Cornelius mom leads children to philanthropy
by Staff Writer
CORNELIUS – Brooke Hondros sets her mind to something and jumps all in.
That’s easy to see after spending time with her and understanding the difference she’s making in the lives of so many children.
On a recent Sunday afternoon she buzzed around her home in The Peninsula neighborhood, amidst the sounds of children talking and laughing as they made holiday stockings that would eventually end up in the hands of less fortunate children.
Her two children and the 10 others milling about the kitchen and dining room, are the first members of a new organization called Lake Norman Kids 4 Kids - a project designed to turn the today’s youngsters into the philanthropists of tomorrow.
Children arrived at the Hondros home with mothers in tow, carrying bags filled with holiday cheer from Target, Michael’s and other area stores. The objective was simple and pure – to create 28 holiday stockings that would result in other children feeling loved during this special time of year.
Lessons in life and business
“It’s kid-run, and they make all the big decisions,” said Lindsey Long, who came up with the idea of Kids 4 Kids after returning from a family vacation at Disney World and hearing her children ask, “What’s next?”
“These kids just don’t how good they’ve got it,” she said.
So with help from Hondros and a few other friends, the idea came together quickly.
“I picked up the phone and started calling neighbors,” Hondros explained. “I asked, ‘are you available? Yes. Great. OK, let’s get together and do this.’”
A few weeks later, six working-moms rallied their children, laid out some options, and let the kids vote on which non-profit organization they wanted to help.
For this first project, they chose Davidson-Cornelius Child Development Center, in part, because the children it serves are the same age as those in the group. It seemed relatable.
The Child Development Center was established in 1969 following a fire that claimed the lives of three young children, whose mother had no access to child care and had left them alone while at work. As a result, a group of citizens set about to address the need for safe, affordable care for all children.
Today, operating funds come from parent fees, the state’s childcare subsidy program, grants, and donations from businesses, individuals and groups like Lake Norman Kids 4 Kids. In addition to keeping enrollment fees affordable, outside funding helps maintain a scholarship program to ensure children enrolled in the school will not be subject to withdrawal if economic hardships arise.
But before the Kids 4 Kids coalition could make their donation, fundraising was required.
So bake sales and leaf raking ensued. Hot chocolate and wreathe stands popped up. Neighbors and family members received letters.
Seven-year-old John Peter Hondros raised $71 dollars, then proceeded to the dollar store where he carefully chose items for the children he would be helping.
Then it all came together when the Kids 4 Kids crew showed up at the center and presented stockings to the children.
“We wanted the kids to touch, to feel, and be part of the experience, not just go to Target, buy presents that were dropped off anonymously, and miss out on the giving process,” Hondros said.
So far, there are 14 children on the Kids 4 Kids team, with hopes that more families will get involved as word of the organization spreads.
Ultimately, Hondros envisions a cluster of chapters operating in neighborhoods throughout Lake Norman. She believes it easier to organize and mobilize smaller groups, rather than a single entity operating across a larger territory.
“It’s better when it’s neighbor working with neighbor,” she said.
And she should know, because helping others is her full time job.
From nine to five, Monday through Friday, Hondros juggles a busy schedule as Director of Development for Victory Junction, a summer camp established in 2004 by NASCAR’s Kyle and Pattie Petty for children with special health care needs.
“I’ve never considered myself a fundraiser,” she said, sitting in her office near a stack of proposed logos and tag lines she’s considering. “It’s all from a marketing level and it’s a relationship, networking thing. That’s the only fundraising mentality I have.”
So far, that mentality is working well.
Coming off a financially challenging year in 2009, Hondros refocused the team in 2010, looking more to the corporate community for support.
She relocated Victory Junction’s development office from its rural location in Randleman, a few miles south of Greensboro, to the more financially-focused crossroads in Cornelius.
Partnerships have flourished, revenue is rebounding, and she’s optimistic about the future. There’s even talk of a second camp opening in Kansas City.
All the money raised is crucial to operating the specially designed camp and keeping it accessible to children facing all sorts of physical challenges. Lodging, food and even daily medial care are provided to nearly 1,500 children each year, all without cost to their families.
A labor of love
Aside from the various fundraising campaigns she coordinates with partners like Krispy Kreme, Coca-Cola and Kangaroo Express, Hondros also manages large special events designed to bring people together.
Friday night, Dec. 16, she’ll welcome recording artist Edwin McCain to The Fillmore in uptown’s N. C. Music Factory, during the camp’s second annual Wish Upon A Star Holiday Gala.
Not surprisingly, it’s geared toward children.
The event will be hosted by youngsters and will celebrate the season of giving. In addition to a performance by McCain, CBS’ Entertainment Tonight child correspondent, 12-year-old Taylor Arnette, will be on site to challenge children to make a difference in their community.
“It raises money for sure,” Hondros said. “But it’s primarily a chance to introduce children to the concept of giving and sharing, to make a difference in someone else’s life.”