Thursday, July 30, 2009

Dreams for Kids: Changing Lives...One Kid at a Time

Dreams for Kids, Inc.
Tom Tuohy, President and Founder
155 North Michigan Avenue, Suite 700
Chicago, IL 60601

Dreams for Kids was started in 1989 in response to Patricia Tuohy’s comment to her son, “Now that you’ve achieved your dreams, it’s time to help other kids achieve theirs.” Although Tom Tuohy had always known that he wanted to do something to make a difference, this comment from his mother was the moment he began to understand specifically what that meant for him.

It is difficult to briefly summarize the work of the organization because, like its founder, Dreams for Kids is involved in such a broad scope of continually evolving programs and people. Although the website describes the organization in great detail, there is so much more that Tom described to me in his office the day we met. I was struck by his willingness to travel down unexplored paths in the hopes of finding new opportunities for growth. Ultimately, Dreams for Kids strives to eliminate the isolation felt by children with disabilities and children from low income homes. Through different and unexpected experiences, the organization helps children to believe in themselves and realize their full potential. The mission of Dreams for Kids, as stated on the website is, “…to empower young people of all abilities through dynamic leadership programs and life-changing activities that inspire them to fearlessly pursue their dreams and compassionately change the world.” They achieve this mission through four main programming areas as described on the website:

1. Dream Leaders is a student leadership program that provides opportunities for service while working alongside students of diverse backgrounds and abilities.

2. Extreme Recess gives children with physical and developmental challenges the opportunity to participate in sports, often for the very first time.

3. Holiday for Hope has grown from a holiday party in a small homeless shelter in Chicago to the largest holiday event of its kind in the world. Similar celebrations now take place in 30 countries throughout the world. Holiday for Hope takes place every December, providing a celebration of the season for homeless and underprivileged children and a reason to hope for a brighter future.

4. Global Projects will enable our Dream Leaders and any adults who are interested to connect with youth all over the world to bring shelter, clean drinking water, education, and sustainable income to those who need it most.

I encourage you to learn more about Dreams for Kids by going to their website. If you are inspired to volunteer, please call Dreams for Kids directly. Here are just some of the opportunities to help:
· Assist at an Extreme Recess event
· Become a facilitator at a Dream Leaders conference
· Participate in a Holiday for Hope event
· If you are outside of the Chicago area, bring an event to your town

I also encourage you to read about Tom Tuohy’s extraordinary journey and the history behind the creation of Dreams for Kids in Kiss of a Dolphin, an exceptional book available through the organization’s website and on Amazon. All profits benefit Dreams for Kids projects. And if you volunteer, I bet Tom will sign your book personally, just like he did mine!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Interesting Nonprofits? Funny You Should Ask...

I have spent my entire career working in nonprofit organizations (NPO’s) in the Jewish community. However, as a volunteer with the Obama for America campaign, I was inspired to learn more about the broader world of NPO’s. I began an online search for organizations that interested me. Through that search, I have learned about organizations I never dreamed existed. I have also learned that the nonprofit world is an overwhelming and complex web that is difficult at best to navigate. A simple search for an organization dealing with a particular issue leads to huge lists.

Early in my search, I came across If you have any interest in NPO’s, Idealist is a website that should not be missed. It provides a listing and description of an astounding number of nonprofit organizations around the world, has an extraordinarily large job search data base and has resource sections dedicated to nonprofit professionals, job seekers and volunteers. My one caveat is that the search functions for jobs, organizations or volunteer opportunities is not user friendly. It is easy to eliminate or include too many choices with minor search changes.

Now that I have at least an intermediate understanding of the NPO landscape, I am eager to share what I have learned with others. Therefore, I will devote each of my future posts to highlighting one NPO in the Chicago area. I will meet with staff at each organization to learn about the agency’s mission, goals, history and accomplishments as well as any other useful information. I am hoping that, in the process, readers will be inspired to learn more about these and other NPO’s, volunteer time or even transition into a career in the nonprofit world. If you have any thoughts about types of organizations you would like me to highlight, please send them my way at

Thanks for reading!