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Kids Boost Helps Youngsters Achieve Philanthropic Goals

The goal of local non-profit Kids Boost, is to teach children ages 8 to 14 how to turn their ideas into ways to help their community.
Proud Peterson Family John Jackie Sydney Juliet and Tenley

Grown ups have often lamented that energy and passion are wasted on the young. But a local resident has come up with a way to harness that drive and determination for good causes around the globe.

While Kristen Williams was working at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, one of the patients who had a miraculous recovery wanted to find a way to give back.

“He didn’t just want to collect something and drop it off at the hospital,” said Williams.

The family didn’t think he would ever have mobility in his arms again. But with rehab and therapy along with rock wall climbing, he was able to make full use of his arm completely and is thriving and doing great, she explained.

With his therapy in mind, he devised a way to combine fun and fundraising. He asked a local rock climbing place if he could climb in the morning, and he’d get friends and family to pledge a donation per wall. He ended up presenting a check to CHOA to help others.

“It was in that moment where I saw this kid use what he loved [to make a difference]. And he chose where the money was going,” said Williams. “He was very engaged. And he loved the whole thing and [gained] a sense of pride.”

That gave Williams the idea to harness similar “kid power” for good causes. With $1,000 of her own money, she asked neighbors to help her help youngsters help others.

“I was a single mom. I was like, ‘There’s no way I can do this,’” she said. “And what I found was that all of them loved it. And then their friends wanted to do it, and they were all successful, even before I had a website or anything.”

The goal of local non-profit Kids Boost, is to teach children ages 8 to 14 how to turn their ideas into ways to help their community.
Furkids founder and CEO Samantha Shelton (Peachtree Corners resident) receives a check from Sydney Peterson and Kids Boost Coach Kate Bellamy. Courtesy of Kids Boost

A nonprofit is born

That was ten years ago. The program is a full-fledged non-profit with 501(c)3 status. The organization would eventually like to broaden its reach beyond Georgia but doesn’t want to lessen the impact of one-on-one mentorship.

One of Williams’ latest success stories is Peachtree Corners resident Sydney Peterson, a 10-year-old fourth-grade student at Simpson Elementary.  

Sydney loves animals and had been thinking about a way to help rescue animals for a long time. Her aunt, Mandy Rosenberg, is on the board at Kids Boost and suggested it as an option.

“She helped out with a lot of stuff,” said Sydney. “That’s how I found out about Kids Boost.”

On a field trip with her Girl Scout troop, Sydney had visited Furkids, the largest cage-free, no-kill shelter in the Southeast for rescued cats. Furkids also operates Sadie’s Place, a no-kill shelter for rescued dogs.

“They had a lot of space and stuff, so I wanted to help them out,” she said. “And I also knew I loved doing crafts, so [with my coach], we kind of combined them together.”

The result was Sydney’s Pet Party with a Purr-Pose, an event where guests create pet-themed crafts at ten different stations.

“The first station was paper plate animals where you can make faces on paper plates,” she said. “Then there’s a cookie decorating station.”

Admission was $10 per person or $30 per family. Sydney’s initial goal was to raise $1,000 but upped it to $1,500. In the end, she raised more than $3,500.

“It took place at Furkids, which has a beautiful event space,” Jackie Peterson, Sydney’s mom, said.

The cat rescue facility is in another nearby building. Afterward, attendees could adopt pets if they chose.

The Petersons said they owed a lot of the success to local merchants who donated supplies, money and items for the silent auction. More than 100 people attended the fundraiser, and by all accounts, everyone had a great time.

“We went to different stores and asked for donations,” said Sydney. “I had a whole list of things that I wanted. And some people made donations to my event.”

Jackie Peterson said the experience was invaluable.

“The kids are paired with a coach, so every week they’d talk over Zoom – sometimes in person,” she said. “It was so cute because … she learned how to talk to different people. It was huge because she’s really kind of shy.  … and she learned how to react if they said no.”

Life lessons are a big part of the process

Although the goal of Kids Boost is to teach children ages 8 to 14 how to turn their ideas into ways to help their community, fundraising isn’t the only service.

“Kids Boost is all about just helping kids use their gifts, talents and passions to make a difference in the world. We realized that most kids want to make a difference; they either need a little help or don’t really know how,” said Williams.

“What we do is we give kids $100 as … seed money. We give them a one-on-one coach with a background in child development and working with kids and families. And we help them turn that $100 into more for a nonprofit of their choice,” she added.

Who the money goes to and how they raise the money is all up to the kids.

The goal of local non-profit Kids Boost, is to teach children ages 8 to 14 how to turn their ideas into ways to help their community.
Ms. Belinda from Furkids receiving the thank you painting

“They can do it using something that they love. They are the boss, they are in control, they pick who they’re helping and they pick how they’re doing it,” said Williams. “The Kids Booster is there every step of the way to help so it doesn’t get overwhelming. We’re kind of that cheerleader and that accountability partner.”

At the end of the project, they get to present a great big check like Oprah or Ellen to a nonprofit, which means a lot to them. That’s a boost for anyone’s self-esteem.

But the process isn’t always without some adjustments, Williams said.

She gave an example of a girl who wanted to have Taylor Swift throw a party as a fundraiser. The young lady realized on her own that it was probably impractical to expect Taylor Swift to show up – and she had no way of getting in touch with the music superstar.

After discussing logistics and possible modifications, the event turned into a Tay-Tay party with Taylor Swift-themed trivia, dancing, bracelets and more.

“The two questions we ask kids are: What makes your heart happy? And what breaks your heart? And those two questions, which are unique to every child, help them form their Kids Boost project,” said Williams.

Looking ahead to the future

The nonprofit continues to thrive through word-of-mouth. Each fundraiser has a sign-up sheet for potential Kids Boosters to get more information.

“Most kids want to give back; it’s just they need a program in place,” said Williams. “My son plays soccer, for instance, and if there wasn’t a program in place, I probably put it on the back burner, right? But because there’s a coach and a process in place, he now plays competitive soccer, loves it, and does well.”

She added that a lot of the kids who participate aren’t wealthy. In fact, many want to give back to organizations that have helped their family in some way.

“Wouldn’t it be awesome if every kid had the opportunity to really put their time, love and heart into making a difference in the world?” said Williams.

“Partnering with nonprofits, so not like recreating their own wheel or feeling like they must do this ginormous thing that’s going to take up their entire life. Hopefully, they’ll catch that giving bug and see that they can make a difference even at eight or 12 years old,” she said.

Sydney was so inspired by being able to help FurKids that she wrote this poem and submitted it for the National PTA Reflections Art Contest. She placed second in her category. This year’s theme was “I Am Hopeful Because.”

Alone But Hopeful

I am all alone
I need a home
One day I thought I was zero
But I a hero and now I am not zero
Now I gave shelter to keep me warn
Until I find my forever home

Now I am dreaming about
Not being alone
Having a bone
Snuggle in bed
Scratches on my head
Getting treats for tricks
Playing fetch with sticks
Walks in the park
Not being afraid of the dark
Stretch in the sun
Running having fun
Catch the ball
Roll in the leaves in the fall
Jump in puddles
Catch bubbles
Don’t struggle
Not live in trouble
Get under a blanket when it is cold
Do what I am told
Chew new shoes
Go under a table
Look for food
I hope I get these things!

Visit kidsboost.org and furkids.org to learn more.

Featured photo caption: Proud Peterson family – John, Jackie, Sydney, Juliet and Tenley. Courtesy of Kids Boost

Arlinda Smith Broady is part of the Boomerang Generation of Blacks that moved back to the South after their ancestors moved North. With approximately three decades of journalism experience (she doesn't look it), she's worked in tiny, minority-based newsrooms to major metropolitans. At every endeavor she brings professionalism, passion, pluck, and the desire to spread the news to the people.

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