Spotlight: Dreams for Kids

In Society by Kristin DrysdaleLeave a Comment

 Replacing Charity with Opportunity

We have but one life. We get nothing out of that life except by putting something into it. To relieve suffering, to help the unfortunate, to do kind acts and deeds  is, after all, the one sure way to secure happiness or to achieve real success. Your life and mine shall be valued not by what we take… but by what we give.

 — Edgar “Daddy” Allen, Easter Seals Founder

Never truer are the words of wisdom spoken as when they pierce the heart which dares to yearn for more …  This season, when so many people are scaling back and doing less, on behalf of everyone here in our Lend A Hand community, I DARE you to do more. It is with great honor that we shine the Spotlight on an organization doing just that – Dreams for Kids

Some History

In 1989, while being recognized at an event for his service, Tom Tuohy‘s mother pulled him aside to point out all of his diverse friends gathered there around him and gave him the idea to unite around a common purpose. With great compassion as she was a struggling single parent of four, she suggested that Tom and his friends do something that would make a lasting difference to children in need. That evening the idea was born. By the next morning, Tom awoke with the name Dreams for Kids fastened in his mind.

As Tom gathered his friends, who became the first Board of Directors of Dreams for Kids, it was clear that they all shared great enthusiasm for the promise of the organization. The only missing ingredient was a plan for what they were going to do. Through happenstance, one of Tom’s friends gave him a number to a lady who had been asking for support for a shelter she had built in the Englewood neighborhood on the Southside of Chicago, Illinois. Tom’s phone call to Clara Kirk would soon reveal Clara’s fortitude and determination. Tom asked if there was anything Dreams for Kids could do for the children at her shelter and when would be a good time, to which Clara replied “Right now. If you are serious, you will come right now.” And so he did.

After coming down to the shelter and meeting Clara, Dreams for Kids proposed that they host a Christmas party. Clara agreed, and plans began to ensue. Tom asked for the names and ages of all the children living there; Clara accounted for fifty-four. The entire Board went shopping, got a feast together, and recruited a Santa for what would be the first of many cherished Saturday-before-Christmas parties at Clara’s House. When Clara told the volunteers that the kids would never have even known it was Christmas, the Board left knowing they had to do more. And they did.

Today, Holiday for Hope is the largest holiday event of its kind in the world and brings over 1,500 homeless and severely at-risk children to one location in Illinois and over 6,000 worldwide, on one day in December to share the holiday spirit.

The joy of brightening other’s lives, bearing each other’s burdens, easing other’s loads, and supplanting
empty hearts and lives with generous gifts, becomes for us the magic of Christmas.
— W.C. Jones, U.S. Representative

Today’s Primary Mission, Vision, Approach, and Purpose


Dreams for Kids isn’t just another collect-and-drop-charity. Instead, this 501(c) (3) non-profit organization seeks to replace charity with opportunity for at-risk youth through service, leadership and social activities while inspiring them to go after their dreams and be change agents in their community and in the world.


To unite children of various ability, race, religion, and social-economic background and inspire them to realize their fullest potential to serve as active contributing members of their communities and citizens of the world.


Core to their programming, is the empowerment of youth who live in poverty and also those with disabilities. Each young person is reminded of their intrinsic value and their ability to give to others, and then they are given opportunities to serve and make a difference in the lives of others.


To break down the barriers of segregation, embrace the abilities and potential of an isolated population, and empower them to “pay it forward” in such a way which changes their communities and transforms their lives.







When you want to help someone, first you have to understand who they are. When you understand who they are, then you can gain acceptance. When they accept you in their life, they will trust you. When they trust you, you can truly make a difference.

Father Wally,  Spiritual Advisor and member of the original Board of Directors of Dreams for Kids

A Personal Note:

As a mother of six, and having spent a few Christmases in Shelters I want to say Thank You to all the organizations, agencies, programs, advocates, donors, sponsors, and volunteers who make a difference by giving so much of their time, energy, and personal resources to help our children through these transition times.  Because of you, there really is such a thing as a Holiday for Hope.