New Year’s Resolution: give back like this cleft lip girl.

A heartwarming CBS news  story caught my attention the other day.* It’s about a young cleft lip girl (adopted from a Chinese orphanage) who donates stuffed animals to fire and police departments. The idea is for officers to give them to the kids they encounter who’re caught up in the stressful situation they’re responding to.

So, please add one more New Year’s resolution to your list, or replace one that you’ve already broken. The resolution is simply to give back in 2015, mindful of the blessings you’ve received in life.

A way to give back like Jessica who’s a cleft lip kid.


One idea is to join me in giving a copy of my book Cleft Heart: Chasing Normal to any nurses, doctors, dentists, speech therapists, etc. you may know. Ask them in turn to get the book to health professionals they know who deal directly with cleft lip and palate kids. In this way, according to the small world/six degrees of separation hypothesis,** the book should be in the hands of cleft kids and their families in no time at all.

I wrote my 2014 book, Cleft Heart: Chasing Normal, in part to assure families with kids born with clefts and/or congenital heart defects (CHD) that their kids can lead normal, fulfilling lives. That’s why it’s important to get the book into their hands. You can help  by being an ambassador for Cleft Heart.  


*’A 12-year-old girl made a special delivery of stuffed animals to San Francisco’s fire department on Tuesday as part of her “We Care Bears Project”, a non-profit that comforts kids in emergency situations. Jessica Carscadden of San Diego got the idea for her organization when she was nine-years-old. Her charitable offering included 20 bags of stuffed animals to be delivered to kids by emergency responders in what can often times be scary situations for kids.

“I was cleaning my room and I saw this bag of stuffed animals and my mom wanted me to either throw it away or give it to somebody and I wanted to give it to the fire department across the street,” she said.

She went on to hold a bear drive at her school, which has snowballed to about 130,000 stuffed animals raised so far and given to some 20 police and fire departments around the country. . . .

Jessica’s mother Kathleen said her adopted daughter was born with a cleft lip and palate. She said she already had a loving and nurturing spirit when she was adopted at the age of five from an orphanage in China. “She’s had seven major surgeries so I think, better than anyone, she understands what kind of comfort a stuffed animal or Teddy bear brings,” said her mother.


KCBS Radio play.

 **From the “Six degrees of Separation” Wiki entry with an emphasis on social media aspects:

Six degrees of separation is the theory that everyone and everything is six or fewer steps away, by way of introduction, from any other person in the world, so that a chain of “a friend of a friend” statements can be made to connect any two people in a maximum of six steps. It was originally set out by Frigyes Karinthy in 1929 and popularized by a 1990 play written by John Guare.


No longer limited strictly to academic or philosophical thinking, the notion of six degrees recently has become influential throughout popular culture. Further advances in communication technology – and particularly the Internet – have drawn great attention to social networks and human interconnectedness. As a result, many popular media sources have addressed the term. The following provide a brief outline of the ways such ideas have shaped popular culture.

John Guare’s Six Degrees of Separation

Main articles: Six Degrees of Separation (play) and Six Degrees of Separation (film)

American playwright John Guare wrote a play in 1990 and later released a film in 1993 that popularized it. It is Guare’s most widely known work.

The play ruminates upon the idea that any two individuals are connected by at most five others. As one of the characters states:

I read somewhere that everybody on this planet is separated by only six other people. Six degrees of separation between us and everyone else on this planet. The President of the United States, a gondolier in Venice, just fill in the names. I find it A) extremely comforting that we’re so close, and B) like Chinese water torture that we’re so close because you have to find the right six people to make the right connection… I am bound to everyone on this planet by a trail of six people.[23]

Guare, in interviews, attributed his awareness of the “six degrees” to Marconi. Although this idea had been circulating in various forms for decades, it is Guare’s piece that is most responsible for popularizing the phrase “six degrees of separation.” Following Guare’s lead, many future television and film sources would later incorporate the notion into their stories.

  1. J. Abrams, the executive producer of television series Six Degreesand Lost, played the role of Doug in the film adaptation of this play. Many of the play’s themes are apparent in his television shows (see below). 
    . . .

Kevin Bacon game

The game “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon[24] was invented as a play on the concept: the goal is to link any actor to Kevin Bacon through no more than six connections, where two actors are connected if they have appeared in a movie or commercial together. It was created by three students at Albright College in Pennsylvania,[25] who came up with the concept while watching Footloose. On September 13, 2012, Google made it possible to search for any given actor’s ‘Bacon Number’ through their search engine.

Upon the arrival of the 4G mobile network in the United Kingdom, Kevin Bacon appears in several commercials for the EE Network in which he links himself to several well known celebrities and TV shows in the UK.
. . .

Six degrees on the Internet

On January 18, 2007, Kevin Bacon launched, a web site that builds on the popularity of the “small world phenomenon” to create a charitable social network and inspire giving to charities online. Bacon started the network with celebrities who are highlighting their favorite charities – including Kyra Sedgwick (Natural Resources Defense Council), Nicole Kidman (UNIFEM), Ashley Judd (YouthAIDS),Bradley Whitford and Jane Kaczmarek (Clothes off Our Back), Dana Delany (Scleroderma Research Foundation), Robert Duvall (Pro Mujer), Rosie O’Donnell (Rosie’s For All Kids Foundation), and Jessica Simpson (Operation Smile) – and he encouraged everyone to be celebrities for their own causes by joining the Six Degrees movement.

“ is about using the idea that we are all connected to accomplish something good,” said Bacon. “It is my hope that Six Degrees will soon be something more than a game or a gimmick. It will also be a force for good, by bringing a social conscience to social networking.” The game, ‘Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon,’ made the rounds of college campuses over the past decade and lived on to be a shorthand term for the small world phenomenon.

Bacon created in partnership with the nonprofit Network for GoodAOL, and Entertainment Weekly. Through, which builds on Network for Good’s giving system for donating to more than one million charities online and AOL’s AIM Pages social networking service, people can learn about and support the charities of celebrities or fundraise for their own favorite causes with their own friends and families. Bacon will match the charitable dollars raised by the top six non-celebrity fundraisers with grants of up to $10,000 each[26]


Facebook platform application named “Six Degrees” was developed by Karl Bunyan, which calculates the degrees of separation between different people. It had over 5.8 million users, as seen from the group’s page. The average separation for all users of the application is 5.73 degrees, whereas the maximum degree of separation is 12. The application has a “Search for Connections” window to input any name of a Facebook user, to which it then shows the chain of connections. In June 2009, Bunyan shut down the application, presumably due to issues with Facebook’s caching policy; specifically, the policy prohibited the storing of friend lists for more than 24 hours, which would have made the application inaccurate.[27] A new version of the application became available at Six Degrees after Karl Bunyan gave permission to a group of developers led by Todd Chaffee to re-develop the application based on Facebook’s revised policy on caching data.[28][29]

The initial version of the application was built at a Facebook Developers Garage London hackathon with Mark Zuckerberg in attendance.[30]

Yahoo! Research Small World Experiment has been conducting an experiment and everyone with a Facebook account can take part in it. According to the research page, this research has the potential of resolving the still unresolved theory of six degrees of separation.[24][31]

Facebook’s data team released two papers in November 2011 which document that amongst all Facebook users at the time of research (721 million users with 69 billion friendship links) there is an average distance of 4.74.[32] Probabilistic algorithms were applied on statistical metadata to verify the accuracy of the measurements.[33] It was also found that 99.91% of Facebook users were interconnected, forming a large connected component.[34]


The LinkedIn professional networking site operates on the concept of how many steps you are away from a person you wish to communicate with. The site encourages you to pass messages to people in your network via the people in your 1st-degree connections list, who in turn pass it to their 1st-degree connections. was an early social-networking website that existed from 1997 to 2001. It allowed users to list friends, family members and acquaintances, send messages and post bulletin board items to people in their first, second, and third degrees, and see their connection to any other user on the site. At its height, it had approximately one million users.


Users on Twitter can follow other users creating a network. According to a study of 5.2 billion such relationships by social media monitoring firm Sysomos, the average distance on Twitter is 4.67. On average, about 50% of people on Twitter are only four steps away from each other, while nearly everyone is five steps or less away.[35]

In another work, researchers have shown that the average distance of 1,500 random users in Twitter is 3.435. They calculated the distance between each pair of users using all the active users in Twitter.[22]


Stanley Milgram’s small world phenomenon (i.e., “small world problem”) to the field of I-O psychology through co-author publication linkages. Following six criteria, Scott Highhouse (Bowling Green State University professor and fellow of the Society of Industrial and Organizational Psychology) was chosen as the target. Co-author publication linkages were determined for (1) top authors within the I-O community, (2) quasi-random faculty members of highly productive I-O programs in North America, and (3) publication trends of the target. Results suggest that the small world phenomenon is alive and well with mean linkages of 3.00 to top authors, mean linkages of 2.50 to quasi-random faculty members, and a relatively broad and non-repetitive set of co-author linkages for the target. The author then provided a series of implications and suggestions for future research.



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To learn about CLEFT HEART: Chasing Normal, click the Amazon or Barnes & Noble buttons in the margins. Or click the image of the book cover. My coming-of-age memoir has intertwining love stories, mystery, tragedy, and triumph.

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