August in Chicago is a time for summer fun with numerous activities such as festivals, concerts, the beach, biking, running or kayaking the Skokie lagoons. Every August, for me, is when the Special Kids Foundation (SKF), a board that I’m on, meets to determine the grant recipients of the year.
The SKF offers grants to agencies that provide services to developmentally disabled children up to age 22. I became a proud member 6 years ago when my best friend, Mara Lazar, asked me to join. She became a member many years earlier, following in the footsteps of her mother who is still on the board. The board consists of numerous mother/daughter and mother/son members demonstrating a wonderful legacy.
The SKF was formed in 1926, under a different name, by a group of women honoring the recovery of a sick friend. Over the years the name of the foundation changed a few times as did the mission. In 2006 the name SKF was officially adopted.
We receive around 40 grant proposals each year that we have to review and whittle down to 16-20 grants that we like enough to do a site visit to find out more information.
This year I visited an amazing place, Special Gifts Theatre in Northbrook, IL. They provide children and teens with special needs the ability to use creative drama to express themselves. Each child is paired with a buddy, a neuro typical teen, who guides them through the activities. Through their program the young people not only have fun and get to enjoy theatre as a neuro typical child would, they also benefit therapeutically. Some of the many gains the children receive are improved communication skills, the ability to look people in the eye, new listening skills to help them develop healthy relationships, particularly with their buddies and more.
In August, we meet as a group to discuss all the site visits, rate each site visit, then tally up the ratings and the top 5-7 get the grants. As you can imagine this is a very difficult and often emotional task as every organization provides a wonderful service. This all culminates in an evening in September when we present the checks to the grant recipients. The recipients always give such heartfelt speeches expressing their gratitude for the grant and sometimes we get to meet some of the kids who will benefit from the grant.
I feel so fortunate to be part of this group of intelligent people and be able to make a difference in young people’s lives.
Read more about Special Kids Foundation and Special Gifts Theater here: