IKEA, The Life Improvement Store, announced today the five (5) finalists of the Life Improvement Sabbatical Contest who are in the running to win a year-long sabbatical* (worth $100,000) to improve the lives of others. Understanding that people have a desire to be a positive force within their community, IKEA offered this unique contest to give one deserving winner the opportunity to pursue their passion, and share their experience with the world. From December 13, 2010 – January 17, 2011, the public can vote for their favorite project online at http://www.thelifeimprovementproject.com to determine the winner, who will be announced on January 31. IKEA will donate $1.00 to Save the Children’s U.S. Programs for every vote received (up to $50,000).
- LaJuana Moser (California City, CA): As a foster mom, LaJuana created bags4kids after years of seeing foster children moved from home to home with only the clothes on their backs. She has since delivered over 8,000 bags filled with personal care products, toys and other necessities for these children. With funding, LaJuana would expand bags4kids to reach more children in need in California and across the country.
- Ralph Johnson (Hempstead, NY): Ralph has been bringing the wonders of science to at-risk students for nearly two decades, exposing them to programs in agricultural science, medical investigation, forensics, and science research. His educational and mentoring efforts have changed more than 800 teens’ lives. With funding, Ralph will expand the program to reach nearly three times the amount of students in New York communities.
- Kyria Henry (Round Hill, VA): At just 12 years old, Kyria Henry founded paws4people, and later paws4vets, training and pairing service dogs with children, seniors, seriously ill and disabled people, and war veterans needing assistance. A year-long sabbatical will allow Kyria to devote her full attention to the paws4vets program, providing service dogs to assist retired and active-duty military veterans as a tool to ease emotional, physical and psychological traumas and help them return to normal life.
- Philip Filner (Lutherville, MD): When retired scientist Philip Filner learned about an unused greenhouse at Baltimore’s Northwestern High School, he knew it was an opportunity to give hands-on courses in biology and environmental science and set students on a path of discovering future career paths. With funding, Philip could create a teaching laboratory, using the greenhouse as a facility for experiments, skilled crafts, and a tool to encourage students to ask questions and learn about nature.
- Elizabeth Woods (Waxhaw, NC): After losing her son and her Special Forces husband, Elizabeth created Soul Widows, a support group and online community of resources, forums and retreats for others experiencing loss. With funding, Elizabeth hopes to provide regular meeting spaces, fund therapists and allow continued support to widows through her organization.
In addition the year-long sabbatical* (worth $100,000), the winner will also receive a 3-day/2-night trip to a spa resort in Phoenix, AZ, (date TBD) to participate in a one hour life coaching session with O, The Oprah Magazine’s life coach Dr. Martha Beck, and will be featured in advertorials in issues of O, The Oprah Magazine. The public can also continue to follow the winner throughout the year as his/her project is chronicled on http://www.thelifeimprovementproject.com.
IKEA launched the Life Improvement Sabbatical Contest as part of the company’s Life Improvement Project, an initiative designed to educate, inspire and empower people to improve their lives at home, as well as the lives of others in their community. In addition to the contest, the national program consists of a series of free Life Improvement Store Seminars for consumers, hosted in IKEA stores across the U.S. and a Life Improvement Co-Worker Challenge to provide $10,000 each to support five winning community projects suggested by teams of IKEA employees (co-workers) across the country. This challenge gave IKEA co-workers the opportunity to win additional funding and support for a local charitable organization/cause of their choice. The winning community projects will be announced in late-December.
For more information on The Life Improvement Project, including the Life Improvement Sabbatical Contest, Life Improvement Store Seminars and Life Improvement Store Challenge, visit http://www.thelifeimprovementproject.com.