Instead of electronic doo-dads or ugly ties this year, why not give the gift of charity instead? There’s a host of organizations that are worthy of your hard-earned greenbacks – this list highlights a some of them.

First Descents strives to become the leader in innovative camps supporting young adults with cancer. Using kayaking, extreme sports, and professional athletes, First Descents offers young adults with cancer outdoor experiences that will forever change their lives.

Roanoke River Partners is a nonprofit created to help promote conservation of a little-known wilderness treasure, the Roanoke River in northeastern North Carolina. They had their 10th anniversary on November 4th. The River Partners’ canoe trail offers miles of paddling through bottomland forests and camping on wooden platforms nestled in remote swamps
and perched on soaring bluffs. Visitors to the trail are also helping further another part of the Partners’ mission, creating an eco-tourism industry to help boost this economically depressed area. Learn more or plan a trip at

Shake-A-Leg Foundation .
Harry Horgan’s nonprofit Shake-A-Leg Miami and his 24 person staff and 250 volunteers teach some 3,000 physically and mentally disabled kids and adults each year. Programs, which are free for special-needs and low-income participants, range from sailing and kayaking (on handicapped-accessible vessels) to marine science classes. "Harry is an inspiration-the kids realize if someone with special needs (Harry is paralyzed from the waist down) can do this, they can do anything they want," says Marsha Erdmann, a special-education teacher at Tropical Elementary in Miami.

Team River Runner helps members of the U.S. Armed Forces find health and healing through whitewater boating. All OIF/OEF veterans recuperating at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda are invited to participate in the Team River Runner kayaking program.

Soft Power Health is a nonprofit created by kayaking M.D. Jessie Stone. It has two major areas of work: teaching kayaking to inner city youth in New York City, and fighting malaria in Uganda.

American Whitewater is working every day to ensure that we have access to rivers to play in.

California Eco-Plates
Support the preservation and restoration of two of California's natural treasures — the California Coast and Lake Tahoe. Put an Eco-Plate, a Whale Tail or Lake Tahoe environmental license plate, on your car or truck. Or give them to your family and friends!

Save the Manatee Club was established in 1981 by former Florida Governor and U.S. Senator Bob Graham and singer/songwriter Jimmy Buffett. The Club was started so the public could participate in conservation efforts to save endangered manatees from extinction. Their mission is to protect manatees and their aquatic habitats for future generations. Save the Manatee Club is a membership-based, national nonprofit organization. Funds from our Adopt-A-Manatee program go toward public awareness and education project, manatee research, rescue and rehabilitation efforts, and advocacy and legal action in order to ensure better protection for manatees and their habitat.

River Runners for Wilderness is an organization for all river runners dedicated to the Wilderness Colorado River and its tributaries. Consider giving a gift donation of any amount in your recipient’s name to support their effort to win full wilderness protection and equitable access for the river and backcountry of Grand Canyon. River Runners for Wilderness will send a lovely gift card with your message for your fully deductible gift to anyone you designate. Simply go to our website store’s donation area (

American Rivers’
greatest strength is raising public awareness. Thanks in large part to AR's efforts, more than 165 rivers are now designated as Wild and Scenic—left free-flowing by law. In advance of the act's 40th birthday next year, AR is spearheading a campaign to designate 40 more Wild and Scenic rivers. Every year the organization publishes its headline-grabbing Most Endangered Rivers List and, starting this year, AR will coordinate National River Cleanup Week (May 13-21), which has inspired half a million volunteers to participate in 5,000 cleanups, removing trash from more than 95,600 miles of waterways since 1992.

The Waterkeeper Alliance is a network of 155 grassroots organizations— dubbed Riverkeepers, Lakekeepers, Baykeepers and Coastkeepers—and its main objective is to make sure every one of them has the money, resources, and support to protect the 90,000 miles of rivers and shorelines. And when one of them needs lawyerly advice or backup, they bring in the big gun: With rock star attorney Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. (see page 48) at the helm, the Waterkeepers legal team has made polluters pay more than $10 billion in penalties and clean-up costs.

The Conservation Fund
is not well known—they're sort of the organization behind the organizations. The reason they deserve your hard-earned charity dollars is simple: No one will use your 25 bucks more effectively. Whereas most environmental non-profits have an overhead of about 25 percent, CF's is five. They don't mess around with members or events. They raise money, forge partnerships with corporations and communities, and then help local, state, and federal agencies preserve wild lands and waterways, including 25 miles of Lewis and Clark's expedition route on the Missouri River.

Ocean Conservancy

What sets the OC apart from the dozens of other outfits that work diligently to protect marine wildlife, stop over-fishing, and conserve critical ocean ecosystems is how well they balance advocacy with on-the-ground action. Over the past 20 years, some six million volunteers have participated in the organization's annual International Coastal Cleanup program, collectively scouring 170,000 miles of coastline and hauling away 100,000 pounds of trash.

International Rivers Network

Don't be fooled by the staff photo on IRN's website. Beneath the bushy beards and friendly faces is an impressively effective international hit team dedicated to protecting rivers in Africa, Latin America, and Asia—and defending human rights in the communities that depend on them. IRN recently blew the whistle on the Ugandan government, whose hydroelectric dam was illegally—and surreptitiously—draining Lake Victoria. IRN activists are currently fighting a series of proposed hydroelectric dams on Patagonia's Rio Baker and Rio Pascua (both similar in nature to the legendary Futaleufu) and China's Salween Nu River, one of just two undammed rivers left in Chile.