At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the team at HERO sought out-of-the-box ideas to help our communities, while staying close to our overall mission. To that end, HERO partnered with Soulshine (https://makeyoursoulshine.com/), a suburban Atlanta based daycare, to help provide food for its teachers during the pandemic. Given some of the COVID-related restrictions in place in and around Atlanta, Soulshine was requiring all teachers to stay on the premises for lunch. Many of Soulshine’s teachers are lower-income and the sole caretaker of their families.
That’s when HERO stepped in… HERO was able to provide lunch for the 40 Soulshine teachers over four weeks, which helped the school remain in compliance with community restrictions, and allowed the teachers to remain energized and dedicated to teaching their kids! As a secondary benefit to the community, HERO purchased all the lunch food from local Decatur, GA restaurant The Deer and The Dove (https://www.deerdove.com/). Like the entire restaurant industry and like all small businesses, however, the COVID-19 pandemic has decimated business.
The COVID pandemic has hurt so many people around the world, and HERO is pleased to have played a small part in bettering the situation for Soulshine, Soulshine teachers, Soulshine kids and The Deer and the Dove. We wish them all the best in the future, and look forward to seeing them around Atlanta!
In early November of 2019, HERO made donations to Hogar Alberque de Ninos Jesus de Nazaret, a home for children in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. The home provided HERO with an extensive wish list of items needed to continue to provide care for the children living there. Of course, the list included recreation equipment and educational tools, but also included some more vital items such as personal hygiene items, clothes, shoes, and cleaning supplies for the facility. Thanks to the generosity of HERO’s donors, we were able to provide them with almost everything on their list!
In June of 2020, HERO sought out opportunities to assist those adversely affected by the pandemic while staying true to its mission of serving local communities and especially children by donating school supplies and sports equipment. After reviewing several worthy projects and opportunities to help, HERO found a wonderful fit with Horizons for Youth (https://horizons-for-youth.org/), an organization familiar to HERO from a 2017 fundraising project.
Horizons for Youth is a 30-year old organization committed to helping children recognize and achieve their full potential. In partnership with dedicated families, Horizons provides need-based tuition scholarships, one-on-one mentoring, and enrichment outings. Horizons for Youth is the only organization in Chicago that provides scholarship, mentoring, and enrichment programs for children from kindergarten through high school, with continued academic and socio-emotional support through college.
Horizons operates an annual summer program designed to maintain academic curriculum for students as well as to provide an outlet for socialization. Given the challenges created by COVID, specifically the inability to coordinate with students in person over the summer, Horizons came up with the idea of packaging summer activity supply kits for participating students. Horizons engaged its teachers to plan the kits’ contents which ultimately consisted of both academic items (including reading and math workbooks, supplies, science activity sets, and age-appropriate chapter or activity books) and fitness items (including fitness tracking journals). Students participating in the summer program used the kits’ contents to follow a suggested curriculum. Additionally, students had access to zoom meetings for daily office hours in reading and math, math skill building workshops, weekly fitness classes, student celebrations and additional tutoring as needed. Students interacted with Horizons for Youth staff and interns weekly to check-in on progress with workbooks, to track fitness, and more.
With HERO’s donation covering the entire budget for the summer activity supply kits, Horizons was able to provide summer kits to almost 100 students! HERO is thrilled to have an impact on the lives of so many students and their families during this very challenging time. We are thankful for the outstanding efforts and creativity of the Horizons staff to come up with this summer program alternative. We wish them and the participating students the best of luck on a safe and successful summer program!
Puerto Rico Project (2019)
Due to a confidentiality agreement designed for the children’s protection, we were asked not to take any photographs of the children living at the home. With permission, we were able to take a few photos of the facility and our group of visitors. HERO owes a special thanks to Victor and Lori Acevedo for helping coordinate the visit and bringing their two kids, Gabriella (“Gabby”) and Fernando (“Nando”), along for the visit. Gabby and Nando were eager and willing to visit and each donated some of their own personal toys to the kids at the home. It was fun to see them embody the HERO spirit! For more information about the home, you can click the following link: https://hogarjesusdenazaret.org/es/
Los Lobos Project (2018)
In 2018, thanks to the help of HERO’s generous donors, HERO provided uniforms to a local kids’ soccer team, Los Lobos. Los Lobos are coached by Luis Lozano, a 28 year old native from Guanajuato México. Coach Luis began his coaching career around 2010 when he helped his father coach his younger brother’s soccer team. Eventually, Coach Luis took over and has continued the tradition of coaching kids.
Coach Luis has coached the same group of kids since they were in Kindergarten/First Grade. Now, those kids are in 8th/9th grade. He recently expanded his coaching to a second team of younger kids ranging in age from 11 to 13 years old.
By day, Coach Luis does maintenance work on semi trucks. He volunteers his evenings and weekends to his teams. Los Lobos train and practice at Durkin Park in the Scottsdale Neighborhood on the far south side of Chicago. Most of the players are children of Hispanic descent with middle class working parents.
Unlike other coaches in similar leagues, Coach Luis is a 100% volunteer. The only fees parents pay are those charged by the Soccer Leagues for field time and officials. In order to keep costs to the parents to a minimum, HERO agreed to assist with providing new uniforms and soccer balls to the 2 teams.
Thanks to HERO’s generous supporters and efforts of team-mom Carolina Franco, HERO was able to provide customized Los Lobos jerseys (home and away jerseys, shorts and socks) for each team. HERO also provided indoor and outdoor soccer balls.
Chicago Project (2017) – Horizons for Youth
In July of 2017, HERO partnered with Horizons for Youth to have a joint fundraiser at Clover. Horizons for Youth is a Chicago-based organization that provides need-based tuition scholarships, mentoring, tutoring and various social programs for children in kindergarten, high school and even through college. When we read about Horizons and how they support the Chicago community, we knew that they were the type of organization we wanted to be involved with!
The fundraiser was a huge success and we were able to fulfill the entire wish list that Horizons for Youth had provided to us! We want to thank everyone that was able to come out and support this great organization! HERO was represented by Mike Slavik, Brian Hindman and Meredith Nordbrock, with Mike and Brian competing in an amazing plank-off, raising money with every agonizing second they stayed in form! We want to thank Nick DiMaso for helping make this great partnership possible!
As always, thank you to the generous donations both from those at the event and from afar for making this event possible and helping us support this amazing organization!
St. Thomas Project (2017) – St. Thomas Health Care Management
In March of 2017, HERO was represented by Mike Slavik, Meredith Nordbrock and Brian Hindman and was able to meet the kids at St. Thomas Health Care Management in St. Thomas US Virgin Islands. It was a late effort to organize, but with the help of Marty Masar, Lauren Masar and Andre Legault (local islanders) and Program Administrator Kim Bourne-Vanneck, we were able to spend some time with a group of disadvantaged youth and provide them with some very needed educational supplies, sports equipment, paperback books, a new TV and Planet Earth DVD set. It was great to meet some truly wonderful kids. It really helped reinforce what we do. Thank you to the generosity of our donors for making this possible!
We could summarize, but it is unlikely we could say it any better than Ms. Kim said it in her thank you note pasted below.
Stay tuned for more information about a local projects and fundraising this summer!
From Ms. Kim:
“A huge thank you for your generosity and taking time out of your busy schedule to visit and speak to our kids at St. Thomas Health Care Management. You truly made them feel special and filled their void of emptiness. As you could see, our great teenagers genuinely appreciate your gifts and presence -the coolest people ever from the states who found them!
Their new TV is up and running. The bright colored beach towels are glowing on the shelf representing a fun day at the beach. Most of the games and sports equipment including the educational ones have been broken into already and kept neatly in an area ready to be used again.
The treasured Goose Bump books have become the most popular books at our adolescent residential facility thanks to Achille who lets “others” borrow them. As he a former non reader, now honor student, you truly lifted up his day and provided hope. There’s a good chance he may be reunited with his mother fairly soon. And this is only one example of what your visit and kindness meant to our youth and the WONDERFUL impact it had on all of us.
Thank you Honey. Thank you Andre. Thank you Mark. (Please forward to others) Thank you everyone very much for understanding our plight, caring about our kids, and remembering the most forgotten.
Bosnia & Herzegovina Project (2016) – Djeciji dom Egipatsko Selo Mostar
In October of 2016, HERO worked with Our Kids Foundation in Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina. Thanks to the help of our donors, we were able to purchase 6 laptop computers from a local shop and donate them directly to to Djeciji dom Egipatsko Selo Mostar, a local orphanage. The orphanage is governed and run by local employees and international volunteers. The adults were excited to be able to use the computers as teaching tools, but the kids were more excited to be able to access Youtube and Facebook. Either way, the computers will be a very useful tool and we were happy to help! A special thank you to Russ, Lejla, and Asia, for making the visit go smoothly and facilitating with the purchase of the computers from the local merchant.
Why Bosnia and Herzegovina?
“Life in post-war Bosnia and Herzegovina is not easy, with fragmented communities and uneasy government operating within an economically challenged environment. There is currently more than 40% unemployment and as many as 50% of people living below the official poverty line.
Many families’ lives reflect this fragmentation and the battle with poverty. Support for these families is thin on the ground. For some, institutional care for their children becomes the only option for survival, especially for disabled children and children with special needs. Of the 4,000 children estimated to be in care in Bosnia, as many as 40% are thought to be learning disabled.
Life is hard enough for all young people on leaving care at the age of 18 years, but those with special needs can only look forward to a life in large asylum-like institutions. Institutions are not the best places for anyone to be! We aim to promote and test ways of working for children in care and their families that are different to current institutional practices.” – Our Kids Foundation.
San Pedro, Belize Project (2015) – Holy Cross School
On November 13, 2015, HERO donated laptops and various other supplies to Holy Cross School in San Pedro, Belize. Holy Cross School educates approximately 440 students from preschool to 8th grade. Holy Cross’ students are consistently at high risk of hurricanes and disease and often lack basic necessities including food, health and dental care, and shoes. Through YOUR generosity and support, HERO hopes to bring about a few smiles from these children with our donations and visit. To learn more about Holy Cross, please visit their website: http://holycrossbelize.org/.
Holy Cross School was kind enough to send along some photos of the students using their new laptops!
Peru Project (2015) – Wakatinku Village
In May of 2015, Team HERO worked with Alpaca Expeditions from Cusco, Peru and journeyed into the highlands to make donations to Wakatinku Village. We donated 4 computers, school supplies and hygienics to the 200+ kids in the village. Thanks to all who donated this year. We were able to make a lasting difference for the kids of the remote village of Wakatinku. Special thanks to Kevin Leckey, Stephanie Wake, Jess Ackerman, Rachel Kokal, Molly Glauberman, Jess Shoss, Whitney Huskey, Lindsay Benitez and Meredith Nordbrock for taking time off from their scheduled vacation to join us in our project. Also, thanks to Raul from Alpaca Expeditions for introducing us to the locals.
Natal, Brazil Project (2014) – Casa Durval Paiva
We partnered with Casa Durval Paiva, a house providing support for children with cancer in Northeast Brazil. The house supports over 1,000 kids and their families, and Team HERO had the honor of touring their facility and meeting some of the kids. It was a tremendously rewarding experience, and with your help, we were able to donate 11 tablets and some digital cameras to the house. You can read more about their organization here: Casa Durval Paiva
For a special note about our visit check this out: Casa Durval Paiva and HERO
Luang Prabang, Laos Project (2014) – House of Dreams
Team HERO partnered with a very inspiring individual named Ken Pitsapheng to deliver school supplies to children of rural Laos. Ken is the founder of the House of Dreams, a school in Luang Prabang, that allows bright children from the countryside to obtain a formal education, to hopefully attend university and to eventually obtain high earning jobs to help support their families. Ken, the founder and teacher, works part time at a local hotel and uses his salary to pay the rent and support the six students living at the House of Dreams. The school is a modest building with one space designated as a classroom and living room. There are three small bedrooms, one for the boys, one for the girls, and one for Ken. In the back, there is a simple kitchen with the basics. To the side of the building is a small, mostly dirt yard for activities. Ken has a very small library of books that he has collected in order to teach the kids English. Check out the photo gallery to see for yourself!
With our sponsors help, we were able to purchase two laptop computers, visa gift cards for downloading learning/teaching applications for the computers and enough cash to pay for one months worth of food, rent, electricity and miscellaneous supplies needed to maintain the House of Dreams. Team HERO would like to again thank our sponsors for their help. These supplies will go a long way at the House of Dreams! We will stay in touch with Ken going forward and will keep you posted on the House of Dreams. And finally, Ken is looking for volunteers to help teach English, and should you know anyone that may be interested, we would be happy to help make that connection.
Prior to 2013:
Though HERO was founded in late 2012/early 2013, HERO’s founding directors have previously tried to find ways to give back to local communities in various parts of the world. Please see the photo gallery for pictures of past visits to India and the Dominican Republic where we visited local schools and donated school supplies, sports equipment and other goods.
Dominican Republic 2012