There are 1.7 million homeless children in the United States and 8 million children with disabilities. Some of these children don’t have the opportunity to achieve their dreams or don’t feel as though they have dreams to achieve. Today’s organization, Dreams for Kids, has been helping kids achieve their dreams since 1989.
Dreams for Kids is a 501(c)(3) registered non-profit organization that was founded by Tom Tuohy, in Chicago. On Christmas Eve, 1989, a dozen volunteers, including Santa, visited 54 children living in a Chicago area homeless shelter. When the volunteers were told that the kids would never have even known it was Christmas, a commitment was made to reach out further each and every year. This event grew into the Dream for Kids Holiday for Hope that has become the largest holiday event of its kind in the world – holding events in over 30 countries. Homeless and severely underprivileged youth enjoy a spectacular day of food, music, games, and activities. Each child also receives a shopping bag full of gifts. In each event, those who are given the gift of hope are encouraged to pay it forward by serving their community in the following days.
In 1996, Dreams for Kids was introduced to another group of isolated children—those with developmental and physical disabilities. When the organization found that these kids had no organized sports or social activities available to them, they created Extreme Recess, the first adaptive sports program of its kind for kids with disabilities. Extreme Recess gives children with developmental and physical challenges the opportunity to participate in sports. Many of these children have never participated in sports and enjoy a life changing experience when they realize they can. Adaptive sporting events from snow and water-skiing, to martial arts and baseball, allow youth to realize a physical potential they never knew they had.
In 2007, the international Dream Leaders program was launched. This program unites an entire generation of youth of all abilities, and from every race, religion, gender, and socio-economic background, to each other, and to service in their local and world communities. Instead of receiving a charitable handout, isolated youth are reminded they have something to give and are empowered by the opportunity to serve others. The program helps these youth become the solution and help change world. This program builds self-esteem, enhances leadership skills, breaks down stereotypes, and so much more.
In 2009, Dreams for Kids expanded to the nation’s capital to serve the Washington DC Metro area. The DC group recently partnered with the Washington Nationals baseball team and the Washington Capitals hockey team for Extreme Recess events. They were able to partner with both teams to raise awareness for adaptive athletics and children living with disabilities while giving over 100 kids an amazing opportunity. Here are videos from the event with the Capitals and a video from the event with the Nationals.
How can you help?
- If you live near Chicago or Washington, DC, volunteer for one of the Dreams for Kids events.
- Make a monetary donation to Dreams for Kids or one of their specific programs.
- Spread the word about Dreams for Kids on Facebook or Twitter.
- Share this post to spread the word about this organization.