Children All Smiles At Holiday Party

Kids Get An Early Christmas…including our Back 2 School Kits

 

The holiday season is filled with magical moments and we were happy to be a part of one; the George Watson Memorial Christmas Party at Camp Duncan YMCA. This annual event is one of our favorites, as the kids, who come from families that struggle financially, have an opportunity to celebrate and get some wonderful gifts including clothing, toys and of course, one of our school supplies kits.

Children from the areas are treated to a visit with Mr. and Mrs, Klaus, singing, holiday music, food, ice cream, face painting and a trip through a maze of rooms filled with all sorts of great gifts including sporting equipment, stuffed animals, gloves, socks, sweatshirts, games, books and more.

The annual event is put on with the help of some wonderful YMCA staff as well as volunteers from the Round Lake and Fox Lake Rotary Club and National Honor Society students. In all, over 400 of our Back 2 School kits so they will be well prepared to go back into the classroom ready to learn in the new year.


 

 

 

Kids “Eat Up” Exercise & Nutrition Boot Camp

And Parents Like It Too

 

Our first ever Power Up! Boot Camp program was a success, though not exactly the way we intended. We had initially envisioned a bigger event but we ended up with a smaller one that allowed us to provide each child with more individual attention. With an instructor/student ratio of 5 to 1, the children were able to ask more questions, do more activities and by the looks on their faces and the sound of their voices, had a ton of fun.

The first Boot Camp was held at Washington Park (5531 S. Martin Luther King Dr.) and the second was held at the Broadway Armory Park (5917 N. Broadway). The Chicago Park District, which runs both facilities, served as our partners in presenting the program. Their staff is second to none and worked incredibly hard to help us craft the curriculum and promote the program.

During each day, the kids, ages 7-12 rotated through a series of five different activities. While there are too many to mention here, some of the activities included; running an obstacle course, playing a Jeopardy-like game covering aspects of nutrition, “Build-a-healthy-snack”, Tug-of-war, yoga, kickboxing, stretching, and breathing exercises.

At the end of each day the children were given a fitness and nutrition pack filled with a variety of items including a jump rope, pedometer, healthy snacks, water bottle, and more.

While the Boot Camp only lasts one day, the program for the kids will continue. For the next three months, they will receive weekly inspirational emails, keep a journal on their exercise and eating habits, and then receive a final exam, which they must take in order to receive their Certificate of Completion. We hope this ongoing communication will help solidify the knowledge imparted to them during their Boot Camp.

Since we had the kids take the exam before they started the Boot Camp, we will see if they retained the information. You can check out the results at holiday time on our website.

A special thank you to all our sponsors, in particular Moneygram, Republic Bank and the Community Currency Exchange Association of Illinois’ for their support without which this program would not be possible.


 

 

 

Students at Jesse Sherwood and Mahalia Jackson Elementary Surprised on First Day of Classes With Free School Supplies

Each Student Receives Own Back 2 School Kit

 

The first day of school is always a bit chaotic as students switch gears from summer vacation mode. So much goes on during the first day including meeting new teachers, finding classrooms, meeting new classmates and reconnecting with old ones and checking out any building changes such as a fresh coat of paint, new desks and computers in the lab.

For Jesse Sherwood and Mahalia Jackson Elementary Schools there was even more excitement as we surprised the students at both schools with free school supplies. The two schools were selected as winners of our annual Win School Supplies For Your Entire School Contest.

We love giving away school supplies and nothing is more rewarding than seeing the faces of children in school when you hand them one of our Back 2 School kits. Between the two schools we gave out school supplies to almost 800 students.

Both schools embraced us with open arms. Principal Alice Buzanis of Sherwood and Principal Robert Hubbird of Jackson were so welcoming and appreciative of our efforts. While we were at each school we witnessed first hand the dedication and commitment of these two individuals as they related to teachers, parents and the children.


 

 

 

Back 2 School Event at Broadway Park Armory Scores Big

School Supplies Distribution and Activities for YMCA Kids A Winner

 

We participate in many school supply distribution events but this one at the Broadway Park Armory is the granddaddy of them all. Last year we had our big distribution event here and because it was such a success we decided to come back.

This year we trucked in close to 25,000 Back 2 School kits filled with over three quarters of a million school supplies. These kits were sorted and then sent back out to over 60 YMCA sites from as far south as Joliet to as far north as Ingleside, Illinois.

In addition to providing so many low-income families with free school supplies we also used the day to host 500 children for an afternoon of fun and educational activities. The kids got to participate in aerobics, a nutrition class, arts and crafts, as well as learn about snakes (and hold them!) and see a real working bee colony (and taste the actual honey).

We are most grateful for the help of more than 150 volunteers and staff members. It is not an easy day for many of our volunteers as they are lifting and moving heavy boxes to make sure the Back 2 School kits get where they are going. Some of the people that helped us out worked for the entire day without much down time. It’s hard work but everyone that participated says it’s well worth all the sweat, sore muscles and tired bodies.

The Back 2 School program would not exist if not for the tremendous support from dozens of sponsors including: the Community Currency Exchange Association of Illinois, MB Financial Bank, Western Union Foundation, Kits for Kidz, Republic Bank, Electronic License Service, Green Dot, Community Financial Service Centers, Pawlan Blumenfeld Misciniski & Assoc., Chicago Park District and many others.


 

 

Our Military Serves Us and Now We Serve Them

Families Grateful and Kids Are All Smiles Receiving Our Back 2 School Kits

 

Hundreds of active-duty and reserve-duty military personnel from all branches of the armed forces showed up at a series of school supplies distribution events we did in partnership with Operation Homefront. We are proud to partner with this great organization, which provides support to military families here in Illinois. This past weekend we gave out school supplies at Great Lakes Naval Station, Scott Air Force Base in Belleville, Camp Lincoln down in the state’s capitol, the Armed Forces Reserve Center in Mount Vernon and the Center of Excellence in Bartonville.

Having the opportunity to meet so many men and women and their children that make tremendous sacrifices to serve our country and keep us safe is particularly rewarding. These families were so gracious and appreciative of the Back 2 School kits we provided that we have committed to doing even more in 2015.

When all is said and done, we will have provided Back 2 School supplies to 1,500 children of military families at seven different sites around the state this August.


 

 

Bridgeport Boys & Girls Club of Chicago Receives Our School Supplies

Inaugural Event Solidifies New Community Partnership

 

All 18 Chicago area Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago (BGCC) will be receiving our Back 2 School kits this year. To celebrate this new partnership they hosted a kickoff celebration at the Louis Valentine Club. 250 kids were treated to activities including a dunk tank and playing in an inflatable obstacle course as well as receiving one of our Back 2 School kits.

Adding BGCC as a major community partner allows us to continue to grow and strengthen our organization. Our other three major community partners are the YMCA of Metro Chicago, Operation Homefront Illinois and Chicago’s Department of Family and Support Services. Each of these partnerships ensures our school supplies are getting into the hands of those in need.


 

 

 

Luncheon At Maggiano’s Kicks Off Back 2 School Program

Education and Educators Celebrated

 

This year’s Back 2 School luncheon was our best ever. Aside from a raising a record amount of money from our wonderful corporate partners, there was much to celebrate. Over 200 guests came together on May 28 at Maggiano’s downtown for an exciting program to support our initiative to provide school supplies to children from low-income families.

We were most fortunate to have NBC5 morning news anchor Stefan Holt handle the emcee duties for us once again. There were some amazing and inspiring speeches by several of our honorees including Barbara Bowman, Founder of the Erikson Institute, and Elizabeth Dozier, Principal of Christian Fenger Academy High School both of whom received our 2014 Education Awards.

Jamie Goodman, a former guidance counselor for Rudyard Kipling Elementary (the school that was selected last year in our Win School Supplies for an Entire School Contest) spoke passionately why our school supplies program is so important to students and teacher at te school.

Republic Bank received the Corporate Partner Award for their substantial and ongoing commitment to the Back 2 School program and the ICECF. Suzanne Claey’s whose financial burden to attend American University this fall will be eased a bit as she was given this year’s Tufano Family Scholarship.

There was other big news on the scholarship front when Community Currency Exchange Association of Illinois’ Board President Marty Lieberman announced that his organization would be providing $10,000, so that ICECF could provide an additional four scholarships in 2015.