Meet Our Grantees
In addition to the national grants we provide to Feeding America and Starlight Children’s Foundation to deliver impact nationally, the Joy in Childhood Foundation provides grants to hundreds of nonprofit organizations annually working tirelessly to provide the simple joys of childhood to kids battling hunger or illness in our communities – from children’s hospitals to camps, after-school feeding programs and more.
National Philanthropy Day
To celebrate National Philanthropy Day on November 15, 2019, we surprised 150 nonprofit organizations across the country with grants. These grants support organizations and programs as varied as BackPack feeding programs, art, music and pet therapy for pediatric patients, nutrition education programs, camps for kids with cancer and their families, in-hospital room music and magic, birthday parties for kids in need, school pantries and more. See a list of our 2019 regional grantees here.
Read on to meet some of our very special grantees.
“When I get those food bags, they’re really heavy, and that heaviness is love.” Xander is a soon-to-be second grader who loves recess, superheroes, and eating “lots and lots of cereal.” He says food, and having enough of it, makes him feel better and energetic. One of the ways Xander and his family are able to get enough food is through Care and Share’s Send Hunger Packing program.
Care and Share’s Send Hunger Packing program is powered by a group of volunteers who come into the food bank every week and pack dozens of bags with food items like peanut butter, pasta, canned meats, fruits, and vegetables. Those bags then make their way to schools across Southern Colorado. Xander picks up the food bag at the end of the day each Friday and takes it home to share with his family.
The Joy in Childhood Foundation is proud to support Care and Share’s Children’s Nutrition Initiative programs with a grant for programs like Send Hunger Packing so kids and their families can learn and grow.
Courtney loves playing the guitar, horseback rides and practicing her black belt in karate. And don’t forget giving hugs. At summer camp, when the “hug bell” rings, Courtney joins nearly 100 kids in the center of camp to give free hugs to new friends made during a special week in June.
Courtney’s zeal for life is even more impressive in light of the obstacles she’s already faced as a 14-year-old. When Courtney was born in 2003, her mom knew something wasn’t right. Courtney was later diagnosed with a spontaneous condition called an RYR1 myopathy, a neuromuscular disease affecting muscle movement and strength. She can’t run, she has to monitor her body temperature and she faces spine surgeries and therapies to maintain her health.
Yet, Courtney has found a place where they understand. “Camp Sunshine is home,” says Courtney. “People don’t judge you because they have muscular diseases too.” For one week every year, Courtney attends Camp Sunshine, the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s annual retreat in upstate New York for kids ages 8-17 facing a neuromuscular disease. Courtney describes camp as a place with endless fun, where she can write songs with pals, get glammed up for the Camp dance and make friendship bracelets for hours.
“The timing for discovering Camp Sunshine was perfect,” says Amy Perrin, Courtney’s mom. “Courtney was struggling to make friends in middle school. The camp allowed her to make friends and be with other kids going through the same thing. This experience has been a lifesaver for her and our family.”
The Joy in Childhood Foundation is proud to fund Camp Sunshine and help kids like Courtney make lifelong friends and memories.
When the Merrimack Valley YMCA opened their food pantry in October 2017 close to her work, Angela Santos couldn’t have been happier. Because of where her job is located, Angela had been unable to get to other food pantries during open hours.
Now Angela shops for food for her 14-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son at 4 p.m. every Thursday. “I especially appreciate the fresh meats, milk, vegetables and the ability to shop like I am at a market. I love being able to roast vegetables,” said Angela, who is able to make two to three meals that last the week and even has leftovers. This is a welcome supplement to the $60 she receives in food stamps.
The Joy in Childhood Foundation was proud to give a grant to the Merrimack Valley YMCA to make their dream of setting up a food pantry a reality so families do not have to go without food over the weekend and find some dignity along as a part of the process.
Danielle is a smart, silly and kind-hearted elementary-schooler who loves learning about shapes and angles in geometry. Through the Food Bank of Northwest Indiana BackPack Program, Danielle and her younger sister are among the 400 students who receive a sack full of food every Friday during the school year.
The nutritious, kid-friendly foods in each backpack give them enough food to last the weekend until school resumes. Danielle says that often she and her family don’t have enough food at home. Even though her dad is always working and they have food stamps, it simply isn’t enough. “Sometimes, the food we get from the weekend bags is all we have at home.”
The Joy in Childhood Foundation proudly supports the Foodbank of Northwest Indiana by granting money that supports their weekend backpack program providing 9,700 meals to kids a year.
Randall Just has been a school coordinator for the Kansas Food Banks’ Food4Kids weekend backpack program for three years. Through his work he makes sure that chronically hungry children, who attend ElDorado Middle School, receive food packets on Friday so they don’t have to go without food over the weekends. Randall loves seeing how proud the kids feel being able to bring food home to their families.
He also enjoys connecting with the students and hearing what is going on in their lives. “I was able to help one family make sure each of the children received a weekend pack because the young boy confided in me that his siblings were without food. I love being a part of a program that is a solution to hunger”
Funds granted by the Joy in Childhood Foundation have helped the Kansas Food Bank to distribute 17,958 packets of food to more than 6,800 children during the 2017-2018 school year.
The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp was founded in 1988 by Paul Newman with one simple premise in mind: that every child, no matter their illness, could experience the transformational spirit and friendships that go hand-in-hand with camp. It is dedicated to providing a “different kind of healing” to seriously ill children and their families throughout the Northeast, free of charge and brings healing experiences to more than 20,000 seriously ill kids and families annually. It’s a community that celebrates the fun, friendship and spirit of childhood where every kid can “raise a little hell.”
Camp activities include horseback riding, archery, sports and recreation, swimming, boating, fishing, theater arts, music, tennis, miniature golf, arts and crafts, adventure and high-ropes, and woodworking. Camper diagnoses include cancer, sickle cell disease, hemophilia, HIV/AIDS, metabolic illnesses and other rare diseases. The Hole in the Wall Gang medical staff on site can provide medical care including medications (oral, G-tube, IV, shots, chemotherapy, IV factor), nutrition (special diets, G-tube, IV), respiratory care (including nebulizer treatments and supplemental oxygen), and central line care and dressing changes.
Funds from the Joy in Childhood Foundation help provide transportation, medical care, ’round-the-clock supervision, activities, meals and everything needed to make Camp an incredible experience.
For more information, visit https://www.holeinthewallgang.org/.
The mission of the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank is to mobilize resources to fight hunger in the community. To fulfill their mission, they source and acquire food and other products and distribute them to needy people through charitable agencies or directly through programs; conduct hunger education and awareness campaigns and advocate for public policies that alleviate hunger; and energize the community to get involved and support hunger relief.
They achieve their mission by: sourcing, acquiring and distributing food and other products to people in need through partner agencies and directly through Food Bank operated programs; energizing the community to partner in supporting hunger relief; and conducting hunger education and awareness campaigns, while advocating for public policies that alleviate hunger. Their vision is that no one goes hungry in Los Angeles County.
The Joy in Childhood Foundation is proud to support the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank. In 2017, a grant from the Foundation helped provide 50,000 meals to children and families across Los Angeles County.
The youngest of three children, little seven-year-old Aubree might be the strongest of all three siblings. In September 2013, the Willis family received a diagnosis that Aubree had High Risk B-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.
Throughout her treatment at Palmetto Health Cancer Center in South Carolina, Aubree always had a smile on her face and a giggle that won over every nurse and doctor on the floor. When she wasn’t laughing or smiling, Aubree was coloring, playing outside and completing jigsaw puzzles with her sister Kylie.
Aubree has big dreams for life, and being a horseback rider is one of them. This idea took root after participating in the Curing Kids Cancer Pony Days with the University of South Carolina Equestrian team. The Joy in Childhood Foundation gave a grant to make Pony Days possible for kids like Aubree so they could ride, groom and relax with the horses.
Curing Kids Cancer is committed to finding cures for all childhood cancers in our lifetime. As part of their work, they fund outpatient pediatric cancer centers in Atlanta and South Carolina which provide sibling support programs, family meal programs and mini camps for patients.
When asked to share her advice for parents who have a child with cancer, Aubree’s mom said, “Breathe, just breathe. Find and hold on to all the joyful memories and don’t let cancer take the reins of your life.”
We are proud to support parents like Aubree’s by creating joyful moments for children when facing difficult times. Aubree has now been cancer free for two and a half years — and that’s a reason for all of us to smile.
Noah Grove, an 18-year-old sophomore at the University of New Hampshire, is not your average college kid – and he has a gold medal to prove it. Noah plays forward on Team USA’s sled hockey team, taking home a gold medal this year at the Winter Paralympic Games in Gangneung, South Korea.
In 2004, Noah Grove had his left leg amputated after being diagnosed with bone cancer at only five years old. He spent nine months in treatment at the Lombardi Cancer Center at Georgetown University. This is where he first met Tracy’s Kids, a Joy in Childhood Foundation grantee that uses art therapy to help young cancer patients and their families cope with the emotional stress and trauma of cancer and its treatment.
“It was all we could do to entertain him, said Rachael Grove, Noah’s mom. “The art therapy offered through Tracy’s Kids was perfect because he had the option of doing it in his room if his counts were low or go down to the clinic with other kids. He did a lot with clay, and I have almost every piece that he made.”
Noah’s mom also held on to a special stuffed lion missing its left leg that reminds her of Tracy’s Kids’ meaningful impact during their hospital stay. When Noah had his amputation surgery, Tracy’s Kids did “surgery” on Noah’s favorite stuffed animal and returned it to him in recovery.
Today, nothing is slowing Noah down. Between college classes, he’s a year-round athlete competing on both Team USA’s sled hockey team and the U.S. Amputee Soccer Team. In addition, Noah makes time to give back to organizations that helped him over the years. He serves as an ambassador for Tracy’s Kids and volunteers with other children’s charities where he visits kids in hospitals who have experienced similar circumstances.
Noah offers these kids hope with words that are pure gold. “I share my story and let kids try on my Olympic medal so they know that the tough times they’re going through won’t last forever.”
Christina was born with a left arm limb deficiency and has been a patient at Shriners Hospitals for Children – Springfield, where she has been fitted with a number of prosthetic arms over the course of her growth, since she was six months old. Now, Christina is an active 11-year-old girl who knows no limits or boundaries. “Can’t” is considered a bad word in her vocabulary.
Christina is a National Junior Olympic Cross Country runner and has qualified to run at the US Junior Olympic Nationals for the last three years. She enjoys alpine downhill skiing, loves to read and perform in her school drama club – where she recently played Pumba from the Lion King.
Christina has also recently taken up golf. She works with a coach and a professional golf instructor who guide her in learning the skills and rules of golf. She absolutely loves playing golf with her new prosthetic arm from Shriners Hospital and is excited for the opportunity to join the golf team at school.
Christina loves to offer one piece of advice… Please don’t stare! She encourages others to ask about her arm and loves to talk and teach others about her limb deficiency. Christina feels her limb deficiency is what makes her unique and that being “single handed” has made her strong in many ways.
Support received from the Joy in Childhood Foundation ensures that Shriners Hospitals for Children – Springfield can carry on its mission of providing life-changing care to children like Christina.
Gaby and her husband have three children: John is seven, Gavin is two and Marietta is one. When they first got married their lives were pretty stable. But then Gaby lost her job, and a year later Josh did too. As she said, “things went downhill from there.”
Gaby and her family are among thousands in the region that receive help from the Pittsburgh Food Bank to ensure that their children are healthy and thriving. The Food Bank supports them through its mobile food bank which visits their community along with the weekly Backpack Program at school.
Gaby explains how vital the Backpack Program that John receives in school is to her family’s life. “Each Friday, he comes home with a bag full of healthy food that enables me to make quick, easy meals for all my children. Josh and I may have to skip meals, but we make sure our children never have to. Without Backpack Day, I really don’t know how we’d feed them.”
The Joy in Childhood Foundation proudly supports the Pittsburgh Food Bank by providing funds for the Backpack Program. Currently, the Food Bank provides weekend bags to 2,000 children each week in Pittsburgh.
Above the Clouds, based in Norwood, Massachusetts, brings joy and hope through the wonder of small aircraft flight to children and teens who are seriously ill, disabled, underserved, or facing other serious adversity. ATC’s programs provide important relief for kids under tremendous stress and inspire disengaged youth to participate in making their dreams come true. The non-profit, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization accomplishes its mission through its three programs: Dream Flyers, Cadet Flyers, and Discovery Flyers.
Above the Clouds’ Dream Flyers Program is a special way to bring joy and hope to children who are facing all kinds of serious adversity. For seriously ill children, Above the Clouds delivers a unique kind of medicine — programming designed to build anticipation and excitement for a special, joyful experience flying (actually taking the controls!) in the co-pilot’s seat of a small airplane or helicopter.
In 2017, the Joy in Childhood Foundation was proud to help fund one of Above the Clouds’ Dream Flight Days.
Please note that at this time we do not accept unsolicited grant requests. All grantees are nominated by members of the Dunkin’ Brands community.