Almost 2,000 entries were received for the IKEA sabbatical contest, and five finalists have been chosen. Now through January 17th, you can cast your vote for the winner, who will receive a year-long sabbatical worth $100,000 and a 3-day/2-night trip to a spa resort in Phoenix, Ariz., 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. IKEA will donate $1 to Save the Children’s U.S. Programs for every vote received (up to $50,000).
The five finalists are:
- LaJuana Moser of California City, Calif.): As a foster mom, Moser 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, N.Y.: Johnson 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, N.C.: 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.
The contest is good PR and online marketing for the home furnishing retail giant. The question is, does IKEA belong on our list of companies that offer sabbaticals for their employees? The company has not yet returned our phone call requesting this information.