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On Behalf of Our Kids

Four Oklahoma Organizations with a Heart for the Youngest Oklahomans

Summertime in Oklahoma means many different things for the youth in our community. From enjoying a break from school, family vacations, summer jobs and sports to enjoying leisure activities with friends, it can be easy to forget that so many of the organizations that help the children in our community throughout the year are still working tirelessly during the summer months, and there are ways that the community can lend a hand. 

Four local organizations share their missions and how the community can get involved.

Joe Dorman, Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy 

The OICA is a nonprofit helping to raise awareness about the needs of children statewide, prioritizing child wellbeing, health and safety. 

How can the community get involved?

You can start by going to our website at OICA.org to look for opportunities to engage. If you want to advocate for children directly, attend one of our training programs or forums. OICA periodically provides training sessions at the Capitol for members of the public to learn how to engage their lawmakers directly. We are also hosting a fall forum at OSU-OKC Oct. 1 and 2, which is an excellent opportunity to learn about the issues impacting children and to hear directly from professionals who spend their time helping kids.
 
If you are less policy-focused but still want to make a difference in the lives of children, consider helping our holiday gift drive, OK Foster Wishes. Every year, OICA works with DHS and other partners to deliver thousands of toys to children in the foster care system. We need volunteers and donors to support this great program.

Cheri Fuller, OK Messages Project

The Oklahoma Messages Project aims to maintain a positive connection between incarcerated parents and their children. Through this multi-media literacy program, families can share a small part of a parent-child routine though reading.

What was the driving force behind your decision to get involved? 

Truly, seeing the need of the children was the driving force. While I was teaching a relational parenting class I created at the largest women's max/medium prison in OK to help the mothers rebuild a connection with their children, I discovered that the majority of moms never see their children. This is heartbreaking to the moms but far more so to the children whose lives are shattered and who are sent to relatives in another town. To the kids, it's as traumatic as the death of that parent.

So a few compassionate people and I formed a nonprofit, found a national model that we brought to Oklahoma and launched the OK Messages Project, a literacy and prevention program. We train volunteer teams who go with staff into prisons before Christmas, Mother's Day and Father's Day. We coach and film parents reading to their kids and sharing a positive but vital message, like, "This is not your fault. Mommy is safe, and I miss you, and love you! I have your picture by my bed. I'm so proud of you…" We send the DVDs and books to the children, who read along with their parents every day. Having the video they can play whenever they miss mom or dad makes a significant impact on the kids' lives. It decreases kids' nightmares, worry (many fear mom is in a dog cage or beaten up) and sadness—and most of all, gives them hope and a sense of being loved and not forgotten.

OKMessagesProject.org

Susan Adams, Ronald Mcdonald House President and CEO

Families going through a medical crisis want to be present for every life-saving decision for their child, but the stresses of everyday life along with hotel, gas and food bills can sometimes be overwhelming. That's where RMHC-OKC steps in to provide a place to stay and meals to eat all within steps of their child's bedside.  

How can the community get involved?

Wishlist drives or volunteering as a guest chef are two of the most popular ways to support families with a hospitalized child. Donations of these items help defray our operating costs, allowing us to serve more families.

The RMHC-OKC Wish List is a list of the most used items that families use every day at the Ronald McDonald House and Family Room.  

After a long day at the hospital, there's nothing more appreciated than a home-cooked meal. Our guest chefs plan and prepare a comforting evening meal at the Ronald McDonald House for our families.   

To see wish lists or sign up to volunteer as a guest chef, visit RMHC-OKC.org.

Jane Sutter, President and CEO, Boys and Girls Clubs of Oklahoma County

The Boys and Girls Clubs of Oklahoma County serve more than 4,000 youth, 6-18 years old, in their out-of-school time with positive adult role models and a variety of activities and experiences. Together with the community, they make a tremendous difference in closing the opportunity gap by inspiring and enabling youth who need them the most to reach their full potential as responsible, caring and productive citizens.

How can the community get involved?

Volunteering can take any number of forms, from bringing a group of volunteers together to make improvements to the building, to one-on-one mentors or tutors who come on a weekly basis. Members of the community are encouraged to participate in our two community fundraisers: Champions of Youth Celebration in the spring and Flight for Futures (Sept. 27 this year). 

BGCOKC.org

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