I decided to start HelpOurKids because I realized that there was a glaring gap in the already difficult lives of kids in the foster care system.
Above and beyond the basics like food and shelter, there are things that can help make a child feel like a normal part of society. Foster parents and the state are there to help provide the basics. Many foster parents are angels disguised as regular people, but very often have limited resources. As a result, there’s often too little time and money there to help provide children in foster care with much else besides the basics. But it’s those “extras” that your kids and mine probably take for granted, and yet enable them to feel positive about themselves and, ultimately, help them realize their full potential. I’m talking about nourishing their souls and their minds–not just their bodies. We seek to help foster their full potential!
I have been working as a volunteer advocate for the children in the Springfield Foster Care System. I believe that children rarely have a voice in the day-to-day decisions that affect them. I wanted to help them by providing the voice that was missing from the discussions I became involved in. Parents, foster parents, and the state all have representation at meetings to discuss the welfare of our children in foster care, but the interests of the children beyond the basics are not often seen as an important part of the discussion. All too often, the focus has been limited to making sure that they had a place to sleep and enough food to eat. What was missing was any consideration for athletic equipment to enable a child to join a sports team, or music lessons to help a child participate in a music program, or a prom dress to enable a child to attend a school dance, or a backpack to help make sure a child can stay organized for school. And the list goes on…
As I became aware of these “extra” needs of our children in foster care, I began asking around to see if anyone I knew had items to donate or money to contribute towards fulfilling those needs. I found a crib for a teenage mother whose infant was sleeping in a cardboard box. A neighbor gave me her Target gift card so that a young man who was the first in his family to graduate high school could have appropriate clothes to wear to graduation. And do you know what? Because he was able to buy himself some new clothes, he was able to feel like he was a part of his graduating class and didn’t have to worry about feeling like one of those “other kids.”
I was able to find someone to pay for football cleats and gloves so that a high school child could play for his school and feel equal to his teammates. I got children enrolled in music lessons and a lifeguard class with the very kind and generous help from donors to pay the fees. A friend paid for a prom dress for a wonderful young woman who was able to participate in this rite of passage for American teenagers, and as a result she got to feel like a princess at her prom just like my daughter did at hers. For another young woman who was showing an aptitude for and interest in college, we contributed towards her being able to attend a Black College tour so that she could have the opportunity to see what her future might be like.
The more I supplied and helped to collect, the more I realized that the need was significant and I would have to organize properly to help more kids experience the things that all children should have the opportunity to experience. And so, HelpOurKids was born.
HelpOurKids is now a duly constituted 501(c)(3) tax-exempt non-profit charitable organization. This means that we can accept donations and that your gift will be fully tax deductible. And because of this, I am no longer limited to only being able to pass on specifically designated donations. HelpOurKids can now also accept cash contributions, 100% of which goes toward fulfilling requests for the children! Not one penny of your donation goes towards any administrative or overhead costs—we cover the basics ourselves so that we can ensure that all incoming funds are directed towards the needs of our foster care children. And with the help of our advisory board, we review requests quickly and strive to fulfill them immediately. This has enabled us to respond within as little as a few hours when time is critical.
If you would like to help make a direct and significant difference in the lives of these kids who are in difficult circumstances through no fault of their own, there are two ways you can help. Please visit our How to Help page to learn how!
- One way is to make a monetary donation. 100% of your gift will go to the children.
- The other way is to add your name to our email distribution list. When we identify a specific need, I send an email to our list of interested donors to see if anyone can provide or contribute towards the request. Perhaps you have a trumpet that you no longer need but which will enable a foster child to take music lessons.
Maybe you will feel a connection to a child who aspires to music, art, sports, chess, acting, or some other passion and want to help that child to realize his or her full potential by helping to fulfill the request.
I have seen first-hand the difference that these gifts can make. It really does nurture them and can be a crucial turning point in their lives. It tells a child that they matter and that kindness and caring can actually exist. I would love to have your help.