How you can help a Chicagoland child in need

In its first year in Chicago, Cradles to Crayons helped 16,000 low-income and homeless kids throughout the city and suburbs with all the things they need to thrive: Clothes, toys, books, shoes, PJs and school supplies. But for its second year, the nonprofit wants to double down to reach at least 32,000 kids.

That also means it needs more donations for the kids.

That’s why Chicago Parent and Cradles to Crayons has teamed up this year for Chicago Parent’s huge spring Playdate at Athletico in Northbrook on April 30. Not only will Cradles to Crayons receive a donation from Playdate proceeds, but families are being asked to help by donating a new item for a child, ages newborn to 12, in need.

Families who donate brand new socks, underwear and PJs will be entered to win a big prize pack at the event. (Sizes can range from newborn to adult medium.)

Cradles to Crayons was founded in Boston in 2002 and has since branched out to Philadelphia and now Chicago. It works with schools, faith-based organizations and businesses, as well as individuals, to collect items for the kids and then turns to local nonprofits to help distribute, says Catherine McDonough, the organization’s manager of community engagement.

Kids receive a personalized Kid Pack, which includes a seasonal coat, a week’s worth of high-quality matched clothing with the child’s favorite colors, favorite toys and books at the appropriate reading level that match their interests and school supplies.

At Playdate, Cradles to Crayons will have a table and big collection box, and staffers will be on hand to share information on how families can help the nearly 200,000 kids living in low-income or homeless situations.

The organization operates out of The Giving Factory in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood where kids as young as 5 are welcome to volunteer to help sort, inspect and package up donations, McDonough says. Another great way for kids to help other kids, she says, is hosting their own collection drives in their neighborhood, troop or school to gather the most in-demand items, including new or gently used clothes.

“It’s just a really tangible way to help meet the immediate needs of families in our communities,” McDonough says. “My favorite part is seeing all different communities come together to serve the children in our city.”

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