A wonderful cause!
CASA: Child Advocates San Antonio provides adult advocates for abused and neglected children in Bexar County. These children are critically underserved and need so much support and guidance for them to break the cycles of poverty and abuse. CASA pairs children with adult volunteers who serve as their advocates, helping them with social services, the legal system, the schools, and mostly by being a reliable, caring, supportive adult in their lives. My stepdad works as a volunteer for this organization and does great work changing lives for the better. We’re proud to support them!  
Camp CAMP: Talk about a camp for demigods! Camp CAMP (Children’s Association for Maximum Potential) provides a summer camp experience for kids with disabilities and special health care needs who otherwise would not be able to attend a camp. This is truly a place where each camper is seen for his or her abilities, not disabilities, and where heroes are trained! I got to speak to the counselors for Camp CAMP at their orientation last summer, and I was so impressed by the camp, the staff, and the commitment of the fantastic young volunteers who were dedicating their summer to helping others. Check out their website for some heartwarming stories and pictures.
Wherever you live, I hope you’ll remember the end of the year as a great time to give what you can to the causes you care about. Thanks again to all my readers for a fabulous 2011. I wish you all a Happy New Year, and I hope 2012 brings you much happiness!

Rick Riordan