Kids Five & Over is a nonprofit that has been fifty years in the making. That sounds like an uphill climb, but it’s actually a story that involves wonderful life experiences, a milestone birthday and a great group of friends and family. It goes like this:
In 2013, I celebrated my 50th birthday. Fifty is a milestone and if we’re lucky, it marks our halfway point in life. It’s a time when we look ahead with small bursts of wisdom with over-the-shoulder glances at what has come before. For me, the first 50 years have been about building – building a life, a career, a family and a home, punctuated by the arrival of the family dog. For now, I’ve nested. And it’s a good nest.
Nearly a year before my 50th birthday, I sat in the auditorium of the elementary school where I work and watched students perform in our annual talent show. The event is called a talent show, but it's really a big ol' love fest. Audience members applaud, whistle, stomp their feet and cheer loudly as they celebrate the bravery of the tiny silhouettes on the big stage. The acts include children who have had hundreds of hours of professional training prior to showcasing their routines, and children whose training is homegrown. The haves and have-nots are often evident at the annual talent show, though that is never discussed. The talent show is about community. It’s about celebrating determination, commitment, and bravery. The level of talent may vary from act to act, but the admiration from the audience remains the same.
In the spring of 2012, I watched a nine-year-old girl take the stage. Her homemade, one-of-a-kind dance was sandwiched in between two professionally choreographed routines. She wore a dress that was too small and shoes too big. Near the middle of her routine, her left shoe fell off and she had to stop momentarily to put it back on. As I watched her dance, I wondered if she had ever wanted to take dance lessons and wear fancy dance clothes, but knowing her family situation, I knew dance lessons and fancy clothes were not in her immediate future. When her routine ended, the audience exploded in applause. She beamed. Her bravery and resolve grew. My heart grew too.
I kept the image of that nine-year-old in my mind for almost an entire year trying to decide what to do with it. I had no doubt she would leap at the chance for dance lessons, but I wondered how a child of nine would know to ask for them, especially when life situations wouldn’t put them in her path. The challenge began to consume me and the idea of finding a solution fed my nearly 50-year-old soul.
It was then that the idea of starting a nonprofit came into focus. What better way to celebrate a milestone birthday than to give a gift to someone else? What better way to express gratitude for a half century of living than to try and make someone else’s life just a little bit better? All of a sudden the countdown to fifty made me feel like a kid at Christmas.
This small idea, sparked from the dance routine of a nine-year-old, grew into the nonprofit we now call Kids Five & Over - or K50, as in 50. The nonprofit is the birthday gift I gave to myself.
There are kids needing support everywhere. There are kids needing opportunities to explore the wonderful possibilities that life has to offer - kids who deserve to dream big and have their dreams come true. It's not just about dance lessons and leotards and fancy dance shoes; it's about having a dream and knowing deep in your heart that someone, somehow, will help it come true.
Our first sponsorship came in March of 2013. We found our brave dancer and offered her dance lessons. Her wide and genuine smile told us this was the beginning of something wonderful.
Helping the next generation, doing something that makes a child’s life better, giving of one’s time, energy and resources is the right thing to do. It fills our hearts. Investing in the next generation is something that will always make our world a better place. Always.