For seventeen-year-old Michael, there is no place like home.
Michael knows first-hand that a safe, stable home bridges the gap that lies between hope for success and little hope at all.
It’s a life lesson he learned the hard way – through no fault of his own. As a Boulder County youth, known as a “great kid,” Michael’s life was uprooted at a young age by the ongoing difficulties of his birth family.
“I was taken from my biological mother multiple times. I’ve been placed with multiple different foster families. I’ve been all over the place,” he says.
“Four years ago…I didn’t see a high school diploma, let alone college, in sight,” adds Michael.
Yet, Michael did graduate from high school and go to college – a goal he once thought unattainable. He credits overcoming “tough times” to the love and support of his “now” foster family and the help he received along the way from organizations like Realities for Children Boulder County.
College for Michael was made possible in part when he was chosen as a Realities for Children Boulder County Triumph Scholar in 2014.
Education Is the Key
Eric Schulz, Realities for Children Boulder County founder and executive director, believes education is the key to changing the life of kids. In 2011, he started a collaborative non-profit organization based on a unique funding model. His purpose is to harness the power of local businesses to make education possible for more Boulder County youth who are at-risk.
Schulz’s core mission is “to inspire underprivileged youth who have experienced abuse and neglect, foster and kinship care.” He wants them to “see they have an avenue out – an avenue beyond their story.”
“Their story is the foundation of who they are, it’s not who they are. And they can craft what their future looks like and see that future as a reality,” he says.
Realities for Children Boulder County serves ages ranging from prenatal to 22. And the need in Boulder County is great – thousands are eligible for service.
“Unfortunately, child abuse does occur in Boulder County, every single day. Abuse and neglect cross all boundaries, socioeconomic or otherwise,” says Schulz.
Not Your Traditional Non-Profit
Based on a distinctly different funding model, Realities for Children Boulder County is actually two non-profits: a dues-based membership organization and a charity.
The membership organization – a 501c6 non-profit – serves its dues-paying members by marketing and promoting their Boulder County businesses.
Fifty percent of dues go to fund the operation of the charity, which serves at-risk youth as a 501c3 non-profit. The other 50 percent pays for the promotional activities for member businesses, such as networking and outreach events, a membership directory, a newly revamped newsletter that will be distributed to about 10,000 households quarterly, a webpage, and social media activity.
“Our model is to fund the operation of the charity with the membership organization, so 100 percent of donations go to those being served,” says Schulz. “The charity side operates for free.”
Cause-Marketing on Steroids
Schulz describes it as “cause-marketing on steroids.”
Highly ethical and well-educated consumers and businesses in Boulder County “seek out businesses that are heart-forward and give back to the community,” he says.
“Our job is to market and promote businesses that reinvest community dollars and care about our kids,” says Schulz. “In a nutshell, we serve consumers, so they know who ethical businesses are; we serve businesses so that consumers know the businesses ethic of service; and that translates to serving kids through other non-profits primarily through education.”
Donations to Realities for Children Boulder County help fund ten affiliated Boulder County non-profits and provide college scholarships and vocational training, as well as support many community activities designed to serve at-risk youth and the professionals that serve them. These include the annual Hero Awards luncheon, Pigs for Kids, Bikes for Tykes, and the upcoming first annual Bright Futures Conference for Vocational Training.
Affiliate partners include Blue Sky Bridge, Boulder County Foster and Kinship Care, Boulder Valley School District Homeless Youth Services, Circles, University of Colorado Guardian Scholars Program, Erie Uplink, I Have a Dream Foundation/Boulder County, Polaris House, St. Vrain School District Homeless Youth Services, Voices for Children – CASA Boulder.
“Most of the kids we work with turn 18, age-out of foster care before they even graduate from high school. They are penniless. I really want to impact that population, and prevent homelessness to begin with,” says Schulz.
BoulderSource is pleased to make Realities for Children Boulder County our Featured Friend for December. Please stay tuned to learn more about the many activities the organization sponsors; the remarkable story of the at-risk youth served; the inspiration behind Eric Schulz’s lifelong mission; and how you can get involved.
How You Can Help
Become a business member – this year’s goal is to grow from 60 to 150 members