Ben’s Bells

Livi and I have a lot of fun adventures together. We’ll stay at home to have dance parties and read books, swim, meet up with friends for playdates, go to story time or music class, join the family for lunch or dinner, and run errands together. With all of the things that we DO, there has only been one thing really lacking: teaching her the importance of working solely to help others. Sure, she goes with me to drop off baby meals to families in the squadron with newborns, she’s there when I clean out toys and clothes to donate, but I’ve been picking my brain for activities where I can take her with me to do a little bit of volunteer work.


When I was in college, philanthropy was a regular part of my life. It was a requirement for business school -we had to complete a certain amount of service hours each semester- and it’s something that’s gotten away from me. I think that saying “I don’t have time” is a huge cop-out -you have time for anything, you just have to prioritize and want it badly enough to make it happen- and it’s not something I’ve prioritized with the other things on my plate. Can you imagine if you heard “I don’t want to make that a priority” every time someone said, “I don’t have time!” The startling honesty would be kind of amazing.

When I knew Liv and I had a free afternoon today, I thought “Maybe we could actually do something to volunteer?”

And a little bell chimed. I knew exactly what we could do.

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Ben’s Bells is a local organization which began when a couple, Jeannette and Dean, lost their 3-year-old boy, Ben. He had a little bit of the “ick”- nothing that startled them as dangerously sick, more like a cold- and out of nowhere, his airway swelled shut, and on that Good Friday, their sweet baby left this world. You can read more about their story here (I cry every time I read it), but as a coping mechanism, they started to craft small tokens out of clay in their backyard, along with friends, and called them Ben’s Bells. They distributed them around the city as tokens of kindness, and on the anniversary of Ben’s death, hundreds were placed around Tucson. The symbol of Ben’s Bells is that of kindness and its power in healing.

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They have open studio hours where you can drop by to help make the bells, and I called to see if it would be an ok place to bring a 19-month-old little lady with me.

“Absolutely, kids are always welcome.”

I texted to see if Meg, Kyle, Trev and Mik wanted to join us, so we had a little painting party.

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Even though I’m not super artistic, I love the chance to create things. It felt so good to work with the clay, and I thought of the people who might be receiving the bells. Even though they’re small tokens, a lot of love goes into making each one. By the time they are distributed, 10 people will have worked on a single bell at one point or another. It just goes to show that even tiny acts matter. Just like health, fitness, anything, the hardest part is getting started. You don’t have to build a house on the first try πŸ˜‰

I’d love to think of more opportunities that Liv and I could do together. If you have any ideas, please let me know, especially with the upcoming holiday season. (We do the Angel Tree each year, but I’d like to actively participate in something.)

After our painting party, we got Paradise Bakery takeout and walked over to the U of A mall for a picnic.

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Not a bad day <3

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Hope you’re enjoying the night, too.


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  1. Tom T. on August 27, 2013 at 11:18 pm

    Great story and great lesson for your little girl! Way to prioritize a something meaningful into the development of your child.

  2. Ramani on August 27, 2013 at 11:22 pm

    Gina, you are SUCH a good mother. Seriously. So thoughtful and always trying to lead by example. I forget sometimes that you are young, so wise. πŸ™‚

    Random question, does Liv easily go to other people like your family and friends? Or does she cry when others try to hold her etc. and feels comfortable mostly with you? I have a niece this age so trying to gauge even though everyone is different.

    • Fitnessista on August 27, 2013 at 11:26 pm

      thank you- that means a lot to me <3
      it depends. if she's teething or sleepy, she only wants me, if she's had a nice nap and is happy she'll go to anyone in the family. she'll usually go to tom, my mom or nana, too, since they all watch and take care of her regularly, but usually it's "mama hold me up"

  3. Elizabeth M. on August 27, 2013 at 11:25 pm

    Amazing post πŸ™‚ I love it. I work for a nonprofit children’s hospital and I think I use that as an excuse to not volunteer more, but it’s not! I heard about an organization where you can go and create baskets to give to kids in the hospitals (there can be a lot of infection control regulations) I can’t remember it to save my life right now. I will repost a comment when I do πŸ™‚

    • Fitnessista on August 27, 2013 at 11:26 pm

      ok, please do! i’d love to to do something like that

  4. Neiry on August 27, 2013 at 11:41 pm

    Ha, I read “Ben’s Bells” and thought “oh my god, they’re getting stationed in London!” What a hoot. πŸ™‚

    Been meaning to say this for a while: I love how close you and your family are. I’m in my twenties and (while I now live 8 hrs away from my family) can only hope that one day I’ll just be able to call my brother up and say ‘hey, wanna come do ___ with me?’ and he’d be down for it. Truly inspirational. Puts a smile on my face!

    • Fitnessista on August 27, 2013 at 11:47 pm

      haha I WISH. that would be amazing!
      thank you- i’m lucky to have such an amazing family. i like to think i’m making up for lost time hanging out with all of them, since i lived away for 4 years. i’m lucky trevor’s girlfriend and kyle’s wife are as awesome as they are. we love hanging out with them <3

  5. Stephie on August 28, 2013 at 12:47 am

    Check out, you can see what opportunities are available in your area! As a fellow tucsonian, I’ll have to check out Ben’s Bells!

  6. Lisa on August 28, 2013 at 1:03 am

    That’s such an important thing to share with Olivia.
    I think it’s SOO important if we get the chance (which most of us do) to volunteer and help out causes that are in need and I’m so happy to hear you are passing on this knowledge to Olivia.

  7. Jacqueline on August 28, 2013 at 1:32 am

    This theme of “dedication” (to being active, job-hunting, spirituality, etc.) has been coming up in my life a lot lately, and I think you hit the nail on the head addressing things as priorities rather than just things to do. I wrote down that bit about making time for things and prioritizing them, and now it’s sitting next to my laptop on my desk. Thank you!

  8. Diane on August 28, 2013 at 1:37 am

    love the story – liv is beautiful – you’re a great mother – your brothers are awesome!

  9. Jessica on August 28, 2013 at 2:13 am

    Did u know you’ve been become a Slave to yor ads and u can’t even read your post without a freaking video commercial pop-up?? Look what you’ve become after several
    Years…a complete sell-out! And a stuck up snob

    • Angie on August 28, 2013 at 5:57 am

      You are obviously commenting about someone else and have not been reading Fitnessista very long. Know what you are saying before you post. There is NO NEED for hatred to anyone, stop trolling on blogs and leaving negative comments that you know nothing about.

      • Fitnessista on August 28, 2013 at 10:53 am


    • Fitnessista on August 28, 2013 at 10:49 am

      i’m not sure why you’re so upset, but i hope you can talk to someone or find some yoga in your life
      if you check any website today, they have ads, mine included. my blog helps me support my family, and even with that, i decline multiple sponsored posts per day for the sake of staying authentic
      thanks for reading for so long and for reminding me that i’m overdue for some indian food

  10. Jessica on August 28, 2013 at 2:16 am

    Seriously, I miss the down to earth Gina who ate began bhartha by the pool. Tisk tisk, u have not grown, only became worse.

    • Angie on August 28, 2013 at 6:00 am

      Why are you here on her blog then? MOVE ON.
      She is a grown woman raising a daughter, teaching her to have a sense of community and help others. Life isnt about sitting by the pool eating food, maybe for teenagers/young adults.

    • Kathy on August 28, 2013 at 8:54 am

      Dis-Like! And so do NOT agree. Gina, your blog rocks. It has evolved BEAUTIFULLY (I’ve been reading since Valdosta), it has great content, and is inspiring. And I am GLAD that you have commercial opportunities with it too. Good for you.

      KINDNESS people!!

      • Fitnessista on August 28, 2013 at 10:52 am

        thank you, kathy!

        • Cassie on August 28, 2013 at 5:14 pm

          I totally disagree to both of these comments – I barely notice the ads on your blog and I find it very down-to-earth that you and your blog have grown so much through the years. It is very unrealistic to expect you to be the same person now (as a working mom) as you were when you started the blog. I love that you’re so genuine (for instance, “coming clean” about the fact that your priorities have changed and sometimes you have chicken, gluten, dairy, whatever in your life now).

          I’m also so shocked that these kinds of nasty comments occur on a post like this that is all about you volunteering and “doing good” in the world and raising your daughter to do the same.

          Keep up the great blogging and parenting πŸ˜‰

  11. Lucie on August 28, 2013 at 2:40 am

    I love that you guys do volunteer work! Such a great lesson for your daughter.
    When I was a kid, my parents ‘adopted’ a godchild from a third world country for my brother and me. We would get a pic of them and got to know their story and how they live over there. We could send them toys, clothes and letters from us (and my parents sent money) and it was great for us to learn, that not everyone is as privileged as we are. This kind of volunteering taught me so much – I went to the Philippines as an adult for 4 months to work in volunteering and development work.

  12. Josie on August 28, 2013 at 3:47 am

    That’s such a sweet cause. I love it that you are being deliberate about making a routine of giving back to the community with your little girl. Way to be a positive role model from the start. <3

  13. Sara @ LovingOnTheRun on August 28, 2013 at 7:59 am

    Aww what a great thing to do as a mother and daughter! You sure are starting her out on the right foot and showing her the important things in life! πŸ™‚ How perfect!!

  14. Jackie on August 28, 2013 at 8:12 am

    That is such a sweet idea i would love to do something like that!

  15. Holly @ EatGreatBEGreat on August 28, 2013 at 8:15 am

    This organization sounds wonderful! I love that you get Liv involved too!

  16. CourtStar @ StarSystemz on August 28, 2013 at 8:54 am

    This is SO beautiful, I love organizations like this! Thanks for sharing such a spectacular story! Love + Shine CourtStar

  17. Kathy on August 28, 2013 at 8:59 am

    LOVED seeing Ben’s Bells here! Soon after the Newtown shootings on 12/14, Ben Bells came and hung Bells all over town, free to the Finder. It spread love, happiness and prayers all around, and my family needed that!

    I have one hanging in my kitchen right now. I didn’t find one but they are now also on sale at the toy store in Sandy Hook to raise money, so I bought one there. Your post made me think of a similar happy group sitting around painting my bell just like you all did. So nice!

    You are a great mom to think of providing good examples of giving for Olivia, and for all of us really. Thank you!!

    • April on August 28, 2013 at 9:32 am

      Ahhhh, this just gave me chills! Had no idea BB went to CT!

    • Fitnessista on August 28, 2013 at 10:52 am

      <3 major chills

  18. vicky on August 28, 2013 at 9:09 am

    I can’t understand why anyone would hate on this post, or on someone who is leading by example and teaching her child the importance of volunteer work… Clearly the haters are feeling jealous and inadequate. Sad. Do something productive with your own life instead of critiquing someone else’s.

    On another note, thanks for the inspiring post, Gina. I think your blog has evolved beautifully since I started reading, and I look to your blog for life inspiration, not just fitness inspiration. Keep doing what you’re doing!

    • Fitnessista on August 28, 2013 at 10:51 am

      thank you, vicky! i appreciate the kind words <3

  19. Ashley N. on August 28, 2013 at 9:34 am

    What a beautiful idea and gift you are giving your daughter to think of others. It’s so important to give back and maintain that as a priority. I think we tend to forget, we have the same amount of hours in a day as Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr., etc.

  20. Kelly @ Kelly Runs For Food on August 28, 2013 at 9:37 am

    My sister has taken her daughter to soup kitchens before to help out (not sure how long her attention span held out though). Something for a local children’s hospital could be fun so she could help other kids.

  21. Jen on August 28, 2013 at 10:11 am

    What about maybe taking Liv to a local nursing home or assisted care facility around the holidays? Maybe she could do some craft beforehand (with your help) – painting Christmas cards or something, and she could go with you to deliver them?

    I feel like sometimes elderly folks are overlooked this time of year, and I’ll bet seeing Liv’s smiling face would really brighten their day some.


    • Fitnessista on August 28, 2013 at 10:51 am

      i love that idea! thank you

      • Jess on August 29, 2013 at 9:13 am

        I was going to say the same thing. She would brighten the day of many in nursing homes. She is still really really young so it will be awhile before she fully “gets” the concepts you are teaching her, but you’re doing a great job laying them down! And no doubts she’ll get it before anyone even realises!

  22. Ali on August 28, 2013 at 10:46 am

    I work in educational service so I regularly do “service” but I’m getting paid for creating programs and running them. I have been thinking for months that I need to get out and do it on my own, not only am I helping my community but it really grounds and nourishes me as well. I always say “I’m too busy”, which in part is true because I work 70-90 hours a week BUT service IS a priority of mine and I am willing to work towards making it a bigger part of my life (outside work, of course). I love working with the older population, especially those with dementia and Alzheimers. My grandmother passed away 4.5 years ago from Alzheimers and the difference the volunteers made on my g-ma and the entire family was incredible. Thank you for the reminder. <3

  23. Alyssa on August 28, 2013 at 11:06 am

    Really sweet story and really great of you to teach her so young!

  24. Jackie on August 28, 2013 at 11:14 am

    This is really great. I’m in a moms group and we are always looking for projects we can do with the kids, which is harder than you think. One thing we’ve done is make PB&J sandwiches for local soup kitchens and also plant flowers/ upkeep at local parks. Sometimes we struggle for other ideas though!

  25. april on August 28, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    i love that you’re exposing liv to so many wonderful things at a young age, including giving back to others. you are setting such a good example for her. she’s lucky to have you as her mama <3

  26. Alisha @ Alisha's Appetite on August 28, 2013 at 1:16 pm

    Such a cool post! I work in the nonprofit sector and know how vital volunteers are for organizations- I just love that you’re not only playing your part, but encouraging others to volunteer more as well. You could try looking into a local food bank and help pack meals together or even deliver hot meals to the elderly (Meals on Wheels). I hope you find some great organizations!
    (P.S. When I first glanced at the title of this post I thought it said Ben’s Balls and had to do a double-take muahah)

  27. Ashlee@HisnHers on August 28, 2013 at 1:31 pm

    Around Christmas I like to give attention to the elderly folks in my community as well. It’s a nice gesture to make a home cooked, classic meal and deliver it to an elder person who doesn’t have family on Christmas day, Eve or even the day after. They all appreciate it SO much! Local churches can usually suggest someone. OR nursing homes too. Also, when we give to an angel we throw something in for the momma. Last year it was a bottle of perfume and a mani/pedi gift certificate. I know she must have appreciated it!

  28. Cassie on August 28, 2013 at 5:18 pm

    You probably already know about it (and/or do something similar) as a military wife, but I remember when I was in school, we always made shoebox gift packages to send to deployed military over the holidays and Toys for Tots or similar charities where you pick out items for a boy or girl in a specific age group.

    Volunteering at local animal shelters is a favorite of mine, but I think age requirement is ~8 years or so, so maybe not until Liv is older…

  29. Mallory on August 28, 2013 at 6:33 pm

    Volunteering is really close to my heart!! Some of the things that I do each week are: making meals for our local soup kitchen, walking dogs from the shelter, doing random acts of kindness, filling backpacks with school supplies for less fortunate kids, serving food at soup kitchens/food banks….there are TONS of things you can do! Maybe Livi is too young for some of these things but when she’s older, she’ll be more into these things! Before Back-To-School season starts, I take my nieces and nephews to the store to pick out a backpack and school supplies to fill it and they always look so proud when we hand them over πŸ™‚

  30. Julie on August 28, 2013 at 8:54 pm

    I love everything about this post, Gina! Not only are you setting a good example for your daughter, you’re setting an example for your readers- as a mom of a one year old I am inspired to find some ways to volunteer with him in the near future! Thank you πŸ™‚

  31. Ben's Bells on August 29, 2013 at 1:01 pm

    Gina – thank you so much to you Livi, Meg, Kyle, Trev and Mik for spending your time with us this week and spreading your kindness! We are so grateful for you, and all of our wonderful volunteers – your contributions in making the Ben’s Bells and kindness coins are what makes them so special.

  32. Crystal on August 29, 2013 at 1:39 pm

    How awesome of you to teach your little one the importance of kindness and giving at such a young age. My parents did the same for me, it was such a normal part of my life that I thought everyone volunteered!

    I agree with some of the comments about visiting a nursing home. Some elderly people have no family nearby and they love seeing young children. We’re thinking of training our puppy to be a therapy dog so I can take her to nursing homes and hospitals!

  33. Amanda on August 30, 2013 at 5:02 pm

    I LOVE what you said about time management – you have time for anything, it’s just how you prioritise. Wholeheartedly agree.

  34. Tonya @ Not Your Average Athlete on August 30, 2013 at 6:54 pm

    Have you thought about the adopt a soldier program? I have several students whose families are a part of it and they really get into it…even the really young ones (picking out items, drawing pictures, etc) and as they get older they start writing letters. One of my student’s families has been writing and sending care packages to the same soldier (who has no family of his own) for three tours now.

  35. Lindsey on August 31, 2013 at 12:20 am

    I remember you volunteering at a Girls on the Run 5K awhile ago. Have you considered being a running buddy or coach? I just signed up to be a coach this season and am able to take our 15 month old with me. Also their is an organization called Orphanage Support Services Organization (OSSO) that I volunteered with in college. Volunteers go down to Ecuador to help in orphanages (you can also go as a family!) But they do a program called” Forget Me Not, and those who participate are called Memory Keepers. As a Memory Keeper, you create a minimum of 2 scrapbook pages every six months for a child in Ecuador”. Here is the link to the website with more details

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