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Philanthropy Journal

Clay Aiken's Charity Aims to Expand

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. -- The charity co-founded by Clay Aiken, the Raleigh native and American Idol runner-up, has changed its name to better reflect its mission of integrating children with disabilities into school, after-school and summer-camp activities.

Formerly known as the Bubel/Aiken Foundation, the Research Triangle Park-based National Inclusion Project also is stepping up its efforts to better promote its work and generate more contributions to support its programs.

"Our challenge is building awareness not only about what we do but who we are, and through that awareness getting people who will support us and help others and really make a difference," says Jerry Aiken, who is Clay Aiken's uncle and executive director of the nonprofit.

Based on a senior project Clay Aiken worked on at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, where he majored in special education, he launched the nonprofit in July 2003 with Diane Bubel, the mother of a young man with disabilities Aiken had worked with as part of his student project.

When Aiken mentioned his student project during an American Idol broadcast in the spring of 2003, fans contributed roughly $50,000, even though he had not yet formed the nonprofit.

The National Inclusion Project receives support through revenue generated by Aiken's fans wrapping gifts in their local communities, and through an annual gala in Raleigh and annual golf tournament in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

The group mainly develops a curriculum, and provides training and funding, to "help open doors" and provide an "inclusive offering" for kids who attend summer camps and after-school programs.

With assets just over $1 million, Jerry Aiken says, the nonprofit in the year ended Dec. 31, 2008, provided over $825,000 in funding for 31 different programs throughout the United States.

And with a $500,000 federal grant, the group over three years developed an evidence-based inclusive service-learning curriculum that teachers in elementary, middle and high schools can use to talk to their students about disabilities and help them select a community-service project.

Now, in partnership with Johns Hopkins University and Mitsubishi Electric Corp., the National Inclusion Project aims to integrate that curriculum with Let's All Play, the inclusive program it developed for after-school and recreational summer-camp programs.

Tested at YMCAs in Raleigh and in Concord, N.C., and Kansas City, Kan., the program has served over 70 groups.

Overall, the National Inclusion Project has invested $4.5 million in its work, supported over 110 programs and served over 20,000 children through its inclusive camp program, says Jerry Aiken, who spent 30 years working in the telecommunications industry for companies like Nortel and Fujitsu, where he served as vice president for global customer services.

Expanding those programs will require raising more money, Jerry Aiken says.

The group's "Wrapping for Inclusion" program, for example, generated $60,000 during the holiday season last year, down because of the recession from $100,000 it generated a year earlier, he says.

On Oct. 17, the National Inclusion Project will host its sixth annual Champions Gala at the Marriott City Center in downtown Raleigh.

The event will honor Mitsubishi Electric; Patrick Henry Hughes, a student with substantial disabilities who plays multiple instruments in the marching band at the University of Louisville; and the Sparkle Effect, a high-school cheerleading squad in Iowa that includes girls with disabilities.

And in February, the National Inclusion Project will host its annual golf tournament at the Mirasol Country Club in Palm Beach Gardens.

"We are a small foundation," Jerry Aiken says. "We've got some really good things going, and we're really trying to make a difference."

Todd Cohen | October 19, 2009

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As always, I'm proud of Clay for his philanthropy and for what "we" have accomplished together.


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USA Today

Clay Aiken Investigation Dropped by N.C. Election Board

Clay Aiken investigation dropped by N.C. elections board

Posted 2h 43m ago

By Gary D. Robertson

RALEIGH, N.C. — Elections officials dropped an investigation into 2003 American Idol runnerup Clay Aiken's voter registration on Wednesday, weeks after the singer ruffled feathers by slamming some local school board candidates on his blog.

The Wake County Board of Elections agreed there was enough evidence to indicate Aiken likely voted unlawfully there while living in a neighboring county. But the board declined to seek a more thorough review with the State Board of Elections, which had the small potential to lead to a criminal prosecution.

There was no evidence presented that Aiken deliberately sought to violate election law, and Aiken wrote a letter asking officials to remove him from their voting rolls.

"In this case, I think this should be over and done with today," board chairman Sharon Everett said before the 3-0 vote.

Aiken's registration got attention after he criticized Wake County school board candidates last month in a blog posting, calling them "selfish idiots" intent on damaging a school system.

Four candidates backed by the local GOP ran and won on a platform of changing the Wake County schools policy that uses student reassignments and busing to achieve economic and racial diversity. The program is considered a national model.

Wake Republican Party Chairman Claude Pope filed a complaint because Aiken voted in Wake County elections with voter registration that listed his mother's address in Raleigh. Pope presented evidence showing Aiken has lived in Chatham County since at least 2006, including a TV news segment of the crooner showing off the home to a reporter.

Aiken said he did nothing wrong Wednesday in a blog post.

"I've remained registered at the permanent address that I've long used here in Wake County because I consider Raleigh home," Aiken wrote. "While I believe my registration is perfectly valid, I've decided to change my registration from Wake County rather than get into a technical dispute."

Pope said he didn't file the complaint as retribution for Aiken's criticism, but as a way to raise awareness about voter registration rules. He said people who move need to change their registration.

"We would certainly look at this as an opportunity to educate the general public," Pope told the board. "We're not looking to throw Mr. Aiken in jail or anything like that. ... he certainly can say anything he wants to say."

Aiken, in his blog post, characterized the challenge as an "attack" and said the efforts "show the lengths to which some folks will go to silence an opposing view."

Aiken, 31, has released several albums since his No. 2 American Idol finish in 2003 and had a role in the Monty Python's Spamalot on Broadway. He announced in September 2008 that he is gay and has a son conceived through in-vitro fertilization with a female friend.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

The picture included is from his 2009 GLAAD appearance

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Progress in Somalia Despite Difficult Circumstances

Progress in Somalia Despite Difficult Circumstances

Clay Aiken

UNICEF Ambassador

Posted: December 29, 2009 06:23 AM

This past November, while we celebrated the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, a grim milestone was reached in the east African nation of Somalia. The conflict and instability which has characterized that nation for the past 20 years has produced a generation in its central southern province that has never known peace.

In this season of peace and goodwill, this jarring reality should spur us to action so that future generations are not lost.

The mere mention of Somalia conjures in the mind of everyday Americans a place where lawlessness reigns. Indeed, the perception is that no other country has done more to place the issue of maritime piracy at the forefront of our minds and within our headlines.

While this may be true...it's certainly not the whole story.

Last year, in my role as UNICEF Ambassador, I spent five days in northwest Somalia. There's no question that years of civil war and a defunct central government has left much of this nation dangerously unstable. In fact, half the population of Somalia remains internally displaced and in a state of humanitarian emergency.

This tragic reality affects an estimated 3.6 million people, half of whom are children. Over 1.5 million are displaced as a result of conflict, largely between Islamic extremists and government forces. Not only is this population burdened by violence and instability, but also extreme poverty and recurrent food shortages.

There are, however, glimmers of hope. For one, the Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG) has made overtures to place the well-being of children on its emerging social service agenda.

One significant achievement the country boasts is that it has remained polio free since 2007. Also, despite a prolonged drought affecting over 1.4 million, including 700,000 children, there is visible evidence of declining malnutrition rates. This year, in fact, UNICEF and the World Food Programme (WFP) have reported that they're on track to reach up to 50,000 severely malnourished children -- more than double those reached in 2008.

In addition, through the Child Health Days initiative, UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) were able to deliver low-cost, high-impact health packages this year to over one million children under the age of five. These interventions included immunization, vitamin A supplementation, de-worming tablets and oral rehydration salts to combat diarrhea caused by contaminated water.

As a former teacher, the issue of education remains close to my heart. Education provides the confidence needed to make the most of a child's abilities. A protective learning environment can help change attitudes about violence while also promoting equality. Keeping schools operational in communities affected by conflict and in camps for the internally displaced is an essential priority for UNICEF in Somalia, as is providing incentives and training for teachers. This year, in the central southern zone, 89,000 out-of-school or emergency affected children gained access to primary education.

Last month, after being one of only two countries to not ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Somali Transitional Government signaled their intention to join the community of nations who have already adopted this groundbreaking human rights treaty. This is a tremendous step in the right direction. But more still needs to be done. A minimum of $12 million is needed to respond to the emergency needs of the Somali population in the first quarter of 2010.

Let's pledge to make a difference this holiday season for the children of Somalia so that the next milestone the current generation marks will be one of dreams realized for their children.

Learn more about the situation in Somalia and help UNICEF bring hope to children in this area through Unicef.org.

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