According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, the United States had 902,270 public charities in 2006. You can choose to give you money to help build houses for the poor, find cures for diseases, protect endangered animals, or help children learn to read. The problem isn’t finding a charity to support, but narrowing down your options and choosing the one you find most worthy.
Of the almost one million charities registered in the U.S., many support children in one way or another. If you want to use your charitable dollars to help children, which is the best charity to choose? It can be a very difficult decision. Any of the following 25 kids charities (organized alphabetically) are a great place to start. Some you have surely heard of, while others may be new to you.
1. Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) Center
AVID is an educational program that helps C and D students improve their chances of getting into college. Students, most of whom are underprivileged, can begin the program as early as the fourth grade. They work with specially trained teachers and tutors to learn organizational and study skills and develop critical thinking abilities. Ninety-five percent of AVID graduates go to college, and 85% remain enrolled in college after two years.
AVID is active in 1,500 schools in 21 states and 15 countries. For more information, visit www.avidonline.org.
2. Big Brothers Big Sisters of America
Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBSSA) is the oldest and largest youth mentoring organization in the United States. They serve over 220,000 six- to 18-year-old kids, with a goal of reaching one million by 2010.
BBBSA mentors work one-on-one with children, helping them improve their study habits, develop confidence, and learn to relate to adults. The relationship they mentor and child develop has a direct and measurable impact on the child’s life: children in the BBSSA program are less likely to use drugs, use illegal alcohol, and skip school. They also do better in their schoolwork and get along better with their families.
For more information about BBSSA, go to www.bbbsa.org.
3. Boys & Girls Clubs of America
Boys & Girls Clubs of America began in 1860 when several women in Hartford, Conn. decided to develop a positive alternative for boys who were roaming the streets. Originally called the Boys Club, girls were added to the program in 1990, and girls now make up 45% of the membership. Now, Boys and Girls Clubs of America has around 4,300 clubs in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and on U.S. military bases around the world. 4.8 million boys and girls are served by the more than 50,000 trained professional staff members and volunteers who work for the organization.
The Boys & Girls Club is a neighborhood-based building, often a school, that offers youth programs and activities every day, after school and on weekends. Club dues are usually only $5 to $10 a year, making the club accessible to children who cannot afford other community programs. Through the Club, children have a safe place to hang out, learn, and grow. Special programs available to members might include such areas as
For more information about Boys and Girls Clubs of America, go to www.bgca.org.
4. Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States. Nearly 23 percent of high school students smoke, with 1,500 more kids becoming daily smokers every day. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids goals are to prevent kids from smoking, help smokers quit, and protect people from secondhand smoke. Some specific initiatives they are working toward include pushing for higher cigarette taxes and legislation to give the FDA authority over tobacco products and marketing.
Go to www.tobaccofreekids.org for more information about the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
5. Canines for Disabled Kids
Canines for Disabled Kids (CDK) is a relatively new charity, having begun only in 1998. This organization provides assistance dogs to children under age 12 who are autistic or have hearing or physical disabilities. Since its inception, CDK has placed sponsored over 90 assistance dogs. In addition to helping with the daily tasks of life, these assistance dogs provide companionship to the children and help them develop confidence and responsibility.
For more information about CDK, go to www.caninesforkids.org.
CASA, or Court-Appointed Special Advocates, began in Seattle in 1977 when a judge began using trained community volunteers to speak for the best interests of abused and neglected children in court. CASA now has 59,000 volunteers in over 900 areas and serves 243,000 abused and neglected children.
CASA volunteers are appointed by judges and act as officers of the court. Their duty is to research the background of an assigned case, speak on behalf of the child in the courtroom, and to represent the child’s best interests throughout the case – which may last for as long as two years.
For more information about CASA, visit www.nationalcasa.org.
7. Children's Defense Fund
The Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) has a mission to ensure that every child has a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start, and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities. Specific programs they focus on include children’s health insurance, summer and after-school enrichment programs, scholarships, and leadership development.
See www.childrensdefense.org for more information about the Children’s Defense Fund.
8. Communities in Schools
Communities in Schools (CIS) is a dropout prevention program that connects community resources with student needs. Specific services this group offers include mentoring, counseling, vision screening, day care, job training, and gang prevention. CIS operates at 2,500 schools in 32 states, reaching 1.9 million kids annually.
For more information about CIS, visit www.cisnet.org.
9. International Child Art Foundation
The International Child Art Foundation (ICAF) fosters children’s creativity by sponsoring art programs, exhibitions, and festivals for children and of children’s artwork. They also have a healing arts program that uses art to help children recover from disasters. For more information, visit www.icaf.org.
Since 1995, KaBOOM! has helped build more than 400 playgrounds, skate parks, ice rinks, and athletic fields in low-income areas around the United States. They have also helped renovate thousands of other play areas and provide training and expertise for communities that want to build their own playgrounds. They were instrumental in building 100 new playgrounds along the Gulf Coast after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck that area. For more information about KaBOOM!, visit www.kaboom.org.
11.Locks of Love
Locks of Love uses real, donated hair to make high-quality hairpieces for children who have suffered hair loss due to medical conditions. Their mission is to return a sense of self-confidence and normalcy to these children. The hairpieces are provided free of charge or on a sliding scale, depending on the financial need of the recipient. More than 2,000 children in all 50 states and Canada have been helped by Locks of Love.
For more information about Locks of Love, go to www.locksoflove.org.
The Make-a-Wish Foundation is the world’s largest wish-granting organization. In 2007, they granted wishes to 13,006 children suffering from life-threatening medical conditions. Since its beginning in 1980, this organization has granted more than 165,000 wishes. From an afternoon spent as a police officer or fire fighter to a visit to Disney World, the 25,000 volunteers who are part of the Make-A-Wish Foundation give ill children their greatest wishes.
To learn how you can donate to the Make-a-Wish Foundation, visit www.wish.org.
13.March of Dimes
March of Dimes is an organization dedicated to improving the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth, and infant mortality. Founded in 1938 as the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, the original mission of the March of Dimes was to find a vaccine for polio and to care for polio victims. Since that initial success, it has also been instrumental in developing newborn screening tests, identifying healthy habits for pregnant women, pioneering fetal surgical techniques, and working to reduce premature births.
The name “March of Dimes” was coined because of an initial campaign that requested donors send dimes to help fund polio research. The name was officially changed in 1979.
One of the major fundraisers sponsored by the March of Dimes is the annual WalkAmerica, which has helped raise more than $1.7 billion since its inception in 1970.
For more information about the March of Dimes, visit www.marchofdimes.com.
14.My Stuff Bags Foundation
Over 300,000 abused, abandoned, and neglected children across America are removed from dangerous home environments each year. They often arrive at crisis centers and foster homes with few, if any, personal belongings. The My Stuff Bags Foundation seeks to give these children comfort and hope by providing them with a My Stuff Bag full of things they need to help them settle in their new environments, such as clothes, toys, toiletries, stuffed animals, and a security blanket.
My Stuff Bags has provided bags to more than 320,000 children in 49 states since it began in 1998. There goal is to have a bag for every child removed from his or her home. For more information, go to www.mystuffbags.org.
15.National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
Since its beginning in 1984, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) has sought to
Prevent child abduction and sexual exploitation
Find missing children
Help victims of child abduction and sexual exploitation, as well as their families
Some specific programs the NCMEC conduct include
Serving as a clearinghouse for information about missing and exploited children
Distributing photographs and descriptions of missing children
Operating a hotline for reporting Internet-related child sexual exploitation
NCMEC also assists and trains law enforcement agencies and social service professionals to prevent, investigate, prosecute, and treat cases involving missing and exploited children
For more information about NCMEC, visit www.missingkids.com.
16.North American Council on Adoptable Children
The North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC) helps find permanent, loving homes for children once considered unadoptable or hard to place. They may be school-aged children, many of whom have physical, mental, or emotional difficulties. They also help adults through the pre-adoption process and provide support to adoptive families.
For more information about NACAC, go to www.nacac.org.
17.Partnership for a Drug-Free America
The Partnership for a Drug-Free America unites parents, scientists, and communicators to help families raise healthy children. It offers research-based public education programs that help parents to keep their children from using drugs and alcohol and to find treatment for children who are in trouble.
For more information about the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, visit http://www.drugfree.org.
18.Ronald McDonald House Charities
Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) seeks to create, find, and support programs that directly improve the health and well-being of children. They are probably most well known for their Ronald McDonald houses that provide a home away from home for families of seriously ill children receiving treatment at nearby hospitals. However, RMHC also has other programs:
A Ronald McDonald Family Room located near the pediatric areas of many hospitals. This room provides parents of children in the hospital a comfortable place to sit and relax.
Ronald McDonald Care Mobiles that bring medical, dental, and health education services to underserved children around the world.
Grants to help other not-for-profit organizations that serve children worldwide.
Scholarships to students entering college across the United States.
For more information, visit www.rmhc.org.
19.Reach Out and Read
Children who are read to during the first years of life are more likely to learn to read on schedule, priming them for success in school and throughout life. Through Reach Out and Read (ROR), pediatricians, family physicians, and nurses make reading a part of pediatric primary care. At well-child check-ups, they encourage parents to read aloud to their children and give each child between the ages of six months and five years a new children’s book to keep. They also provide waiting rooms with many reading choices and sometimes even volunteer readers.
More than 14,000 pediatricians participate in ROR throughout all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Guam. In 2007, they distributed 4.6 million books to 2.8 million U.S. infants, toddlers, and preschoolers.
For more information, visit www.reachoutandread.org.
20.Save the Children
The original Save the Children Fund began in England in 1919 and provided aid to children in Vienna affected by World War I. It was reborn in the United States in 1932 as an organization designed to help the people of Appalachia who were struggling through the Great Depression. Since then, Save the Children has grown to a worldwide organization serving 37 million children in more than 50 countries. Programs include food aid, education, health care, and economic-development programs.
While Save the Children may be best known for its child sponsorship programs around the world, it has several active programs in the United States, including
After-school programs for more than 125,000 children
Eye care services and glasses to Navajo and Hopi children in New Mexico and Arizona
A Family Day Care Network that trains women to start in-home child care centers and offers referrals to parents seeking child care
For more information, go to www.savethechildren.org.
21.Shriners Hospitals for Children
Shriners Hospitals for Children is an international health care system of 22 hospitals that provide care for children up to the age of 18 who have orthopedic conditions, burns, spinal cord injuries, and cleft lip and palate. The children are cared for in a family-centered environment at no charge, regardless of financial need.
The first Shriners Hospital began in 1919 and was founded by the Shriners of North America. It is still supported by donations from the Shriners fraternity and from the public. For more information, visit www.shrinershq.org.
Special Olympics offers year-round training and competition in 30 Olympic-type sports to children and adults who have intellectual disabilities. They help participants
Improve their physical fitness and motor skills
Develop greater self-confidence and a more positive self-image
Discover new talents and abilities
Make new Friends
Become productive and respected members of society
Special Olympics serves 2.5 million people in over 180 countries. For more information, go to www.specialolympics.org.
23.St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
St. Jude is a hospital located in Memphis, Tennessee that treats children with serious illnesses such as cancer, AIDS, and sickle cell anemia. In addition to the hospital, St. Jude also includes a research facility dedicated to raising the survival rate for many diseases. Because of research done at St. Jude, the survival rate for some pediatric cancers has increased from 20 to 70 percent.
Since its founding in 1962 by actor Danny Thomas, children from all 50 states and around the world have been treated at St. Jude. All told, St. Jude’s treats some 4,300 children a year — at no cost to their families. It is the third largest health care charity in the United States and has more than one million volunteers nationwide.
The primary funding arm for St. Jude is the American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities. For more information about St. Jude, visit www.stjude.org.
24.Toys for Tots
Toys for Tots is a mission of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve. During October, November and December each year, Toys for Tots volunteers collect new, unwrapped toys in their community and distribute them as Christmas gifts to needy children in that same community.
Toys for Tots began Toys for Tots began in 1947 when Marine Reservists in Los Angeles collected and distributed 5,000 toys to needy children. The organization grew and spread to other communities, and in 2006, local Toys for Tots Coordinators distributed 19.2 million toys to 7.6 million needy children in 558 communities throughout all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. All told, the Toys for Tots program has distributed more than 370 million toys to more than 173 million needy children.
For more information about Toys for Tots, including how to volunteer or to donate money or toys, visit www.toysfortots.org.
25.United States Fund for UNICEF
UNICEF began after World War II to supply milk and food to starving children in Europe, the Middle East, and China. Today, UNICEF is active in more than 150 countries and territories around the world, helping to develop community-based programs to promote health and immunization programs, basic education, nutrition, safe water supply and sanitation services, and emergency relief.
The United States Fund for UNICEF supports the worldwide UNICEF program and focuses on five major priorities: education, emergencies, HIV/AIDS, immunization, and malnutrition. For more information, see www.unicefusa.org.
For more charities that help and serve children, go to www.Childrenscharities.org. This website lists many more charities you can support. You can also go to the website www.guidestar.org for a full report on thousands of charities.
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