Throughout November, WISH Cleveland has published #GivingTuesdayCLE stories highlighting the local organizations that will share your generous donations during our upcoming giving campaign. This week’s story centers on children, families, and three Cleveland organizations that offer them hope, fun, and the joy of learning.
Each Child’s Life Matters
New technologies certainly dazzle our children – but so can a cardboard box, right? Clearly, child-driven, hands-on activities power up kids’ imaginations far more than buttons. When children explore, imagine, and play, they are learning about themselves and the world.
The latest research findings in child development indicate that fun, play-based activities can also build resiliency as kids learn to take charge of their physical health, big emotions, and creative imaginations. Three Cleveland nonprofits have focused their missions on increasing access to joyful activities for our city’s most vulnerable youth.
Rollin Buckeyez Foundation
An AT&T lineman by day, Kevin Purdue loved to relax as a traveling skater on the weekend. Adults applauded Purdue and his crew as they performed, always asking him for lessons. But the youth onlookers tugged even more at Purdue’s heart, motivating his wife Dana and him to step up into the world of non-profit community service. “Teach us, too,” the kids pleaded.
Incorporated as a non-profit in 2015, the mission of Rollin Buckeyez is to provide social and recreational activities to children and families to strengthen bonds and proactively address health and wellness.
Purdue and his volunteers set up pop-up roller skating events throughout the city of Cleveland, free of charge for participants. The team sets up 2400 sq. ft. of inflatable rink space, lighting, music, and games led by his Fun Squad for each 1-hour session. Roller skates, helmets, knee pads, and elbow pads are provided for 50 participants at a time. A four-hour event can attract up to 200 participants of all ages. “We turn empty spaces into social places,” Purdue says. Rollin Buckeyez’ commitment to healthy activity has evolved into a summer fitness camp, also free-of-charge for participants.
Since 2015, Rollin Buckeyez has partnered with Cleveland Public Library, Ingenuity Fest, Brite Winter and many more high-profile event planners. But in 2019, the organization’s well-worn trailer became irreparable. Funding will help the organization purchase a truck that will expand its capacity to reach more kids and families in 2020.
At a school desk, in a sport team, as part of a scout group, and in a place of worship, there is a child who lives in foster care or residential treatment at night. That child will try to fit in, even though he or she may feel adrift. That child has had to stuff many favorite belongings into a trash bag and carry it to a new caregiver or residence, after losing parents and a sense of family at the same time.
Nicole Shefrins co-founded Fostering Hope in order to serve children in foster care and residential treatment. Through volunteer experience, she recognized the need for lifting the spirits of kids, teens and young adults in foster care by providing joyful experiences and programs for kids in need.
Fostering Hope knows one first step to take. It provides a “Journey Bag” for each child touched by foster care or residential treatment. The cheery duffle bag holds a new pillow, blanket, toiletries, stuffed animal, journal and crayons, exclusively for that child, to help restore dignity and an important sense of ownership in an anxious time of transition.
Volunteers at Fostering Hope then stay in touch with that child throughout the year to help celebrate the holidays, connect to nature through gardening and summer camp, experience the grounding of yoga, and receive individual recognition of birthdays – some of the most joyful experiences in every childhood.
“We want to ensure that kids in foster and residential care can experience joyful childhood experiences, hope, and the love of people who care about them,” says Executive Director Karen Carter.
New funding will help Fostering Hope grow their capacity to connect with even more kids in 2020. There are currently 2,900 children in Cuyahoga County foster care, as well as adolescents aging out of the foster care system into adulthood.
Carter is passionate about her mission: “We are listening to these kids at every age, asking them what they need and how we can help them to grow up to feel strong and valued.”
That’s how adults become successful, after all – growing up in a circle of support.
Literacy in the HOOD
Reading to her young son every day, Chrishawndra Matthews was delighted when he began reading out loud at the age of three. That’s when Matthews developed a passion for book ownership. She noticed that all children seem to be more interested in books that they get to choose and keep as their own.
Matthews founded Literacy in the HOOD. (Helping Out Our Disenfranchised) to get books into the hands of more parents and children. Her non-profit’s mission is to help parents and caregivers build strong foundations for lifelong learning in children through reading, writing, and thinking.
“We don’t deliver boxes of mixed books. We read books out loud, lay them out across a table, let the kids look through the pages, and then ask them to choose their own books – free of charge,” she says. To date, she has handed out 12,000 books the Literacy way.
For 2020, Matthews wants kid readers to be able to connect with more authors of color: “I want our children to see more characters in books who look like them.” She envisions reading a book by an author of color, then offering a copy for each child in attendance.
“You are your child’s first teacher,” Matthews reminds the parents she meets in pediatric offices, libraries, community events, and schools. She encourages parents to read to their children 15-20 minutes every day, to instill a love of reading. The bookmark she leaves with parents lists free, local resources that parents can access to improve their child’s and their own reading skills.
“We invest in minds, one book at a time.”