Top Three National Parks in the United States

National parks have earned a place in our hearts. They are not only a history lesson but also a geographical one. They give us a timeline of the earth through erosion, glacier formation, and volcanic activity. They are also reminders of the natural beauty of the United States. They give us the opportunity to connect with nature and unplug from the world. It’s amazing the serenity one feels when hiking or camping in one of these parks. There are 419 national parks (units) that are managed by the National Park Service. These national parks include historic monuments, battlefields, burial sites and more. Visiting one of these parks should be on your bucket list. Here are the top three national parks in the United States. 

Grand Canyon National Park (Arizona) – This park is 277 river miles long and 18 miles wide. Established in 1919, the Grand Canyon has won over crowds with its history, colors, and geology. There are several areas to visit during your trip, such as Lipan Point, Mather Point and Mary Colter’s Desert View Watchtower. What is amazing is that the Grand Canyon was carved from the Colorado River. We can see the erosion and volcanism that made up the almost-rigid sedimentary rocks and their gorgeous colors. There are nearly 40 layers of rock in the Grand Canyon wall. Don’t forget to visit the Grand Canyon Skywalk! Not for the faint of heart, this horseshoe-shaped glass bridge expends 70 feet over the rim of the Grand Canyon, providing a view of 4,000 feet down to the canyon floor. 

Yosemite National Park (California) – Located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Yosemite spans nearly 1,200 miles and offers unparalleled beauty with its ancient sequoias, granite cliffs, and breath-taking vistas to name a few. The park was first protected in 1864 but became an official park in 1890 by an act of congress. Yosemite has a number of places to explore, including the Yosemite Valley, Mariposa Grove, and Hetch Hetchy. Each one features unique geographical features (e.g. rock formations and waterfalls) that enhance your outdoor activity, whether it’s hiking or rock climbing. If you are not into camping, there are several types of lodging in the park from bed and breakfasts to cabins. 

Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming, Montana & Idaho) — This massive park spans over 3,400 miles with the majority in the wilderness. Home to Old Faithful geyser, the park is an amazing display of colors. The Grand Prismatic Spring in the Midway Geyser Basin features blues, yellows, greens, oranges, and browns and is a large as a football field and deeper than a 10-story building. The boardwalk gives you the best views of the many thermal features in the park. Hiking is also big at Yellowstone. When hiking the Mount Washburn Trail, you’ll see a variety of greens from the valleys below. You’ll get an even more spectacular view at the 10,243-foot summit. Also, Yellowstone was the first national park in the United States, established in 1872 and commemorated by Ansel Adams photographs. 

Originally published at on January 9, 2020.

Three Trends in Philanthropy for 2020

Philanthropy has Greek and Latin roots: philanthrōpos from Greek and philanthropia from Latin. Both have the prefix phil- (philo- in Greek) meaning “loving” and anthro (anthropos in Greek) meaning “mankind.” Yet, this word has a deeper meaning. It means to be good to our fellow humans; to care for those who need help. We need this word and the good that it does more than ever. We live in a world that has such negativity and inequality, yet seeing a charitable act reminds us that there is good in the world. Philanthropy has been around for centuries, and there are numerous philanthropic foundations around the world. Each one is unique in its own right. And each year, just as there are new causes there are new trends. These trends affect organizations from their popularity to staff retention. As 2019 winds down, we look towards 2020 for better and bigger philanthropic achievements. Here are three philanthropy trends we can expect next year. 

  1. The Election Effect — 2020 is an election year. Thus, the election will have an effect on the number of donations. According to Classy, elections drive up support as seen in the 2016 election with President Trump. At the time of this election, some nonprofits opposed President Trump’s policies. The reaction created a surge in donations. This type of reaction can also be called “rage giving” or “rage donating.” It is interesting that those who donated were interested in long-term results, rather than those who donated at non-election times or sporadically. They were deemed recurring donors and had a positive impact on recurring giving programs. As the 2020 election fades away, the number of donations will likely produce record amounts. 
  2. Better Transparency — Now that social media (and the media) has been proven to make or break a charitable organization or reveal a charity scam, donors are expecting better transparency. Technology has made it very easy to set up GoFundMe pages and other types of donation sites, making it easy for anyone to solicit and receive donations. This brings up the issue of making donations more transparent. One way to achieve this is to utilize blockchain, the technology underpinning cryptocurrency. Blockchain uses encryption to make transactions (donations) more secure. The transactions cannot be altered or deleted. Another way is through donor-advised funds. These funds ensure that a donor’s money is going to the causes he or she has designated since the account is managed by a sponsoring organization. Both methods will make the process of donating more transparent as well as how philanthropic organizations are managed. 
  3. Authentic Giving Experiences — People want authentic experiences; they want to be part of the process. It is not enough to receive a receipt and/or social media proof about their donation. As with transparency, they want to know where their money is going and to see the outcome. Volunteering provides an authentic experience, and it has reached new heights. Voluntourism has been around for a while, but it, too, has become very popular. They are the best ways donors can achieve person-to-person experiences. Thus, we count on more authentic giving experiences around the world, especially in poor countries.  

Originally published at on January 9, 2020.

A Brief Look at the Origin of Soccer

It’s no surprise that soccer has been around for centuries. A simple game of kicking a ball through a goal was played in deserts and fields long before we had stadiums. But how did soccer originate? Many have laid claim to it, including the Chinese, Greeks, and Romans. Yet, it was the English who took this game and turned into what we recognize as soccer (or football in the UK). In 1863, the Football Association was formed and created the first governing body for the sport. The English created the uniform rules (e.g. the penalty kick) which are still in play today. 

However, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) is the international governing body of association football as well as futsal, efootball and beach soccer. Founded in 1904, this non-profit group oversees international competitions among the national associations of Europe, including Switzerland, France, and Germany. What makes soccer such a unique sport is that players cannot use their hands (except the Goalie) to maneuver the soccer ball into the opposing team’s net. The direction and speed of the ball depends on a player’s feet, particularly the skills used to move the ball down the field while protecting it from opposing players. Soccer players can use other parts of their body to block and project the ball, such as the head and chest. 

As mentioned above, many countries have claimed to have taken part in creating modern soccer. We first see the beginnings of soccer in China (5000 – 300 B.C.), where soldiers would play a game called Tsu Chu (“kicking the ball”). The ball was made of hair and feathers and was kicked into a hole or net, which was minuscule compared to today’s nets. The players were not permitted to use their hands. We jump to 1000 B.C. with Japan’s Kemari. It looks like playing hacky-sack, but with a larger ball. The objective of the game is not to score goals but to pass the ball to other players without the use of their hands. From 600 to 1000 A.D., we see the game taking shape in Mexico and Central America. This form of soccer was a bit more challenging because players had to project a rubber ball through a wooden or stone ring mounted in the middle of the wall in an I-shaped court. However, it was not until the 20th century when soccer gained its current rules and standard equipment (e.g. round soccer balls and larger nets). 

Soccer has become a billion-dollar industry with millions of fans — and growing each year. What started as a game for soldiers has transformed into adult and youth soccer leagues. It is an international sport that continues to flourish. It will be interesting to see what changes will emerge in the 21st century. 

Originally published at on January 9, 2020.

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