Photo: Steve Thurston
I took a short time on Sunday and swung by Kurt and Christine Schaubach's beautiful home to hear Julie Hudash talk about Team Kids, a group she formed to help kids help communities. The group's president, Craig Elliott also was there to answer questions.
The idea behind Team Kids is that the kids do the planning and work. The adults merely make it possible. Their flagship program in this is the Team Kids Challenge, Elliott told me. Basically, Team Kids comes into the school at no cost to the kids or schools and works to help the kids organize a philanthropic activity.
"They are a perfect age to make a big difference," Hudash told the small audience of about 20 people. She spoke much about the idea that we should encourage that wide-eyed belief that problems in the world can be fixed, though as adults we might have become jaded.
The Team Kids Challenge is a five-week program conducted during lunch and after school in K-6 grades. The kids pick their mission, hold bake sales, run lemonade stands, or conduct canned food drives, whatever they wish. They promote the events themselves and think through all the logistics, Elliott told me. On the last day, they hold a carnival, again with the help of the Team Kids' staff, and collect money that way.
Hudash and Elliott both said that some of the best results have been at low-income schools where the kids who were often the targets of giving programs suddenly had the power to give back.
The group is funded by outside donors, so all the money raised goes to whatever charity, group or person the kids have decided to help, about $400,000 from the help of 57,000 students so far, Hudash said.
"It's a deliberate transfer of power," from the adults to the children, Hudash said.
The other main element is that Team Kids works with police, firefighters and veterans. Their aim is to build relationships between the police and children, especially in areas where the kids might see the police as the bad guys rather than as peace keepers.
Their "Shop with a Cop" program pairs a child of domestic abuse with a police officer for a day, and the two go shopping. The purpose is obviously to build the relationship more than to buy the child something.
They asked Jelahn Stewart to speak. She's an assistant U.S. Attorney in the District and an old track teammate of Hudash's from their days at the University of Southern California. Stewart is the chief of the witness assistance unit for DC.
She spoke of the importance of getting kids to know the police officers, of reaching the children before they become jaded.
The group is hoping to get a foothold in Arlington schools. Boy Scout troops in the area have already held some Team Kids LemondAID events for victims of the Oklahoma tornadoes.
Full disclosure: Christine Schaubach is a friend and acquaintance of some people on the Mercury's board of directors.