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Dreams for Kids, Inc.

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Children & Youth, Children & Youth Services, Civil Rights, Human Service Organizations, Human Services, Youth Community Service Clubs

Mission: Dreams for Kids trains and mentors youth as social entrepreneurs, providing practical education, real world training and contemporary job skills as they create enterprises that provide solutions to society’s critical social issues.

Results: We have launched Youth Enterprise Solutions (YES), a national program of social entrepreneurship learning for youth, hosted on our education partner's Global Learning Models, delivered by teachers in school and by trained mentors after school. The 13 lesson curriculum includes The Clearing, which helps youth clear conflicts and trauma of their past and present, as well as practical business skills such as marketing, sales, making a pitch, creating business plans, act. At the conclusion of the curriculum, students can apply their new skills to create a social enterprise, or work on an existing one, and be enrolled in our new Center for Social Entrepreneurship, to feature the resources of leading entrepreneurs and academics.

Target demographics: Youth in U.S. between the ages of 12 and 17.

Direct beneficiaries per year: 6,000

Geographic areas served: U.S, with local concentration in Illinois and Washington DC.

Programs: Youth Enterprise Solutions, (YES), a program that provides students with a 13-lesson social entrepreneurship curriculum that was created by nationally recognized entrepreneurs and academic leaders and is delivered through peer to peer mentoring and reinforced by professional mentors in the community and our trademark, We Are the Change® conferences. Youth-led Social enterprises, Extreme Recess, provides adaptive sports activities for kids with disabilities and Holiday for Hope, a global event for homeless children, held each December.

Community Stories

42 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Scott160

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Dreams for Kids has never let itself be tied down by one mission. They have grown and morphed as the needs of the community presented themselves. They work tirelessly for all children in need- both the underserved and the affluent. Their most recent endeavor has given me hope for this next generation. Let's set the not-for-profit world AND the business world on their ears with a new crop of leaders that see the value in successful, sustainable business models that give back to the community. I can't wait to see the fruits of their labors at work in our city and worldwide.

Comments ( 1 )

Tom Tuohy Thank you for recognizing our goal and being part of our mission. Our new Youth Enterprise Solutions ( YES) program launches this fall and gives us all hope for the generation we have been waiting for!!

1 Tom_82

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Dreams for Kids is a unique charity that is truly dedicated to helping special needs children and their families. I participated most recently in their "Extreme Recess" event. I was pleasantly surprised at what great lengths the charity (and all the volunteers that participated) went through to make the day special for the children and their families. I would highly recommend all levels of participation and support for DFK, from volunteering to donating, you simply know you're supporting a great organization.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

You can’t make this stuff up!

DFK’s Extreme Recess at Twin Lakes, WI is a day of water sports, fishing, bouncy house, water slide, plenty of sunscreen and a great BBQ lunch.

Most of the children have never had the opportunity to participate in these activities. Going from a wheelchair to a water ski and speeding along at 40 mph – at first it’s fear but the kid in all comes out in seconds using the thumbs-up signal to go faster.

As a volunteer, every year I take home a fond story or two. This year it was Thais. Exiting the bus I asked this young lady of perhaps 12 what she wanted to do first – water ski? Tubing? Canoeing? Thais looked me in the eye and said "I want to fish - I have never fished before.” Are you sure you want to bait a hook with a slimy worm I asked? “Yes” is all she said with a smile while looking past me to see where the fishing pier was located.

Within minutes Thais had caught her first fish - a 4” bluegill. She ended up with about 9 catches, one being a 10” wide mouth. And that’s no fish story!

Joanne Y.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

CROYA has had the honor of working with Dreams For Kids Extreme Recess for the past 4 years. DFK, Tom, Shelly and the rest of the staff are amazing. They provide so many people opportunities that kids would never dream of. It is so much fun to be a part of such a great day out on the lake making kids' dreams come true. The look on their faces when they get up on the water ski, tube, kayak, boat or fish is priceless!!!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been involved for about 4 years with Dreams for Kids. It's a great organization in terms of volunteering because everyone is extremely passionate about helping kids. You will also be sure to have a great time volunteering because you can feel the joy and happiness you are bringing to kids, whether it be for kids with disabilities or at risk youth. It just makes the time fly-by every event that I volunteer for because you are constantly engaged in activities. The organization is also operated by stand-up quality people including founder Tom Tuohy, Shelly Gonsch and crew. I've met some great people who have become friends through the years.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

On July 31st, I attended my first Extreme Recess event. I was blown away on many levels. The day was very organized. There was a wealth of things for the kids to do and volunteers to help them. It was clear the kids and their families were overjoyed with the opportunity to experience activities they have never or rarely participate in. I was proud to be a part of it.

Volunteer

Rating: 4

You know you have done a great job when you see the faces of the kids that go skiing, tubing, or fishing for the very first time. It is a great day for all involved.
I would recommend a recruiter assigned to each boat that would go out and get the boats filled so more kids and their families get involved and we can serve more kids quicker. This is what I did for Mike H.'s boat in the afternoon. The fishing slowed down in the afternoon. I think we could have recruited a little better for that activity as well. I think it moved things along with Mike's boat and got more people rides. Thanks for a special day.
Tom Mullen
Kiwanis

Niza M.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I was honored to be a part of the Dreams for Kids team for two months. They have a very welcoming and great team who are dedicated to service. Even though my internship with them has ended, I am certain that I have made long life friends and family and I will continue to work with them from wherever life takes me. Having attended Extreme Recess for the first time, I was touched by how happy and carefree the kids with disabilities were. It was great to see them enjoy the day and appreciate the simple joys life has to offer with no limitations. I come from Zambia where there are a lot of people who are in need of help. Seeing the work that Dreams for Kids is doing in reaching out was inspiring for me to start Holiday for Hope in my country. I learnt ways in which I can reach out to the community for help and Tom told me even if only one child shows up, I shouldn't lose hope but work towards a better turn out the next time and as I will be 'changing the world one person at a time'.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Dreams for Kids is an amazing organization that provides opportunities for children who need it the most. They focus on what the child CAN do, rather than what they cannot do. The positive environment throughout the organization inspires everyone involved to be the best they can be.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Dreams for Kids is a fantastic non-profit! I participated with them during this last summer. At every single event I helped out with the kids always left with giggles and grinning from ear to ear. Dreams for Kids truly makes a difference in children's lives.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Few companies or organizations act more or with more nobel motives than Dreams For Kids. DFK was a phenomenal fit for me because its mission aligned with my passion: spread opportunity to all children of all backgrounds, race, creed, ability... and allow them to fearlessly pursue their dreams. I am incredibly fortunate to have grown up in a cohesive, close, and objectively well off family. Because of this I have enjoyed my childhood very much; and I know that every kid in the world deserves the chance to also greatly enjoy their youth through support and the provision of opportunities that can lead them to succeed and follow their dreams later in life. This is Dreams For Kids: the national-award-winning Dream Leaders program that provides at-risk youth with the opportunities to help others while teaching critical thinking and business skills and encouraging college attendance; or the countless programs like Extreme Recess that allows many youth with disabilities their first chance to participate in sports and learn lessons that athletics instill; or providing children in nearly 100 countries with their first real Christmas celebration (and it is quite a celebration). It was an incredible experience working and seeing real results and as rewarding a summer as I will ever have. Few missions are more pure or admirable than DFK's looking to provide equal opportunities and support to all youth of the world; and I could not be more proud to say I was a part of it.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been involved with Dreams for Kids for many years and I have found it to be the best group of people I have had the priviledge to know. They are the most dedicated and generous people in the nonprofit communtiy. I have been to many of the events and each time I tell myself I must do more with this organization. I'm glad that an organization like Great Nonprofits can tell their story.

Maureen17

Volunteer

Rating: 5

In 1989, I was first introduced to Dreams For Kids at the first Christmas party at Clara's house. That will be a day I will NEVER forget. To see the joy this organization was able to bring to this homeless shelter was magical. I have seen the Dream Leaders program and it was amazing to see so many teens empowered..(I also felt empowered as I attended a parent session)...With the Extreme Recess program, I have attended tennis, baseball, water skiing and downhill snow skiing. WOW! While at these events, I have seen some of the biggest smiles I have ever seen! I have seen children experience things that would often be near impossible without this program. The Holiday for Hope party has grown so much since the first gathering. It is now taking place all over the world. The number of people who are positively touched by DREAMS FOR KIDS is staggering. I know that these children feel so rewarded by this program..As a volunteer, I too feel rewarded. Thank you Dreams for Kids!

Volunteer

Rating: 1

Dreams for Kids is great at talking about programs....but, in reality they do very few events. Tom Tuohy has a huge ego, doesn't appear to even really like kids.....other then when he can get a photo opportunity or when he has a microphone. The Christimas Party is nice, but DFK always overstates the number of kids at the event. Wake up, the Chicago Park District, Adaptive Adventures, Rehab Instititure of Chicago, Shriners, Great Lakes Adapted Sports Association, and the Midwest Sport and Social Club all have more programs in one month then Dreams does in an entire year!

Comments ( 1 )

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Tom Tuohy 10/04/2012

We are very sorry you had an uneven and unsatisfying experience with Dreams for Kids. Although this was our busiest year for Extreme Recess we generally do concentrate on just a few summer and winter events for these activities. Indeed the organizations you mentioned are simply great. We highly recommend them all. We love our long relationship with Shriners and the Park District and encourage our kids to enroll into the many regular programs of GLASA, who provides services we do not and ones they are exceptional at running. RIC was the pioneer in adaptive sports in Illinois and we have always been grateful to RIC for introducing us to adaptive sports 13 years ago though its then sports director, Tom Richey. Adaptive Adventures has brought such deep experience to Illinois from Colorado where they have long been recognized as one of the very best adaptive sports program. Our regular program work is in Illinois schools with our Dream Leaders program, working with young people like Cortez who shared his experiences in this forum. We are so proud of the work they are doing in our communities, and of the enterprises they are creating to help others. We are happy you enjoyed Holiday for Hope. This year will be our largest yet to be held at the Chicago Park Districts Broadway Armory on December 22. It is where it all begins for us each year, as it has for the last 24 years. We would love to have you back at the event.

cortezleonardalexander

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Dreams for Kids is an amazing non-profit that transforms lives on a daily basis. In the 3 years, I have worked with the organization each year I have learned more about myself than I could have imagined. I first came upon Dreams for Kids through a forum post by our former director Abby Krtizler. She was excited to tell me about the dream leaders conference during which I would learn about leadership development and helping people. Well that Friday arrived and I can assure you the dream leaders conference went far beyond anything I was expecting to experience. The endless smiles, laughter and excitement was something to see. This was vastly different than where I am from where teens and smiles and laughter often do not mix. The difference that I noticed between the two groups of people is that with the dream leaders they where empowered to make a difference.

Everywhere I turned there were teens doing something to make a difference in someone’s life. You can take for example Kelly Mak, who started a Dreams for Kids club at Whitney Young or the endless numbers of kids Glenbrook South High School who started an Extreme Recess event at their school. I was so empowered to make a difference that I decided to teach a workshop on leadership development and public speaking to youth from Iraq. The paying it forward motto that keeps kids empowered to make a difference no matter where we are from. It is the knowing that we each have something to give to give to somewhere. As Tom Tuohy says, the motto is simple “it’s kids helping kids.” This motto has kept me involved far beyond my expected time and has even leaded me to starting a Dreams for Kids club here at DePaul University. Dreams for Kids goes far beyond its mission and empowers youth of all walks of life, it is an organization that I am honored to be a part of.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Dreams for Kids was first introduced to me when I was applying for internships in Washington DC. After going through multiple websites of organizations and multiple interviews I wasn't blown away by any of them. Then I came across DFK and I knew I HAD to get this internship. Long story short I got the internship with them and was on my 6 hour drive down to Washington DC from Syracuse NY not knowing my entire life was about to do a 180. Working for Dreams for Kids changed my life. I made incredible friends and met amazing individuals. The work they do with Extreme Recess and Holiday for Hope is truly unbelievable. I will ALWAYS be there to support DFK in any little way that I can!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The Internet can do wonders because that's exactly how I found out about Dreams for Kids. I was impressed and moved by the mission behind this particular organization that I had to be a part of it. This past summer, I was fortunate to intern with Dreams for Kids in Chicago. I can easily say that the events I attended along with the work I did in the office was one of the best times I've spent in a summer. Everything Dreams for Kids does is more than words can express. It's not just a non-profit organization, but a great, big family. And I am so happy and grateful to have been a part of it.

Carrie30

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I was first Interduced to Dreams for Kids in 2008 while at the Illinios Center for Rehabilition and Education By Ron Rispoli I will never forget the feeling I had when he asked If I'd ever water skied before? My whole face lit up as I said " No but I'm willing to try! Then the monent came as the other kids and I were getting off the bus. Out loud I said to myself "Oh my god, today I don't have to be on the side!" Boy was that an understatement, That day turned my whole life into something new! Within a few weeks Ron came up to me in the hallway at ICRE. He asked "Are you inerested in a program called Dream Leaders?" Of Course, I said "Yes " Then he interduced me to Abby Kritzler the head of Dream Leaders. Abby had us do all kinds of things form whatching videos to saving bake sales to showing us just how much of impact we had on the world! That was when I realized just what I wanted the world to know. " Just because I'm differnent it doesn't mean I you have to be scraced" If this wasn't enough, One night she pulled me aside and to my surpirise offered me an internship and just like that I was part of of the Dream Team! I kept asking myself," How did this happen?" I then I rememered back to the day Ron asked, "Carrie have you ever been to Twin Lakes before?'' To this day if it was not for that one question someone asked I would not know who Tom Tuohy is or know just how much one day can change someone's life forever. Without Dreams for Kids I don't know who I wanted to be but, now almost five years later I might not know where I'm headed but I have pretty idea of who I am. Thanks to all who helped along the way!

Kelly47

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been with and seen the growth of Dreams For Kids since my years in High School. They have done some tremendous work for the community of Chicago and now that they have branched out to Washington D.C. and even to Canada excites me. I believe in the work they do. Dreams For Kids is more than just a non-for-profit. They are a positive family that really sees to it that the people around them have a great time and are learning as well. The past summer I interned for them and I had a terrific experience from the events that we attended to the hilarious moments in the office. It's a great place to be and a great place to start when you want to give back to your community.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Dreams for Kids is so refreshing! This organization reinforces the good in the world, spreading the seeds of success and hope for a child or young adult to grow into a leader.

Review from Guidestar

13

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Dreams for Kids' focus on empowerment is amazing, the ability to teach youth to promote change and overcome hardships and disability is an astounding and important goal. Dreams for Kids truly empowers the youth that it touches.