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2019 Top-Rated Nonprofit

John Austin Cheley Foundation

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Camps, Children & Youth, Education, Sports, Student Services, Youth Development

Mission: Changing kids' lives through transformative summer camp experiences

Results: Over 1000 children served representing over $7million in camperships (camp scholarships) calculated in today's dollars. Summer 2019: - 105 full camperships awarded at a value of over $585,000.

Target demographics: under-served children overcome the obstacles to a high-impact residential summer camp experience

Direct beneficiaries per year: 100 children and young adults between the ages of 10 and 16

Geographic areas served: multiple states across the country

Programs: The John Austin Cheley Foundation funds need-based camperships for high potential youth to attend extended-stay wilderness summer camps that have a proven track record of positively impacting youth development.

Community Stories

66 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Volunteer

Rating: 5

While spending a summer working at a JACF camp, I became aware of the tremendous work that JACF was doing for youth at camps across the US. They were funding scholarships and allowing kids the ability to go to camp-I was amazed! That summer, I watched campers transform in a few short weeks, and I wanted to extend that opportunity to youth whose financial situation excluded them from a camp experience. At the end of that summer, I made a paycheck contribution to JACF without hesitation. Since then, I have continued to contribute financially as well as volunteer my time reading applications. When I was unable to go back to camp to work, I was still able to impact youth through my volunteer work. JACF campers are more than one time campers. This organization works with them throughout the year(s) to make further changes to help them into adulthood. I am proud to be a part of JACF, even in the smallest way. Camp is a special place, and JACF is making camp a reality for so many more youth around the nation.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Thanks to this Organization my daughter was able to participate in a summer camp and had great experience I hope this Organization keeps helping other children to get this kind of experience.

Thank you Cheley Foundation!!

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

The people of John Austin Cheley Foundation made possible life changing experiences for both of our sons.The attention,follow-up and hard work from JACF created a corridor for our family to attend camp and flourish in the Rockies and helped to create memories and lessons we're still discussing at our dinner table,many years later.
Without the assistance of JACF,our family would not have been able to participate in one of the most important family gifts any parent could wish for.

Client Served

Rating: 5

The Cheley Foundation positively impacts children’s lives by introducing them to and supporting them in the experiences of high quality summer camps.

Client Served

Rating: 5

My daughter received a Cheley Foundation scholarship to go to Camp Thunderbird for Girls in 2016. She was 13 years old and shy, she told me she wanted to go away to camp to make friends and try to get to be less shy. I was terrified shed never even been to a sleep over. My daughter returned with such excitement. Telling me of the beautiful sky with millions of stars not the same we have here in the city and of her new friends shed met and how much fun shed had. I seen a change in her she had more confidence. The following summer she went away to camp again, with the same group of friends this time I was not terrified just so grateful. If it wasn't for the Cheley Foundation I would never be able to offer my child this wonderful experience. My daughter is now 16 years old she is no longer shy and she tells me all the time how much she loved camp and hopes to return to work there one day. I am so grateful to the Cheley foundation for giving my family this opportunity.

Client Served

Rating: 5

I had imagined sending my kids to camp Cheley since before they were born. Life circumstances put me in a position where that was financially out of reach. I was heart broken. When I found out about JACF, I had hope again. He was able to make it though the wait list and get a campership. The staff was patient and encouraging with us throughout the process and when the good news came, I think they were as excited as we were. His experience at camp was life changing and he is excited to to now pass along this good will to his community though a capstone project this year. He now desires to keep going back and becoming a counselor himself one day. I can not express enough joy at what JACF has done for our family.

Client Served

Rating: 5

This organization is a wonderful organization it has given my son zahir a life time opportunity to experience natural inhabitants and also make him a better person I’m sure it’s an experience he will cherish so i say go John Cheley foundation you’re the best on behalf of my family we say big thank you

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

JACF provided an amazing experience for our daughter Sophia, giving her the opportunity to go to sleep way camp. She always asked, but we didn’t have financial conditions for it. It was the first time this year that she has ever done it. Sophia is 12 years old, and came back much more independent, listening, and giving much more value to her family and friends she made at camp and outside of camp.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Our family has a long history with the JACF and we are thankful that it will continue for another generation. The last couple years have been tough financially for our family and this last summer our daughter was old enough to attend Cheley Colorado camps. We had a rough time getting the funds together and without the help of the JACF my daughter would not have been able to attend. Summer camps are a luxury, but at the same time they can be life changing. My wife was changed at an early age when she attended Cheley and I can honestly say my daughter was a better person after coming home from camp. We have the JACF to thank specifically for these transformations. My son will likely attend this next summer and we cant wait to see him mature with the help of Cheley camps and the JACF. What an amazing group of people and a positive influence for our family. Thank you guys so much from the bottom of our hearts.

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

The camp experience is vital to the development of our youth. Children have the opportunity to disconnect from social media and devices, they learn how to connect with others, live without their parents, and become their "best selves". JACF is giving over 100 children an opportunity they wouldn't otherwise experience. And by doing this, changing the trajectory of their lives. As one of the camps where children attend, we trust that JACF is vetting quality children that value the experience and contribute to the camp community. After 30 years, they are quietly changing the world.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

As a former teacher and camp director, the Cheley Foundation taught me to mentor young people who could not afford, but would benefit from, attending a summer camp. I witnessed the growth and self reliance these young people acquired from returning summer after summer to camp. Not a one time thing, a camper may return every summer until they age out.

Then I volunteered as a board member and watched the organization blossom into sending over 100 campers to 9 established and vetted summer camps around the country. No longer a board member, I continue to volunteer to evaluate new camper's applications, and coach mentors on their camper's Capstone Service Project. Once a camper reaches high school, they are encouraged to 'give back' to their communities with a service project. Each camper must document the initiation, progress, and results of their project through a web presentation. These are available for you to view online at the Cheley Foundation website.

In the past 20 years, I have seen my donations of time and money produce phenomenal young people whom I hope will one day run our world.

Previous Stories
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Board Member

Rating: 5

I am a former teacher and have worked in summer camps for over half of my life. When I joined the John Austin Cheley Foundation, I found that I could provide the volunteer skills needed to help recruit qualified young people to attend summer camp for free. We managed to increase the number of young people the Cheley Foundation sent to camp from 25 to 100 while I was on the Board. And the growth and personal development I witnessed from these young adults was simply astounding. Not even one of my classroom students showed as much growth and personal development as those young people who attended the summer programs which the Cheley Foundation endorses. I truly believe every child should attend a three to four week overnight camp. And the Cheley Foundation provides the safest, most secure, summer enrichment programs that you can find almost anywhere in the United States.

2

Client Served

Rating: 5

My has ADHD & mild Autism diagnosis. He is an awesome kid, and uniquely him. I saw him lose his spark when he kept getting bullied at school and didn't have friends.  He only played video games, spent many hours and weekends watching inappropriate youtube videos (without my permission) and was getting depressed. As a parent I had to do something about this.  

This is how we discovered JACF, we applied for the scholarship and couldn't believe we got it. He was really scared to go and I wasn't sure this was right for him.  I am an anxious parent and I was amazed at the support Karen (JACF program director)  has given me as well. She listened to me and calmed my nerves regarding the thought of letting my son go away for such a long time.  When he returned from camp that summer I saw an amazing transformation in him. He was calmer and didn't rush to his X-box or Youtube right away, which were his go to activities. That year was his first year in middle school and as expected he still had a hard time with his peers but he handled bullies differently, advocating for himself and started to make friends and keeping them.  He wasn't sure he wanted to go back to summer camp because he missed being away from home and I missed him too until Karen and Tim invited us to a JACF gathering. When we got there he was so, so happy to see his buddies from camp that he changed his mind. We re applied and were lucky enough to go another year.  He has since then made friends from other states and texts/ calls them often. His father and I are separated and it's also been very hard for him to deal with too. The only place in the world where he feels like a kid, safe & emotionally stable is in the mountains at summer camp. He can forget the struggles of school and his issues of home life. He really holds Cheley Camp as a special place in his heart. He is so blessed and lucky to have had these opportunities, thank you for your support!

P. S. His new favorite activities are no longer online gaming or youtube, he'd rather play outside and go hiking!:-)

Client Served

Rating: 5

The John Austin Cheley Foundation is GREAT!!!! My son has been going to overnight camp (Camp Kawanhee for Boys) for the past 3 years thanks to this foundation and their donors. He has made friends from all over the world and had experiences and memories that will last a lifetime I am forever grateful.

Advisor

Rating: 5

As the Development Director of Boys Hope Girls Hope of St. Louis-a residential program for scholars with high academic potential, who come from adverse settings that might not allow them to reach their full potential--our scholars have experienced the ultimate camping experience at Camp Thunderbird. Because of the generous scholarships, Javon, Karl and most recently Aniya have returned from camp with new leaderships skills, stories to share and the biggest smiles ever! Their first time experiences of swimming in a lake, rock climbing, sailing and more allows our scholars opportunities placing them on a more level playing field in life. Thank you John Austin Cheley Foundation for all you do to support so many!

Board Member

Rating: 5

I have worked with the John Austin Cheley Foundation for 10 years and currently serve as Board Chair. JACF provides transformative experiences at residential summer camps for kids who could not otherwise afford to go. Camp is not a luxury. It’s essential. Camp gives kids a chance to be unplugged, in the outdoors, creating meaningful relationships and developing the confidence and perseverance they’ll need to be productive and happy adults. In this digital world of screen communication and isolation, camp is a must.

Client Served

Rating: 5

This is by far one of the best nonprofits I have ever felt with. For 3 years my daughter has been able to experience a once in a life time chance at a summer camp. Being a mother of 5 is hard to send even one child to a month long camp. I HIGHLY recommend John Austin Cheley Foundation for helping those in need and giving a child a lifetime experience. I would also like to add how smooth the process is and how understand they are for those that may not understand or unable to work technology.

Matthew David S.

Client Served

Rating: 5

This is a great opportunity for any and all children. It has opened my daughters eyes to see what life is all about. She has learned new skills, she has made new friends from across the states. Our daughter has learned to explore new adventures. She did things that she would have never got the chance to do in a lifetime for some kids. She learned how to ride horses. And to hike and mountain climbing. That’s just to name a few things. I would recommend this foundation to anyone who would love to see there son or daughter have and adventure they’ll never forget for the rest of there lives. Thank you all from the John Austin Cheney Foundation for all you have done for my daughter.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I was a teenager from a troubled home. Fortunately, with help from extended family, I was able to attend Cheley Camp. Over four summers at camp I was guided and mentored. I learned leadership skills and responsibility, I became tougher mentally and physically and I made friendships that have been life-long. I believe if you ask anyone who has had the opportunity to attend a good organized camp, their story will be similar to mine, no matter their circumstances or background.

I have followed the Cheley Foundation from its beginning. Their impressive goal of providing a camp experience to as many underprivileged children as possible is one that is most worthy. I am also highly impressed with the Foundation's small but very dedicated staff, with the outside directors and with its tight fiscal management. Seldom can one talk in glowing terms about all aspects of a charitable foundation, but such is the case with the John Austin Cheley Foundation.

Now retired, it's my privilege to be a volunteer and offer what assistance I can in evaluating prospective campers. Those selected I know will benefit beyond words with their camp experience, an experience that would not be possible without this foundation.

1 Jessica R.7

Client Served

Rating: 5

The John Austin Cheley Foundation helped my kids in every way imaginable. They provided scholarship money so that my children could attend camp and grow as individuals. I believe that the experiences that my own children had at Colvig Silver Camps helped them to have the confidence and leadership skills that they display now at their schools. I could not have done it on my teacher's salary. I love Cheley and what they did for my family!

1 Elizabeth Harrison L.

Client Served

Rating: 5

My husband and I have four children, all boys, and there is six years between the first and the last. Our household is busy and can be overwhelming with all of the energy that flows through it. We are caring and thoughtful parents, but our family has a lot of struggles. If you have ever read Ross Green's "Explosive Child," then you would understand our second born. He is easily frustrated, a black and white thinker, has low frustration tolerance, can swear like a trucker when angry, and can be physically aggressive. He is also the funniest member of our family, highly intelligent, witty, generous, and very physically capable. I have always been especially worried about him. I have read every book, tried every type of therapy, briefly tried medication, and done everything under the sun that I could think to do to help him in the places that he is challenged. And then I found JACF. Our son has attended Camp Kanwanhee for two Summers. The first year for two weeks and the second year for three weeks. After his first time we got his counselor report and, as I suspected, there were a few things that had come up during camp that they were concerned about. The second Summer you could tell that they were having a hard time finding anything negative to say. He has blossomed under the leadership at that camp in a way that I couldn't have dreamed of. It is an all boys camp which is the perfect fit for him. He is able to be challenged physically with all of the wonderful activities that they offer: soccer, basketball, baseball, climbing, swimming, kayaking, sailing, and so much more. This camp is saving his life. And I mean that. He is a child with enormous potential but so many hurdles in his way because of his wiring. This camp experience gives him the best springboard for change. It shows him that he is capable of doing hard things like when he learned a barrel roll in his kayak for the first time. It shows him he can follow through like the "Ten Mile Swim" club he earned a spot in.
This camp has made and will continue to make a difference for our son and it would never have been in reach were it not for the JACF Foundation. Never in a million years would we be able to send him to a camp of that caliber. Because of JACF, we have more hope for our son's future. We are forever grateful.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

As a mentor for a camper who benefited from the John Austin Cheley Foundation, I want to share a brief moment about the connections made this camper through the camp experience. I just heard from the young man recently and he was telling me about his high school graduation (he lives in Florida) and that he was so excited to be able to visit a college in California ( I knew that this kind of travel would be a financial stretch for this family), I asked him where he was staying and he said with his friend T. from camp. He was so happy to be able to spend time with him and visit a school he was interested in attending. I asked him if he was still in touch with his other friends from camp and he said yes, many of them. I believe he will have lifelong connections that will enrich the lives of him and his friends from the experience provided to him by the John Austin Cheley Foundation and Camp Thunderbird.

Client Served

Rating: 5

I have a son who struggles with depression and anxiety. He is also a verified SPED student with mild autism. The John Austin Cheley Foundation provides him with a scholarship to Camp Koochiching and also provides him with transportation there and back. They provide you with service and support year round as well answering any questions or concerns and helping you problem solve. We are so grateful! Camp does something for him that I cannot do! He comes home more confident, independent, and responsible. He tells me every year how Kooch is his favorite place on earth and the one place he always fits in. The John Austin Cheley Foundation is helping mold today's youth into tomorrow's leaders!

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

JACF and their support was absolutely essential in allowing my son to have the best summer experience of his life at Colvig Silver Camp in July 2019. Karen has been so helpful and easy to work with, and I can tell she genuinely cares about Brayden's success at camp as well as his future. Even when Brayden was scared to go to camp right before the session started, Karen was able to offer advice and suggestions that were ultimately successful in encouraging him to go. We truly appreciate JACF's help in starting Brayden on a path of what will hopefully be many summers of significance with Colvig Silver Camp. We are so grateful!

Maggie A.1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My underrepresented students are provided incredible summer campership experiences through JACF. My students come home learning new skills and demonstrating social skills that level the playing field compared to their more affluent peers. Staff at JACF are professional, friendly and timely. We appreciate everything JACF does for students!!

2

Board Member

Rating: 5

As a kid, I was lucky enough to attend an extended-stay wilderness camp in the Rocky Mountains for three glorious years. This was made possible through the generosity of a family friend, as my own family would never have been able to afford it. As an adult -- knowing how much camp had shaped and inspired me - I become a donor to the John Austin Cheley Foundation. In addition to being a donor, I am now a proud board member of JACF. I am honored to be able to "pay it forward", helping send wonderful kids to wonderful camps through this organization that runs so incredibly effectively and efficiently with a tiny and committed staff, big hearts, smart strategies, dedicated volunteers and generous donors!
As Edward Abbey wisely noted, "Wilderness is not a luxury, but a necessity of the human spirit" and the John Austin Cheley Foundation is providing this necessity to deserving kiddos, nationwide.

Previous Stories
1

Board Member

Rating: 5

I am proud to be a member of The John Austin Cheley Foundation’s (JACF) Board of trustees. Our staff, our volunteers, our board and our campers’ parents form an amazing and committed group of dedicated folks working to help send terrific kids to life-changing, wilderness-based, adventure summer camps all over the nation. These are highly motivated kids who would not be able to swing the “camp experience”, financially, but who get to attend because of JACF. As a result of attending camp, they report back to us with tales of increased confidence, grit and independence — as well as heartfelt stories filled with laughter, love, vulnerability and friendships that will last a lifetime. JACF funds these kids for as many years as they are able to attend summer camp, building on the personal growth and bonds of friendship with each summer of fun and adventure. We believe that these fantastic kids — along with their supportive families and some help from The John Austin Cheley Foundation — will change lives and strive for amazing goals… because their lives have been permanently changed by the wonders and challenges of the camp experience. Camp changes lives… and the John Austin Cheley Foundation makes camp possible for terrific kids.

Donor

Rating: 5

Adopt-a-Camper program allows one to ensure the funding for a camp experience for five years. Offering the hope in providing a multi-year experience has been exquisitely rewarding. The life-changing impact of a multi-year wilderness experience is shared with the donor as the donor receives a "letter from camp" and feels intimately involved with the delight and growth that only a camp experience can provide. The John Austin Cheley Foundation selects incredibly wonderful kids who would not otherwise be able to afford the summer camp experience. Not only do the campers benefit from being unplugged and challenged in the wild, but so do the affiliate camps, and the communities to which the child returns. "My" camper was offered a leadership position in the camp he attends, validating what I believed: that this camper gave as much to the camp as he, in turn, received.

The John Austin Cheley Foundation is a tremendously inspirational nonprofit, with a very dedicated and caring board and staff. I cannot think of a better organization to support, and I hope that you will join me as I continue to contribute to the John Austin Cheley Foundation.

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

As a board member of a nonprofit camp associated with the Cheley Foundation, I give them my highest rating. For one thing, having Cheley Foundation campers attend our camp very importantly adds diversity of background. In this way it is a great benefit not only to the Cheley campers but to all who attend our camp. I think more importantly, the campers sponsored by Cheley are great kids! Cheley does a wonderful job in their selection process. We have been an affiliated camp for several years now. We are very pleased with what they and we together have done. We are proud to have been chosen by Cheley as a participating camp and we are glad to be a part of what they offer.

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

The John Austin Cheley Foundation sends us boys each year to attend Camp Kawanhee. We are very impressed with the character of the boys they have sent to us and the success of them in assimilating into the Kawanhee environment. This speaks to the very thorough and meticulous process followed in selecting the boys and in matching them to our program. The staff at the Foundation are caring, extremely competent and organized. They take their work very seriously and believe in the mission of the organization and this is evident in every thing they do. Extremely well run organization!

1

Board Member

Rating: 5

The John Austin Cheley Foundation sends underserved youth to wilderness-based summer camps to give them access to experiences they would otherwise be unable to have that offer them the opportunity to grow, learn leadership skills, form friendships, and develop resiliency and confidence. The Foundation works with a network of camps and community organizations to form meaningful mentoring relationships for the campers it serves. By maximizing all of its resources, the Foundation is very efficient in the use of its funds, its staff time and its volunteers.

Board Member

Rating: 5

The John Austin Cheley Foundation has a clear purpose and mission, and works efficiently and passionately in its unique space to change the lives of individual children. It works with community-based you organizations to identify highly-motivated, under-privileged kids to send them to extended-stay wilderness summer camps, a life-changing experience for all children. The Foundation promises to fund these summer experiences for every single summer the young person is interested in participating, allowing each young person to form lasting friendships and bonds that will carry over a lifetime.

At bottom, the Foundation changes lives. It directly and permanently improves the life of every single kid that participates. Not many organizations can claim such a direct and profound impact!

1 Todd N. L.

Donor

Rating: 5

As a donor to the JACF for nearly a decade, I've seen the changes to kids lives that a dedicated group of volunteers can make when they focus on long-term impact. It's not just the kids the camperships impact, but the families and surrounding communities. Extended stay summer camps are a fantastic learning environment for today's kids that need time away from technology and everyday stresses. I'll remain a donor because kids matter and camp delivers!

Board Member

Rating: 5

The John Austin Cheley Foundation supports youth development in an extremely unique and effective manner. They are changing the lives of children by sending them to high powered, impactful summer camp programs across the United States. Their reach into all corners of the country proves that this organization is making a real difference for so many people. I'm really proud to be a part of such a wonderful organization!

Please join me in supporting the John Austin Cheley Foundation!
John Boylan
Chairman

1

Board Member

Rating: 5

As our planet and society confront the rising environmental crises, no action is more powerful than developing the future generations relationships to nature. We are in the midst of the largest transformation to urban culture ever in the human race. JACF helps lower the walls between our kids and nature to get us all in touch with what is most important to create a sustainable future together.

Board Member

Rating: 5

The John Austin Cheley Foundation makes it possible for kids to go to wilderness based summer camps. I've heard the testimonials of campers - They love it and state it's been life changing. Some outcomes include increased confidence, increased appreciation of the out-of-doors and exposure to leadership opportunities. We've noticed that the campers and alumni go on to continue to push themselves out of their "comfort zone". So important!

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The Cheley Foundation sent 91 deserving kids to summer camp this year! They do an outstanding job of identifying kids that would greatly benefit from a residential camp experience. Top notch organization.