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Legendary sports figure Charlie Ward hosted an event in benefit of Our Kid's George H. Sheldon Transitioning Youth Fund.
 
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As the special guest, the NCAA National Champion, Heisman Trophy Winner, James Sullivan Award Winner, Johnny Unitas Award Winner, Davey O’Brien Award Winner, College Football Hall of Fame Inductee, Florida Sports Hall of Fame Inductee, Retired NBA Player, and adoptive parent of a former foster youth, Ward was touched by the recount of a foster child’s experience as they went through foster care only to end up aging out of the system with no forever family and without a person they can count on. Ward was so moved by his belief that all youth need continued supports as they begin their journey to adulthood that the celebrity sports figure pledged a $2,500 personal donation to fund the needs of the young adults receiving in Transitioning Youth Services. Ward also went on to issue a challenge of his own, the CHARLIE WARD Challenge; and encouraged the community to meet or beat his pledge. Ward spoke of his own adopted son and the challenges his son faced when he joined the Ward family at age 11. The now-coach shared how his son, now 23, still suffers from separation anxiety whenever he or his wife travel away from home; a residual effect of the trauma his son experienced from his abuse and time in foster care before joining the Ward family. His son, like so many of our youth who age out of foster care, continues to experience the lingering impacts of the abuse which landed him in the dependency system, as well as the impacts of growing up in foster care. However, he has the good fortune of having found caring, understanding and dedicated parents, who adopted him and continue to give him the support he needs to manage and overcome his challenges; unlike the youth who age out of foster care and often find themselves unprepared for the responsibilities and demands of adulthood and feel they have no one to whom they can turn other than Our Kids. Either as groups or individual donors, how many are willing to take on the CHARLIE WARD Challenge - to raise the funds needed to ensure our youth who age out of foster care are giving resources and assistance they need to that they may build skills, garner knowledge, create stable connections, and develop the self-confidence to build a happy, healthy, successful adulthood? With the community coming together over the next month, how much can we raise? Can we get to $25,000 by Valentine’s Day?
 
The CHARLIE WARD Challenge is on!.
 
For additional information about The Charlie Ward Challenge
CLICK on the link highlighted below:
 
 
 
 Bunchy

Our Kids Honors Miami's                                Ms. Claus ~ Anabel "Bunchy" Gertner

Our Kids honored Anabel "Bunchy" Gertner at a reception at Laloggia on, Wednesday, February 7, for her years of selfless service to ensure our children feel special for the holidays and when they age out of foster care and begin their journey to self-sufficient adulthood.

For the last 21 years Ms. Anabel "Bunchy" Gertner has selflessly volunteered her time and efforts to ensuring that the children in our community are made to feel cared for and special. For more than two decades she has served as an emissary of joy and hope by gathering and distributing gifts for the holidays to our community’s children, and for the past 9 years, putting together and giving out care packages when our youth age out of foster care and venture out to begin their adult lives.
 
Affectionately referred to as Mrs. Claus, Bunchy has spread holiday cheer to children that might otherwise be forgotten and left without holiday gifts, distributing hundreds of thousands of toys to the impoverished and at risk families in our community over the years. She has voluntarily taken on the juggernaut of a task, collecting thousands of toys every year, gracefully wrapping each individual gift and labeling them by age and gender, and then getting them into the hands of needy children who are waiting and hoping Santa Claus won’t forget them. For the past five years she has partnered with Our Kids of Miami-Dade/Monroe Inc. to collect, wrap and distribute holiday gifts to the approximately 3,100 children that are in care every year. Additionally, she gives toys to our prevention families, who are receiving preventative services aimed at helping them improve their situations without having to have their children removed from their care.  
 
Every year, approximately 150 youth age out of the foster care system. They turn 18 years old and are expected to begin caring for themselves after spending their childhoods dependent on the foster care system. As they begin their adulthood they can qualify for ongoing assistance if they hold down steady employment or are continuing their education-; but this hardly prepares them for living on their own. Bunchy helps us to step in and purchase a comprehensive Starter Kit of critical household items to help them begin their new lives. She raises funds and collects donations from the community to purchase brand new items, unlike the hand-me-downs they lived with throughout their lives. 
 
The Starter Kit includes bedding and towels, dishes, flatware and glassware, pots and pans, kitchen utensils, and a can opener. They also receive various toiletries, a waste basket and a laundry bag. This year hangers, a flashlight and a radio- alarm clock were added. There are no other agencies, organizations or individuals who replicate our comprehensive gift. More than just a nice token of care it instills in these young adults that they are not alone and gives them the opportunity to begin to build a healthy, productive and self-sufficient life with the basic essentials.
We want them to flourish and have the same advantages as their counterparts who have not had the challenges or trauma of abuse and the struggles of growing up in foster care. While these young adults may not have parents to get them set up in their first adult apartment, nor families to turn to for financial and emotional support, or extensive support systems they can rely on, at least they know that someone cares. She gives them a gift of pride in their new possessions and a bit of confidence in themselves as they move forward to build their own nest and piece together a new life.
 
Bunchy not only volunteers her time and efforts, she also rounds up her volunteer elves from the community to donate countless hours collecting, wrapping/packaging, and distributing these gifts to our children and young adults. But more than the joy of opening a gift and beyond putting a smile on a child’s face and giving them unforgettable moments of joy for the holidays or easing the stress of venturing out into the adult world, it gives the youth and their families hope. Hope that there are others who care. Hope that there will be better days to come.  Hope that they have not been forgotten and will not be discarded. 
 
 
This is the legacy built by our Ms. Claus, Bunchy Gertner.
 
Our Kids Celebrates Florida Children’s Week, January 21 through January 26, 2018.
 
 
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In commemoration of Florida Children’s Week, which is celebrated Sunday, January 21 through Friday, January 26, 2018, Our Kids held an internal Hand Art Competition. We invited our staff to engage their families by making hand art with their children and bringing it in to the office. Instead of mailing the art to Tallahassee we created our own display in the Lobby of our office building. A special thanks to all of the employees who worked with their families to provide art work for the display and entered the completion.
 
Congratulations to Kimberly Lopez from our training unit who was selected by the judging committee as the most crafty and creative entry. 
 
As the winner she will get lunch with our President and CEO George Sheldon.
 
About Children’s Week:
 
During the Children’s Week celebration, tens of thousands of pieces of ‘hand art" from across the state are hung throughout the Capitol Rotunda as a reminder to legislators and advocates that we must take care of our most precious commodity – our children. It is a statewide initiative that provides a platform and brings together advocates to deliver the message to our State Legislators that every child in Florida should be healthy, ready to learn, and able to achieve their full potential. Since its inception, Children’s Week has increased attendance and partnership to more than 130 paid partners, 5,000 attendees, 50 free community events statewide, and hundreds of volunteers who make Children’s Week the largest event hosted at Florida’s State Capitol.
 
For additional information about Children’s Week go to: www.childrensweek.org