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March is Child Health and Development Month

March 21. Child Health and Development Month #2

“History will judge us by the difference we make in the everyday lives of children.”

- Nelson Mandela

This month, as the Foundation highlights organizations that work to help kids, here are organizations that we have supported for many years.

CASA | Powerless Children...Need Powerful Friends (The Foundation supports CASA in DuPage, Kane and Kendall Counties)

CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children) works to recruit, train and support volunteers to advocate for the best interests of abused, neglected, dependent and vulnerable children in the court system.

After the Department of Children and Family Services has determined a child is in an unsafe living situation and has been removed from his/her home, a CASA volunteer is appointed to the child. The CASA volunteer then attends hearings regarding a child’s temporary placement and, in time, helps a judge make the best decision for a safe, caring and permanent home for each child (which can take years).

Recently, the Executive Director of CASA DuPage County shared the following story in a communication where she reported that “(T)he need for our services has been tremendous in the past few months as sadly we have seen a substantial surge in the number of children removed from unsafe homes in DuPage County. In fact, in the last six months of 2022, our cases nearly doubled from the first six months of the year.”

A recent “Advocate Spotlight” was on a volunteer who has been a CASA since March 2015 and has been advocating for a 9-year-old girl, now 17, for 8 years. The girl is currently living in a residential facility specializing in the type of services she needs. The ED continues:

“(The CASA volunteer) said she will most likely be with (the girl) until she ages out of the system at 21, when she hopes to still be part of her life. The CASA volunteer tells us despite the challenges this girl has faced, her teen has a great personality and is able to make connections with many different types of people. She enjoys art, makeup, hair and nails and would like to attend cosmetology school one day. At one of her visits, the CASA volunteer brought her a mannequin for her to practice on until she enrolls in the beauty program.”

“The CASA volunteer remains a CASA for this teen girl—as she is the only consistent adult in her life and the one who carries all of her history. This young woman has been in the foster care system since she was 3 years old, in and out of foster homes and residential facilities. She has no contact with any family members, including her two younger siblings who were adopted by one of her previous foster families. The CASA volunteer told us, ‘I can’t even imagine not being a CASA right now.’ In reference to her current case, ‘I want to be there to encourage her, help her and guide her, because I’m the only person she’s got'."

Find out more about CASA Kane County here. CASA of DuPage County here. CASA Kendall County here.


BUILD | Hope Lives Futures (Chicago)

Created in 1969, BUILD (Broader Urban Involvement & Leadership Development) is a nationally-respected gang intervention, violence prevention and youth development organization based on Chicago’s West Side. Its mission is “to inspire hope and offer opportunities so youth facing systemic obstacles can achieve positive futures.”

Each year, BUILD’s programs and services reach over 2,500 youth, helping them build “hope, resilience and a path to a promising future.”

BUILD’s main programs include:

  • INTERVENTION: Saving lives

  • PREVENTION: Growing hope

  • EDUCATION: Building futures

  • ENRICHMENT: Building self

  • MENTAL HEALTH & WELLNESS: Investing in strength

  • COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT: Strengthening neighborhoods

Recently, BUILD completed its Build The Future campaign, a $24 million campaign to bring the young people of Chicago’s neglected West Side a building which takes up a full city-block campus. In 2021, the Foundation did a pledge drive for BUILD and this campaign and raised $54,700. The renovated space, which was just unveiled, contains 51,000 square feet and is surrounded by playfields and gardens. The new campus:

  • Expands hours and days to serve youth and the community and expands capacity from 100 at the current site to 2,000 at the new campus

  • Contains a full-sized gym, track and fitness center

  • Art studios & classrooms, galleries, performance spaces & fully-equipped recording studio onsite

  • Makers lab, woodshop and computer center, all hosting new workforce programs onsite

  • Adds youth homework spaces

  • Expands mental health center for youth and their families

  • Contains a public café and community garden, new greenspace, play field and outdoor community event space

Pictured here: The architectural drawing of the site as shown on the original campaign for Build the Future. Built in the Austin neighborhood, By The Hand says the new community center "loudly expresses" its belief in Austin's young people.

Find out more about BUILD here.

By the Hand Club for Kids | One Person Can Change Everything (Chicago)

By The Hand began in 2001 with 16 children from Cabrini-Green. As it describes its growth: “Since then, we have witnessed transformation within the lives of our kids—and within our organization. Thanks to the countless people who started with one step, one gift, one prayer, one student, we now serve more than 1,700 kids.

By the Hand’s mission is to help children “who live in under-resourced neighborhoods to have abundant life. ”By The Hand is a Christ-centered, after-school program that takes kids by the hand and walks with them from kindergarten through college, loving and nurturing them—mind, body and soul.”

Today, By the Hand has 7 locations:

  • Altgeld-Murray

  • Austin

  • Cabrini-Green

  • Englewood

  • Moving Everest/Austin

  • North Austin

  • iCity Enrichment Center

Two kids’ stories from By the Hand:

Djeneba, Graduate of Austin By The Hand Club for Kids. “When it came to schoolwork, yes, they helped me improve my grades, but more than that, they helped me want it for myself.” Djeneba is now a brilliant college student with her eyes set on law school. Beyond her improving academics, Djeneba loved By The Hand because “she could tell they cared about her life.” Djeneba says: “Ms. Jackie saw me through all my attitudes and sassiness. She helped keep me on that good path. She took me to church. She invited me to her house. She always had me around.” Read more here about Djeneba and her success story!

Deandre, Seventh Grade, Moving Everest (click slider on picture to the left to see Deandre's picture). “Mr. Michael always reminds me, ‘You are good. You have a good heart’.” Deandre began at By the Hand as a kindergartner. He has found By The Hand to be a safe place, saying “It’s a good place for kids to be. They help us with homework. And they teach us about God. It’s like school mixed with Bible study.” Read more of Deandre’s story here!

Austin YMBI Sunshine Camp | We believe camp can change a kid’s life (Austin, TX)

The predecessor of YMBI Sunshine Camp is The Young Men’s Business League of Austin, which in 1928 recognized the serious community threat of youth tuberculosis and established the Austin Sunshine Camps in Zilker Park. The park provided a space in which local, economically-disadvantaged children could gain weight, grow strong and spend time outdoors. Today, 95 years later, the Austin Sunshine Camp is still serving youth living near or below the poverty line.

Today, Sunshine Camp has 3 facilities:

  • Zilker Park Camp. This camp program offers activities such as swimming in Barton Springs or Deep Eddy pool, canoeing, arts and crafts, nature study, hikes, games and a rope course

  • Lake Travis Camp. Also offers swimming, canoeing, arts and crafts, nature study, hikes, games, archery and a high ropes course with a climbing wall and zip line

  • Zilker Lodge Retreats & Event Center. A 21,000 square foot compound of indoor and outdoor space available for rent for events such as weddings, parties, etc. Rental fees help send kids to Austin Sunshine Camps!

The purpose of the camps is to give kids the “magic of overnight camp” without the barrier of cost. Sunshine Camps envision a “world where all children have a place to grow, connect and explore.”

Find some video Stories from Camp here!

Ronald McDonald House of Central Texas | Celebrating 37 Years Keeping Families Close

With 8 bedrooms and a staff of just 1, RMHC CTX opened its doors on the campus of Brackenridge Hospital in 1985. Founded on the simple idea that “nothing else should matter" when a family is focused on the health of their child, RMHC CTX has now supported more than 17,000 families by providing them with 100,000+ room nights at the Ronald McDonald House of Central Texas and Ronald McDonald Family Rooms throughout Central Texas. The vision of RMHC CTX is “a world where all children have access to medical care and their families are fully supported and actively involved in their children’s care.”

Ronald McDonald House. The House is a “home away from home” for families so they can stay close by their hospitalized child at little to no cost. It contains:

  • Private guest suites with bathrooms that can accommodate up to six people; wheelchair-accessible rooms are also available

  • Four private guest suites with kitchenettes for families with children in outpatient treatments

  • Home-cooked meals provided by volunteers

  • Laundry facilities

  • Fitness facility and play area and playground for children

See the Hyde family's story here.

Ronald McDonald House Rooms. There are six Family Rooms located at these facilities: St. David’s Women’s Center of Central Texas, St. David’s Medical Center, Dell Children’s Medical Center and Seton Medical Center/Austin, intended for families who need respite at the hospital steps away from their sick child. This year, the Foundation became a sponsor of the Family Rooms at St. David’s Women’s Center of Central Texas. The rooms contain:

  • Living room with comfortable seating

  • Kitchen and dining area with a microwave and refrigerator

  • Sleeping rooms

  • Shower facilities

  • Laundry facilities

Also this year, the Foundation became a sponsor of Happy Wheels Carts, shown in the bottom picture below, which stroll the hallways at 5 different hospitals in Austin and Bryan/College Station and provide comfort as parents focus on their children. The carts are stocked with items for children and their families and volunteers who man the carts and distribute complimentary coffee, juice boxes, snacks, coloring books, small toys, toiletries and other items to help support families during a challenging time.

In 2021, the Foundation held a Pledge Drive for the House and Family Rooms and raised $54,700. Learn more about the Ronald McDonald House of Central Texas here!


March 1. March is "Child Health and Development" month. Since its inception, the Foundation has supported organizations helping the most vulnerable among us locally, nationally and globally.

Would you be surprised to learn that the Foundation, since 2012, has donated just over $1,242,000 (unaudited, as of 12/31/22) to organizations that work to help kids prosper and have bright futures? This represents donations to nearly 100 organizations working for kids!

It’s no secret that kids today live in a very complicated and complex world. One of many concerns parents have for their children is overall wellbeing. How is child wellbeing defined and how can it be monitored? Children’s Bureau, An Office of the Administration for Children and Families under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, defines it as “a measure of a child’s quality of life, including how well he/she is and how his/her life is going.” Child health experts say a child’s wellbeing should include an assessment of issues like physical health, mental health, emotional development, education, economic status, family or social life and safety and security concerns. In a recent report, Children’s Bureau breaks down key indicators of child wellbeing this way:

  • Physical Health. Includes such factors as morbidity (illness within the child), mortality (the risk of death, which also touches on safety concerns), obesity (a growing concern), injury and the level of exercise and activity.

  • Mental Health and Emotional Development. Includes life satisfaction (children with higher wellbeing will indicate an overall positive view of life despite any hardships they may face), depression (the rate in children, especially teens, “has dramatically increased”, according to the report) and self-esteem (kids who believe in their abilities and have higher levels of self-esteem are, not surprisingly, happier, more confident and more secure about themselves).

  • Education. Includes dropout rates, truancy and curiosity. The report states that while schools don’t typically measure curiosity, parents should monitor their kids to foster age-appropriate curiosity which helps kids continue learning outside the classroom.

  • Relationships & Social Behavior. Relationships within the home, of course, are critical to building attachments and developing skills. Positive interactions with parents and siblings help to create grounded kids and gives them interpersonal skills, such as sharing and empathy. How a child handles conflict is also considered in a child's wellbeing, i.e., expressing frustration or hurt appropriately (not using violence).

Some Facts

The following includes some of the organizations the Foundation supports as they work to make a difference in the lives of children.

Poverty. The Children’s Defense Fund has reported that in the United States, 10 million (nearly 1 in 7) children live in poverty. Almost half of all children living in poverty live in extreme poverty. And 71% of kids living in poverty are children of color. In addition to organizations helping to feed kids and families (see “Hunger” below), when it comes to nurturing the mind, body and soul and helping kids have bright futures (especially in under-resourced neighborhoods in Chicago), BUILD, By the Hand Club for Kids and Off the Street Club are three organizations the Foundation supports. Globally, the Foundation supports CARE.

Hunger. The USDA reports that 9 million children (1 in 8 kids in the U.S.) are facing hunger. As well, food insecurity is on the rise. Households that are food insecure struggle to provide enough food for everyone. A child living in a food-insecure household might not get enough food to eat at dinner or might have to skip a meal because the family can’t afford another meal on a given day. The Foundation supports organizations like Milton and Wayne Townships (and its food banks), Northern Illinois Food Bank and Central Texas Food Bank. Globally, the Foundation supports Feed My Starving Children.

Homelessness. It is estimated by the Department of Education that there are 1.5 million kids in the U.S. who are homeless. The Department says there is a lack of appropriate shelter options for kids, that kids fear child welfare authorities and therefore don’t utilize shelters and there is not enough transitional housing available. Extensive research by the DOE also indicates that “homeless children and youth who are staying with others are just as vulnerable as those living in shelters or even sleeping outside”. In helping to battle homelessness, the Foundation supports DuPagePads, Jubilee Village and Outreach. Globally, the Foundation supports Save the Children.

Mental Health. HUD estimates that 20 million of our nations’ kids and teens can “currently be diagnosed” with a mental health disorder (1 in 5 U.S. kids aged 3-17). Surprisingly, according to the CDC, 1 in 6 children aged 2-8 years has a mental, behavioral or development disorder. The Foundation supports TriCity Family Services and Special Spaces, which have a wide variety of programs and services supporting families and kids dealing with these types of issues.

Physical Health:

  • Cancer. 1 in 285 children are diagnosed with cancer before their 20th birthday. Every day, 42 families learn their child has cancer and it remains the #1 cause of death by disease, according to American Childhood Cancer Organization. While there are many types of pediatric cancers, the most common include leukemia, brain and spinal cord tumors and lymphoma.

  • Intellectual Disabilities. The most common causes of intellectual disabilities in kids are genetic conditions, problems during pregnancy, problems at birth and diseases like whooping cough, measles or meningitis. Early intervention is one of the keys to helping infants and toddlers with disabilities begin their life’s journey. The Center for Parent Information and Resources (a hub of information and products created for the network of Parent Centers serving families of children with disabilities) estimates that 1 in 10 families in the U.S. has a member with an intellectual disability.

  • Physical Disabilities. According to a 2021 U.S. Census Bureau report, disability rates among children have been rising since the early 1990s. The percentage of children with a disability increased between 2008 and 2019 (from 3.9% to 4.3%). Children in poverty are more likely to have a disability than children above the poverty threshold.

The Foundation supports Ronald McDonald House (Chicagoland and Central Texas), Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation, Cal’s Angels, Almost Home for Kids, Clare Woods Academy and WDSRA.


You might be surprised to learn that 54% of adults in the U.S. have a literacy below the 6th grade and that 72% of children of adults with low literacy skills are more likely to have a low reading level in school as well. 2 out of 10 children in the U.S. enter elementary school without proficiency in grade levels, according to Children’s Reading Foundation, which offers guidance to help parents develop the skills they need to prepare children for school. And according to ProLiteracy (which works to raise adult literacy rates), 1.2 million teens, or 1 in 6, drop out of high school each year. Children with low literacy rates are likely to receive poor grades, skip school and exhibit behavioral issues. Students with low literacy may also feel inept at school and develop low self-esteem. Studies show that having low literacy can cause unemployment, low-paying jobs and higher rates of incarceration. The Foundation supports DonorsChoose. Additionally, organizations like BUILD and By the Hand Club for Kids work on literacy and making sure kids are getting the educational help they need to help them achieve positive futures.

Abuse and Neglect.

The CDC considers child abuse and neglect “serious” public health problems. Of course, these issues can have a long-term impact on a child’s health and wellbeing. Also, according to the CDC, at least 1 in 7 children have experienced child abuse or neglect in the past year in the United States, which is likely an underestimate because many cases go unreported. Studies show that children living in poverty, in households that are most likely very stressed, are often victims of abuse and neglect. In fact, rates of abuse and neglect are 5 times higher for children in families with low socioeconomic status. Also, according to the CDC, over the long term, “children who are abused or neglected are also at increased risk for experiencing future violence victimization and perpetration, substance abuse, sexually transmitted infections, delayed brain development, lower educational attainment and limited employment opportunities”.

Chronic abuse can result in “toxic stress” which can change brain development and increase the risk for problems like post-traumatic stress disorder and learning, attention and memory difficulties.

The Foundation supports CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) in DuPage, Kane and Kendall Counties, which works to recruit, train and support volunteers to advocate for the best interests of abused, neglected, dependent and vulnerable children and also supports SAFE and Partnerships for Children, both in

Austin, TX.

And global statistics are also heartbreaking:

· 15,000 children die every day, according to Our World in Data, which collects data to help it and other organizations confront issues to create a better future

· UNICEF reports that 28 million children globally are homeless due to violent conflict and almost the same number have had to abandon their homes in search of a better life

· UNICEF also reports that 3.1 million kids under the age of 5 die from hunger, hunger-related diseases and malnutrition

The Foundation has dedicated this month to helping kids in our communities and across the globe because we want to impact their lives in ways that make their futures brighter.


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