One of the most foolproof gifts you can give a parent at Christmas is a personalized calendar showing off their shiny happy kid. Last year our good friend, Jen, gave us a calendar comprising different photos of our daughter, Quinn, and immediately hung it up in the kitchen for the entire coming year.
When I asked my husband what he liked so much about the calendar, whether it was design or the specific choice of photos, he simply answered, "Just seeing Quinn."
And it's true – we parents are suckers for anything bearing our child's likeness. A mug? A Christmas card? A neon pink sweatshirt on sale for $9.99 with "Mommy's Little Monster"? Sign me up!
The best thing about personalized calendars is that they're not usually composed of professional photos. It could be a photo of your child freaking out at the pumpkin patch or a photo of your family enjoying hot cocoa while walking around Christmas in the Park. The reason these photos mean so much is they've captured memories throughout the year.
Several sites online offer photo calendars for less than twenty bucks. The site I often turn to for personalized stationery is Shutterfly, which allows users to upload a multitude of photos to then choose from for select projects. My Shutterfly photos go back several years. I could easily make a calendar harkening back to the days long before Derek and I were waking up to a demanding tot yelling, "Breakfast! Milk!"
Additionally, Vistaprint and Snapfish are out there as well, taking their shares of the family photo calendar market. There are also brick-and-mortar, such as Walmart, Costco and CVS, in the mix. Each of these companies does basically the same as Shutterfly so it really just comes down to personal preference.
Well, it did until San Diego surfer John Conover launched his game-changing site, CalendarLink.org, which uses these photo calendars to help schools and nonprofit organizations to fundraise. Conover, a surfer whose love for his environment and community extends to his entrepreneurial pursuits, takes $10 from every $19.95 calendar created on CalendarLink and donates it to the buyer's favorite nonprofit organization or charity.
Organizations benefiting from CalendarLink.org include the Helen Woodward Animal Center, PETA, the Boys & Girls Club of North County and California Junior Lifeguards. And if there's no organization for whom you're rooting, CalendarLink allows you to designate the ten dollars toward the charity of your choice.
Calendars created on CalendarLink have similar features as other photo calendars, including the ability for users to select their designs, create personal captions and input your own special occasions. Of course, Conover, being a surfer himself, recognizes what's important to many people who live by calendars: CalendarLink also has an option for local graphed tides.
The only thing about CalendarLink is it's a pretty straightforward photo calendar. It doesn't offer the multitude of color backgrounds and photo design options available on the other sites. In fact, rather than being able to throw the entire contents of your year onto that calendar to see what sticks, you pretty much have to commit to one photo a month. Selecting each month's photo may take a little longer since you may not want to make a split decision and wind up with the Santa photo in which your little angel is bawling her eyes out staring you down during the entire month of December. But in a way it makes the calendar a little more special.
Sure, you sacrifice the bells and whistles, but seeing a nice clear photo of your child smiling back at you makes up for the lack of scrapbook paper backgrounds. After all, my husband's only answer – despite the pretty colors, various designs and smattering of photos – about what he liked most about our calendar gift was "just seeing Quinn."
Knowing that I'll be able to see Quinn's beaming face on a calendar that supported either a local organization or charity I care about is doubly great. It certainly makes it easier to be that goofy mom fawning over her kid's smiling mug.