Ten-year-old got $200 to use at Walmart and spent it all on One Hope United kids

The heroes referred to in the Twin Lakes, WI–area “Shop with a Hero” event are local members of the police and fire departments.

But for the youth served by One Hope United’s offices in Kenosha, WI, and Gurnee, IL, the real hero was fifth grader Kaiden Rivera.

Rivera, 10, was one of 26 students chosen by their schools to receive $200 to spend at Walmart. Most of the students spent the money on items for themselves and on gifts for their friends and family. But Rivera chose to spend the entire $200 on items for One Hope United youth.

“I’m buying for charity,” Rivera told the Kenosha News. “My grandpa gave me the idea.”

“Every year we try to donate,” explained Rivera’s mom, Kayla Blank. In addition to Rivera’s donation, Blank bought an additional $100 worth of toys with money donated by her stepfather.

The students were free to use the money how they wished. The money is donated by local individuals, businesses, and members of the Twin Lakes Professional Police Association. The event promotes a sense of community and trust between the youth and their public safety officials.

Rivera and his family remind us that anyone, no matter their age or position, can make a positive impact on another person’s life.

One Hope United serves over 9,000 children and families each year through a variety of programs including early education, foster care, counseling, and more.

If you would like to make a gift that benefits a One Hope United child or family this holiday season—or any season—visit our Wishbook, where you can purchase goods and experiences that have a direct benefit on people’s lives, including education opportunities, clothing, therapies, and more.

Youth in Centralia residential care program enjoy campout

Youth and staff from One Hope United’s residential care program in Centralia, Ill., stepped out of their normal routines to go camping last month at nearby Camp Maranatha.

OHU occupied two cabins at the camp in Ramsey, Ill., and male and female youth and staff took turns spending a night. Most of the youth had never camped before and staff enjoyed giving them this opportunity. “It was great to see them get to just be kids,” said Rachel Stransky, activity specialist at the care program.

Campers swam — using the campground’s giant waterslide and water trampoline — and also floated in canoes and paddle boats and fished.

In the evenings, they cooked meals over the campfire. Youth stayed up late to sit around the fire, eat s’mores and tell ghost stories. Some youth and staff also played a game of flashlight tag.

“It was great because we didn’t have to do our point sheets and we got to stay up late!” said one female youth who attended the campout.

Overall, it was a great experience and something youth and staff likely will not forget.

OHU receives donation in memory of inspiring former employee

Friends of former One Hope United employee DeColbie Esco recently honored him by donating a large portion of the proceeds from a charity golf outing to OHU in his memory. 

DeColbie, who was killed at age 30 in a hit-and-run car accident last summer, served as a role model to many people. 

“It was so surprising the impact he had on me,” said Amanda Siegrist, DeColbie’’s college classmate. “It was very humbling and inspiring to hear the struggles he had grown up with.” 

DeColbie was raised in a rough neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago. At 14, he was caught selling drugs by an undercover police officer. His mother knew she had to take action to help DeColbie. She encouraged him to work with teachers to improve his grades, and he started playing football. 

Sports proved to be an important outlet for DeColbie. Upon graduating high school, he received a scholarship to play football at Wingate University in North Carolina. For his senior project in college, he and his classmate, Amanda, wrote about how football influenced him to change his life. 

“He didn’t have a chip on his shoulder about the world. He just went about his life and did the best he could with what he had,” Amanda said. “A big part of his making a change was he just needed people in his life to give him support,” she added. 

When DeColbie graduated college and moved back to the Chicago neighborhood where he grew up, he wanted to be that source of support for other children in his community who were struggling to make a change. He began working for an OHU child development center in an after-school care program. 

Amanda and a few other Wingate alumni and professors held their first golf outing in May and chose to celebrate DeColbie’’s efforts in supporting at-risk children by donating some of the proceeds to OHU.

Old Navy holds diaper drive for Go Blue campaign

ohu-Old Navy diaper driveThe Old Navy store in Vernon Hills, Ill., participated in our April Go Blue Campaign for Child Abuse Prevention Month by holding a diaper drive for One Hope United clients. We appreciate it and thank store manager Rick Pilcher for organizing the effort!

Students reach for the stars with foster grandparent’s merit program

Students at Ball Charter Elementary School in Springfield, Ill., pose with their portraits, drawn by foster grandparent volunteer Bassem Zaki.

Foster grandparent Bassem Zaki is encouraging student achievement at Ball Charter Elementary School in Springfield, Ill., with a new merit program.

Zaki, who is working closely with teachers to implement the program, joined his artistic abilities along with his passion for helping students to create the new system. He designed stars for each student, and when a student accumulates 50 star points, Zaki — with student permission — will draw and frame a portrait of that student, who can then take it home. The stars also can be used in the school store.

The teachers are pleased with Zaki’s creativity and commitment to helping them and their students. Zaki said he is happy to encourage excellence in scholastic achievement.

Unique auction items a hit at OHU Blue Ribbon Event

ohu-abbyblueribbon-2A painting by 8-year-old One Hope United volunteer Abby Bergl and a basket of homemade dog biscuits baked by Mark McHugh, executive director of One Hope United — Northern Region, and his wife, Lisa, were both popular auction items at the agency’s 10th Annual Blue Ribbon Event, held April 21, in Lake Villa, Ill.

Abby’s original artwork sold for $1,400 in the live auction. The basket of biscuits sold for $150 in the silent auction, so McHugh and his wife promised to bake a second batch for the live auction, where they sold for $1,000.

Thank you for these unique auction items!

Kraft volunteers beautify, organize games at Busy Bee

ohu-Girl in Tunnel
Busy Bee Children’s Center recently welcomed employees from Kraft Foods Group Inc. to their campus, where they beautified the center’s grounds and created an Olympics Day for the children. 

Thirteen Kraft employees weeded and planted perennials and organized games, including an obstacle course, leap frog, bowling and freeze dance. 

The employees from Northfield, Ill.-based Kraft Foods were sent as part of a Chicago Cares volunteer day. Chicago Cares builds volunteer experiences that mobilize and inspire people to make Chicago a stronger community.

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Rodhe chairs Blue Ribbon Event

ohu-rodheOne Hope United held its 10th Annual Blue Ribbon Event Sunday, April 21, at the historic Lehmann Mansion in Lake Villa, Ill. We were honored to have Cecilia Rodhe (pictured) — mother of Chicago Bulls’ Joakim Noah and co-founder of the Noah’s Arc Foundation — as our honorary chair. Thank you to all who came out to support us. Click here to learn more about the great work Rodhe and Noah are doing to improve children’s lives.

Foster mom donates 'Comfort Kits'


Forty foster children will receive welcoming “Comfort Kits” thanks to a recent donation from foster mom Chrys Zastrow to One Hope United — Northern Region.

The duffle bag kits, 20 for boys and 20 for girls, are filled with a handmade fleece blanket, small stuffed animal, toiletries, toothbrush and toothpaste, refillable water bottle and either a book or an art kit (depending on the child’s age).

Zastrow got the idea for the kits when her three foster daughters arrived last year from OHU on an emergency basis with only the clothes on their backs — and three similar “Comfort Kits” provided to OHU by a church in Gurnee, Ill. Those kits were handmade laundry bags stuffed with a blanket, stuffed animal and book and an outside pocket containing toiletries.

 Zastrow was so overwhelmed by the gift that she was inspired to make more and pay it forward.

Over the past year, Zastrow’s co-workers, family and friends helped her raise money for the kits through events such as lemonade stands and fun runs. She also received many donated items. For example, her dentist donated all the toothbrushes and toothpaste. Also, JoAnn Fabrics provided discounts on the fabric and Garvey discounted the duffle bags.

The “Comfort Kits,” provided to foster children who have been removed from their homes, can be picked up at OHU in Lake Villa.

Target grant provides new books for Busy Bee children

ohu-cdc-targetBooks 1There’s nothing like the smell of brand new books! Thanks to a grant from Target to promote early childhood reading, children at Busy Bee Children’s Center in Waukegan, Ill., are enjoying nearly 150 new books.

ohu-cdc-targetBooks 11“The children and staff were very excited and grateful for the donation,” said Kay Smith, the Waukegan day care center‘s director.

Books covered a range of topics, including going green, transporatation, community helpers, letters, numbers, science, animals, being healthy and books to support social-emotional development.