Chicago Parent has found six people this year who demonstrate that making a difference doesn’t take a lot of money, power or influence. It simply takes passion to make real change, one voice and one person at a time.
Wheaton mom Shayne Moore’s to-do list most days resembles thatof many other suburban Chicago mothers.
She goes to the grocery store. She picks up the kids from schooland practice. She cooks dinner. She puts everyone to bed, then getsthem up to start over the next day.
Moore knows she’s just one mom among many, but after hearing amessage from Bono during a U2 concert at her alma mater, WheatonCollege, in 2002, she decided to join her single voice with othersto affect change.
“I went that night just to see Bono, but I say that what I sawchanged the trajectory of my life,” Moore says. “I was unpreparedto hear that 9,000 Africans die a day from diseases that arepreventable.
“I left that night kind of angry and indignant. …I left thatnight thinking, ‘Why didn’t I know this? Why aren’t we talkingabout this every night on the news and every Sunday from the pulpitof our churches?”
So she began educating herself.
At the time, ONE, a grassroots advocacy and campaigningorganization that fights extreme poverty and preventable disease,didn’t exist. Moore became one of the group’s original members.
Since then, she’s been in commercials to promote ONE and hasbrushed shoulders with the likes of George Clooney and JuliaRoberts. She has been to Africa three times and Honduras once. ThisFebruary she’ll head to Cambodia.
Her book, Global Soccer Mom, shares her experiences meetingmothers all over the world.
It was during her trip to Honduras where Moore met a woman whomade her realize the purpose of her new mission.
Rose was a Honduran woman with four children-two of them HIVpositive, like their mother, and two HIV negative. “I’d never seena slum, I’d never seen people living like dogs.”
Rose approached Moore, grabbed her face and started speaking toher in Spanish. “She was saying, ‘You’re an angel, you’re an angel.You were sent here to hear our troubles and tell our story to theworld.’ She probably died within two weeks of my visit, but thatmeant something to her. I’ve taken that pretty seriously. When Iflew home I said to myself, at least I can tell her story.”
So she did.
At the end of the day, Moore knows what she’s doing is right. Inher book and on her website, Moore shares one of her most notablequotes.
“I’m only one woman. I live in one town, I go to one church, andI have one voice but I’ve come to believe that all our ones addup.”
Shayne Moore – The Global Soccer Mom
After dropping out of high school and having seven kids by age25, Diane Latiker decided to turn her life around. Now she’shelping Chicago teens do the same.
In 2003 Latiker, now 54, started Kids Off the Block, a communityorganization that helps teens steer clear of gang life. It begansimply: She noticed the rampant violence affecting her neighborhoodand invited teens into her three-bedroom home for a safe place-todo anything from homework to sharing their hopes and dreams.
Latiker, also a grandmother of 13, lives in the Roselandcommunity, where the murder rate is 3.5 times higher than thenational average.
“Young people lash out when they’re angry about theirenvironment,” Latiker says. “They’re angry because dad isn’t there,a parent is on drugs or they’ve been left with their grandparents.They just want someone to listen to them, and I do.”
Part of Kids Off the Block’s mission is to take kids out oftheir environment, to show them gang life isn’t the only option.”Some of these kids just don’t ever leave their block,” she says.The group has been to 21 cities so far and arranges in-city outingsto museums, the movies and skating rinks.
In 2010, the organization finally moved out of Latiker’s home-atone point, she had 75 teens in her house-to its own space at 116thStreet and Michigan Avenue. There, youth ages 11 to 24 can gettutoring, career development, mentorship and participate in drama,music and sports.
“There seem to be a lot of programs for younger children, butthere wasn’t much intervention for older youths, though they’re theones who need help the most,” Latiker says.
Kids off the Block is funded through private donations, yet inthe past year its funding has been cut in half. Latiker does notpay herself a salary and all programs are led by volunteers.
“Our youth need more resources, more things to do, more programslike KOB,” a Kids Off the Block member said in a video on theorganization’s website. “We’re looking for change but we can’t doit by ourselves.”
To help, visit kobchicago.org
Diane Latiker – Getting Kids Off the Street
Kendall Ciesemier’s passion for helping her peers in Africabegan when she was only 11.
It all started with an Oprah Winfrey Christmas special, saysCiesemier, now 18. For the show, Winfrey traveled to South Africa,visiting the homes of children living without parents.
“Those kids were my age,” Ciesemier says. “They were taking careof their younger siblings because both of their parents had died ofAIDS. I was shocked that this could be happening and there was noawareness. I thought it was unacceptable and wanted to dosomething.”
So that night she Googled “AIDS orphans in Africa” and foundWorld Vision, a child sponsorship program, and decided that shewould fund an AIDS orphan with her Christmas money.
“I tried to send $360 in cash in the mail,” she says,laughing.
That was her first step. The child she sponsored was an8-year-old girl named Benite from a village in Zambia.
But Ciesemier’s journey didn’t end there-not long afterward sheconnected with World Vision to start working on a largerproject.
As things were developing, however, Ciesemier had to prepare foranother life-altering experience: A liver transplant.
As she prepared for, went through and recovered from hersurgery, Ciesemier posted blog updates on her condition to awebpage she built on carepages.com. In lieu of gifts, cards andflowers, she asked people to donate to her project in Africa.
Later that year, she had a second liver transplant. By then, shehad raised $15,000.
She decided to organize as a nonprofit, Kids Caring 4 Kids, to inspire young people
from the United States to raise money to help children in
So far, she has inspired 7,000 U.S. kids to raise almost$900,000 that has gone toward schools, food, water and healthclinics. This effort has earned her the 2011 Barron Prize for YoungHeroes.
“I think being a kid and being really naïve helps when you’retrying to conquer such seemingly insurmountable problems,” shesays. “Kids don’t see barricades like you do when you’reolder.”
That attitude certainly carried over into Ciesemier’s personallife, as well.
“The (liver trouble) was always part of my life, but I neverwanted that to be my life,” she says. “Having Kids Caring 4 Kidswas really a blessing to have when going through a transplant andgave me such a purpose for my life. I wasn’t the girl who was sick,I was the girl who was helping others.”
Kendall Ciesemier, 18, 2011 Barron Prize for Young Hereoes
Gordon and Connie Hankins can put together a tricycle with anease that would make any parent green with jealousy. They assembleit almost without talking, passing tools back and forth. Of course,that’s because they’ve done the same thing about 1,000 timesbefore.
“We can whip them together pretty fast,” says Gordon, 75.
These aren’t your ordinary trikes, but then again, Gordon andConnie aren’t your ordinary retirees. The Naperville grandparentsof two boys have spent the past 16 years adapting tricycles andgiving them away to children with special needs.
They take regular tricycles and outfit them with footcontainments, padded seatbacks and, sometimes, custom handlebars.Connie, 69, a former surgical nurse, says the trikes are primarilyused by children with conditions like cerebral palsy, spina bifidaand Down syndrome to develop their muscles. But it also helps themsocially and increases their confidence.
“You see the joy and the happiness, not only of the child, butof the parents,” Connie says. “It’s just so heartwarming.”
The Hankinses found out about the tricycle program, TherapyOriented Tricycles, through retiree group Telecom Pioneers atLucent Technologies, where Gordon used to work. As soon as Connieheard about it, she knew it was a perfect fit.
It took a little longer for Gordon to catch the vision, but hesays, “Once you do it a little while, you get hooked. You want todo more. There’s such a need out there.”
Gordon and Connie assemble the trikes in their unfinishedbasement, a makeshift workshop stacked high with boxes ofunassembled parts.
Families generally hear about the project through word-of-mouth,and the Hankinses have taken trikes to hospitals, therapists andhomes throughout the Chicagoland area.
On the Internet, Gordon notes, adaptive trikes can cost as muchas $4,000. So although donations are always accepted, the Hankinsesdecided to give away the trikes for free.
Families must provide a “therapist’s letter of recommendation”completed by a medical professional so the Hankinses know thetricycle is something that will benefit the child.
And the benefits are truly huge, both for the children and forthemselves. Connie says they get a lot of thank you notes andpictures from families and have received news from children whohave learned to walk or ride a two-wheeler after receiving a trike.They love telling the story of a little girl who received a trikeand now tucks it into bed every night.
“It honestly is such a blessing to do it,” Connie says. “I justfeel that it’s what I’m supposed to be doing.”
Contact Gordon and Connie at (630) 355-7211 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
All checks can be made out to Telecom Pioneers and sent to Gordon& Connie Hankins, 440 River Bluff Circle, Naperville IL60540.
Connie and Gordon Hankins – Adapting Trikes
Summer work for most teens consists of scooping ice cream,stuffing cardboard containers full of fries or completing gruntwork at an office.
However, 17-year-old Wheaton native Allie Sakowicz is taking onchallenges most can’t imagine-she serves as a doula, a coach ofsorts who provides nonmedical support to women and their familiesthroughout pregnancy.
“When I first heard about doulas a few years ago I was watchinga TV program and thought, ‘This is something I’d be interested indoing,'” she says. “At the time I was only 13 or 14. Beginning thecertification process that young was really a challenge, but I tookit slowly and learned about how I could help the community.Medicine is something I’ve always loved-I’ve wanted to be a doctorsince I was 2.”
She attended her first birth as a doula last year. She has nowattended 11 births.
Sakowicz only can participate in births during summer. “I can’ttake a call during math to go to a birth,” she says, laughing.
Most of the moms she works with are single teen moms.
“It’s a lot different because there’s an additional set ofstruggles these moms have to go through-families, boyfriends-it’sanother layer added onto the already stressful journey ofpregnancy. Plus you’re dealing with this at 15, 16, 17 yearsold.”
Sakowicz is focusing on her next step. “I plan to go to medicalschool and become an OB/GYN and hopefully bring a lot of the thingsa doula does into my medical practice in order to be the bestdoctor I can be,” she says.
Allie Sakowicz – Teen Doula