Tag Archives: charity

November/December 2018 Giving Calendar

October 29, 2018 by , and

This calendar was printed in the November/December 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Nov. 1 (starts at 8:30 a.m.)
12th Annual Nonprofit Summit of the Midlands
Benefiting: Nonprofit Association of the Midlands
Location: Embassy Suites-La Vista Conference Center

Nov. 1 (6-9 p.m.)
Toast to Dr. Stephanie and Jack Koraleski
Benefiting: Merrymakers
Location: Omaha Design Center

Nov. 2 (8 a.m.-3 p.m.)
Nebraska Leadership Diversity and Inclusion Conference
Benefiting: Nebraska Hispanic Chamber Foundation
Location: Embassy Suites-La Vista

Nov. 2 (6-9 p.m.)
Vision Beyond Sight
Benefiting: Outlook Nebraska
Location: Embassy Suites-La Vista

Nov. 2 (6-8:30 p.m.)
Let’s Grow Here Gala
Benefiting: Big Muddy Urban Farm
Location: Creighton University Harper Ballroom

Nov. 2 (6-9 p.m.)
Third Annual Dinner & Auction
Benefiting: p4:13 Ministries
Location: Embassy Suites Downtown Omaha

Nov. 2 (6:30-9 p.m.)
Big Red Block Party
Benefiting: Junior League of Omaha
Location: Scott Conference Center

Nov. 3 (6-11 p.m.)
2018 Children’s Hospital & Medical Center Gala
Benefiting: Children’s Hospital & Medical Center Foundation
Location: CHI Health Center Omaha

Nov. 4 (noon-4 p.m.)
Honey Sunday
Benefiting: Ollie Webb Center, Inc.
Location: multiple locations

Nov. 7 (4-10 p.m.)
2018 Christmas Caravan Preview Gala
Benefiting: Assistance League of Omaha
Location: Champions Run Country Club

Nov. 8 (10 a.m.-8 p.m.)
2018 Christmas Caravan Tour of Homes
Benefiting: Assistance League of Omaha
Location: Various homes in Omaha

Nov. 8 (5:30-9:30 p.m.)
OneWorld 2018 Milagro Dinner
Benefiting: OneWorld Community Health Centers
Location: Hilton Omaha

Nov. 8 (5-8:30 p.m.)
Salute to Veterans Dinner
Benefiting: La Vista Community Foundation
Location: Embassy Suites-La Vista

Nov. 8 (6-10 p.m.)
The Jason Awards
Benefiting: Children’s Square USA
Location: Mid-America Center, Council Bluffs

Nov. 8 (5:30-7 p.m.)
Tree of Lights Campaign Kickoff
Benefiting: Salvation Army
Location: American National Bank, 90th and Dodge streets

Nov. 9 (5-8 p.m.)
Patron Party for Historic Home Tour and Boutique
Benefiting: Joslyn Castle
Location: Joslyn Castle

Nov. 10 (8 a.m.-5 p.m.)
Hoops 4 Life 3 On 3 Basketball Tournament
Benefiting: Nebraska Urban Indian Health Coalition
Location: NorthStar Foundation campus

Nov. 10-11 (10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday
and 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday)
Historic Home Tour and Boutique
Benefiting: Joslyn Castle
Location: Various locations

Nov. 10 (7-11:30 p.m.)
Rock to Raise
Benefiting: The John Atkinson Lung Cancer Foundation
Location: St. Nicholas Serbian Orthodox Church hall

Nov. 15 (5-9 p.m.)
Nurse of the Year Awards
Benefiting: March of Dimes
Location: Hilton Omaha

Nov. 15 (6-9 p.m.)
Salute to Families
Benefiting: Heartland Family Service
Location: Happy Hollow Club

Nov. 16 (6 p.m.)
Sentimental Journey: With Honor
Benefiting: The Durham Museum
Location: The Durham Museum

Nov. 17 (8 p.m.-midnight)
Night of a Thousand Stars
Benefiting: Nebraska AIDS Project
Location: Omaha Design Center

Nov. 17-24 (hours vary)
Feztival of Trees
Benefiting: Tangier Shrine Center
Location: Tangier Shrine Center

Nov. 22 (7:30 a.m.-11 a.m.)
2018 Turkey Trot
Benefiting: Make-a-Wish Nebraska
Location: Lewis & Clark Landing

Nov. 27 (all day)
Giving Tuesday
Benefiting: Various Omaha organizations
Location: Online

Nov. 29-30 (6 a.m.-6 p.m.)
Adopt a Family Radiothon
Benefiting: Salvation Army
Location: Star 104.5 FM

Dec. 1 (2-4:30 p.m.)
Spin4 Crohn’s & Colitis Cures
Benefiting: Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation
Location: Sweat Cycle Strength

Dec. 1 (6-8 p.m.)
Christmas Enchantment
Benefiting: Children’s Square USA
Location: Hoy-Kilnoski Funeral Home

Dec. 1 (time TBA)
Hoops for Hope
Benefiting: Catholic Charities
Location: Hilton Omaha

Dec. 5-7 (8 a.m.-5 p.m.)
Substitute Santa 2018
Benefiting: Child Saving Institute
Location: Child Saving Institute building and website

Dec. 6 (11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.)
Lauritzen Gardens Guild Holiday Luncheon
Benefiting: Lauritzen Gardens
Location: Lauritzen Gardens

Dec. 7 (11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.)
2018 Equal Opportunity Awards Luncheon
Benefiting: Urban League of Nebraska
Location: Hilton Omaha

Dec. 7 (7-10 p.m.)
Taste of Pride Wine Event
Benefiting: Roncalli Catholic
Location: Roncalli Catholic Student Center

Dec. 8 (7:30 a.m.-noon)
2018 Nebraska Jingle Bell Run
Benefiting: Arthritis Foundation Nebraska
Location: Strategic Air Command & Space Museum

Dec. 8 (5-9 p.m.)
Joslyn Castle Unlocked
Benefiting: Joslyn Castle Trust
Location: Joslyn Castle

Dec. 9
Ruth Sokolof Christmas Party
Benefiting: Nebraska Foundation for Visually Impaired Children
Location: Westroads Mall

Dec. 24 (10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.)
Castle at Christmas Tours
Benefiting: Joslyn Castle
Location: Joslyn Castle

Dec. 27 (6-11 p.m.)
Omaha Symphony Debutante Ball
Benefiting: Omaha Symphony
Location: Embassy Suites-La Vista Conference Center

Top of page

Event times and details may change. Check with venue or event organizer to confirm.

July/August 2018 Giving Calendar

June 20, 2018 by

July 7 (8-11 a.m.)
Superhero 5K!
Benefiting: CASA for Douglas County
Location: Stinson Park at Aksarben Village

July 7 (9 p.m.-1 a.m.)
Ladies of Hip Hop Night
Benefiting: Women’s Center for Advancement
Location: Reverb Lounge

July 9 (10:30 a.m.-7 p.m.)
Angels Among Us/Bland Cares Golf Outing
Benefiting: Angels Among Us
Location: Champions Run Golf Course

July 9 (11:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.)
25th Annual Golf Classic
Benefiting: Keep Omaha Beautiful
Location: The Players Club at Deer Creek.

July 12 (5:30-10 p.m.)
Links to a Cure Golf Gala
Benefiting: Cystic Fibrosis Foundation
Location: Omaha Marriott Downtown at the Capitol District

July 13 (8:30 a.m.-4 p.m.)
Links to a Cure Golf Tournament
Benefiting: Cystic Fibrosis Foundation
Location: ArborLinks Golf Course

July 14 (5-11 p.m.)
Relay for Life of Greater Omaha
Benefiting: American Cancer Society
Location: Stinson Park at Aksarben Village

July 15 (noon-3 p.m.)
ULN Guild Men Who Cook
Benefiting: Urban League of Nebraska
Location: OPS Administrative Building Cafeteria

July 19 (5-9 p.m.)
Iowa Western Reiver Athletic Golf Dinner
Benefiting: Iowa Western Student-Athlete Scholarships
Location: Bent Tree Golf Club

July 19 (6:30-9:30 p.m.)
Songs and Suds 2018
Benefiting: Merrymakers Association
Location: Pitch Pizzeria West Omaha

July 20 (8:30 a.m.)
Iowa Western Reiver Athletic Golf Tournament
Benefiting: Iowa Western Student-Athlete Scholarships
Location: Bent Tree Golf Club

July 21 (4 p.m.-midnight)
Block Out After Dark 2018
Benefiting: Cancer Alliance of Nebraska
Location: Sinnott’s Sand Bar

July 21 (5-9 p.m.)
Joslyn Castle Unlocked
Benefiting: Joslyn Castle Trust
Location: Joslyn Castle

July 22 (8-11 a.m.)
Head for the Cure 5K Run/Walk
Benefiting: Head for the Cure Foundation
Location: Lewis & Clark Landing

July 27 (11 a.m.-5 p.m.)
Ninth Annual La Vista Community Foundation Golf Classic
Benefiting: La Vista Community Foundation
Location: Tara Hills Golf Course

July 28 (8:30-11 a.m.)
PurpleStride Omaha 2018: Walk to End Pancreatic Cancer
Benefiting: PurpleStride Omaha
Location: Stinson Park at Aksarben Village

July 28 (6:30-11 p.m.)
Seventh Annual Blue Water Bash
Benefiting: Boys Town Okoboji Camp
Location: Boys Town Okoboji Camp, Milford, Iowa

July 29 (7:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.)
2018 Packer Golf Tournament
Benefiting: Omaha South High School Alumni Association
Location: Eagle Hills Golf Course

July 30 (9 a.m.-4 p.m.)
Fresh Start Classic
Benefiting: Fresh Start for All Nations
Location: Shadow Ridge Country Club

July 30 (10 a.m.-7 p.m.)
19th Annual CINCF Golf Tournament
Benefiting: Council of Independent Nebraska Colleges Foundation
Location: The Players Club at Deer Creek

July 30 (11 a.m.-7 p.m.)
Swing 4 Kids Golf Benefit
Benefiting: Partnership 4 Kids
Location: Tiburon Golf Club

July 30 (11:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m.)
Help Build a House Golf Event
Benefiting: Gesu Housing
Location: Champions Run Golf Course

Aug. 3 (11:30 a.m.-6 p.m.)
Fairways Fore Airways Fifth Annual Golf Scramble
Benefiting: Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center
Location: Tiburon Golf Club

Aug. 3 (4-11 p.m.)
2018 New American Arts Festival
Benefiting: Lutheran Family Services
Location: Benson First Friday, Military Avenue and Maple Street

Aug. 3 (6-9:30 p.m.)
10th annual Dance for a Chance: “Diamonds in the Rough”
Benefiting: Youth Emergency Services
Location: Omaha Design Center

Aug. 3 (6-11 p.m.)
River Bash ’N’ Brew
Benefiting: Visiting Nurse Association
Location: Lewis & Clark Landing

Aug. 4 (8 a.m.-3 p.m.)
Spirit of Courage Golf Tournament
Benefiting: Jennie Edmundson Hospital Cancer Center Charitable Patient Care Fund
Location: Dodge Riverside Golf Club

Aug. 4 (6-10 p.m.)
Spirit of Courage Gala
Benefiting: Jennie Edmundson Hospital Cancer Center Charitable Patient Care Fund
Location: Mid America Center

Aug. 4 (9-11:30 p.m.)
OwL Ride: Omaha with Lights
Benefiting: Meyer Foundation for Disabilities
Location: Lewis & Clark Landing

Aug. 5 (noon-3 p.m.)
Spirit of Courage No Limits Texas Hold ‘Em Poker Tournament
Benefiting: Jennie Edmundson Hospital Cancer Center Charitable Patient Care Fund
Location: Mid America Center

Aug. 6 (10:30 a.m.-6 p.m.)
Shootout for Cancer
Benefiting: Various local pediatric cancer organizations
Location: Champions Run Golf Course

Aug. 6 (10:30 a.m.-5 p.m.)
A-United Golf Classic
Benefiting: Scare Away Cancer
Location: The Players Club at Deer Creek

Aug. 6 (11 a.m.-7 p.m.)
Swing with Pride, A. Len Leavitt Memorial Golf Open
Benefiting: Roncalli Catholic High School
Location: Indian Creek Golf Club

Aug. 9 (7 a.m.-1:30 p.m.)
19th Annual Release Ministries Bill Ellett Memorial Golf Classic
Benefiting: Release Ministries
Location: Iron Horse Golf Club

Aug. 11 (8 a.m.-5 p.m.)
Fourth Annual Aqua-Run 10K Relay and 2K Walk
Benefiting: Aqua Africa
Location: Elmwood Park

Aug. 11 (5-9 p.m.)
Joslyn Castle Unlocked
Benefiting: Joslyn Castle Trust
Location: Joslyn Castle

Aug. 13 (11 a.m.-6 p.m.)
QLI’s 14th Annual Golf Challenge
Benefiting: QLI Tri-Dimensional Rehab
Location: The Players Club at Deer Creek

Aug. 17 (8:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.)
Step Out for Seniors Walk-A-Thon
Benefiting: Eastern Nebraska Office on Aging
Location: Benson Park

Aug. 17 (6-10 p.m.)
EXPOSED: That’s How We Roll Annual Benefit
Benefiting: Project Pink’d
Location: Hilton Downtown Omaha

Aug. 17 (6-9 p.m.)
Jefferson House “Stand Up for Kids” Comedy Night
Benefiting: Heartland Family Services
Location: Fremont Golf Club

Aug. 18 (9-11:30 a.m.)
20th Annual Remembrance Walk
Benefiting: Grief’s Journey
Location: Miller’s Landing/Pedestrian Bridge

Aug. 18 (day-long)
Benefiting: Brush Up Nebraska
Location: Various

Aug. 19 (7-11 a.m.)
Boxer 500 Run/Walk
Benefiting: Great Plains Colon Cancer Task Force
Location: Werner Park

Aug. 19 (7:30 a.m., end times vary)
Corporate Cycling Challenge
Benefiting: Eastern Nebraska Trails Network
Location: Heartland of America Park

Aug. 19 (10 a.m.-3 p.m.)
Vintage Wheels at the Fort
Benefiting: Douglas County Historical Society
Location: Historic Fort Omaha

Aug. 20 (10:30 a.m.-6 p.m.)
Heroes for the Homeless Golf Benefit
Benefiting: Stephen Center’s Pettigrew Emergency Homeless Shelter
Location: Shadow Ridge Country Club

Aug. 21 (10:30 a.m.-7 p.m.)
Annual Golf Classic
Benefiting: Methodist Hospital Foundation
Location: Tiburon Golf Club

Aug. 23 (5:30-8:30 p.m.)
World Bash “Global Homecoming”
Benefiting: Intercultural Senior Center
Location: Mainelli Center at Saint Robert’s

Aug. 24 (5-10 p.m.)
Wine and Beer Event
Benefiting: ALS in the Heartland
Location: Shops of Legacy

Aug. 25 (5:30-9:30 p.m.)
12th Annual Summer Bash for Childhood Cancer: An Evening in Paris
Benefiting: Childhood Cancer Campaign
Location: Embassy Suites La Vista Conference Center

Aug. 25 (5:30-9:30 p.m.)
One Sweet School
Benefiting: Madonna School
Location: CenturyLink Center Omaha

Aug. 26 (1:30-4 p.m.)
Grow With Us Gala
Benefiting: City Sprouts
Location: Institute for the Culinary Arts, Metro Community College

Aug. 27 (noon-8 p.m.)
11th Annual Jesuit Academy Golf Tournament
Benefiting: Jesuit Academy Tuition Assistance Fund
Location: Indian Creek Golf Course

Aug. 27 (noon-6 p.m.)
20th Annual Goodwill Golf Classic
Benefiting: Goodwill’s Real Employment Assisting You (READY) & Business Solutions Programs
Location: The Players Club at Deer Creek

Event times and details may change. 

Check with venue or event organizer to confirm.

2018 May/June Giving Events

May 2, 2018 by

May 1 (5:30-9 p.m.)
51st Annual Boys Town Booster Banquet
Benefiting: Boys Town sports
Location: Embassy Suites, La Vista

May 2 (11 a.m.-1 p.m.)
Memories for Kids 2018 Guild Luncheon
Benefiting: Memories for Kids
Location: Champions Run

May 2 (11 a.m.-1 p.m.)
25th Anniversary Luncheon
Benefiting: El Museo Latino
Location: El Museo Latino

May 3 (5:30 p.m.-8 p.m.)
P4K Graduation Honors Banquet
Benefiting: Partnership for Kids
Metro Community College Fort Campus Swanson Building

May 4 (11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.)
Women’s Power Luncheon
Benefiting: Habitat for Humanity of Omaha
Location: Hilton Omaha

May 4 (11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.)
13th Annual Leaders for Life Luncheon
Benefiting: Creighton University’s female student-athletes
Location: D.J. Sokol Arena

May 5 (4:30-8:30 p.m.)
Champagne and Diamonds Dinner and Auction
Benefiting: Micah House
Location: Mid America Center

May 5 (5-9:30 p.m.)
For the Kids Benefit
Benefiting: Omaha Children’s Museum
Location: Omaha Children’s Museum

May 6 (3-7 p.m.)
Patriotic Productions Fundraiser for Nebraska Female Veterans Flight
Benefiting: Patriotic Productions
Location: 12345 N. 36th St.

May 7 (10 a.m.-7p.m.)
Youth Emergency Services’ Golf Outing
Benefiting: Youth Emergency Services
Location: The Players Club at Deer Creek

May 8 (11:45 a.m.-1:15 p.m.)
D.J.’s Hero Awards Luncheon
Benefiting: Salvation Army
Location: CenturyLink Center Omaha

May 11 (5:30-9 p.m.)
Celebrating A Decade of the Derby
Benefiting: Midlands Humane Society
Location: Mid-America Center, Council Bluffs

May 11 (6-9:30 p.m.)
Portraits of Excellence
Benefiting: Brownell Talbot School
Location: Brownell Talbot Campus

May 11 (11:30 a.m.-7 p.m.)
Hit the Links and Drive Against Disabilities Golf Tournament
Benefiting: United Cerebral Palsy of Nebraska
Location: Tiburon Golf Club

May 12 (all day)
Stamp Out Hunger Mail
Carriers’ Food Drive
Benefiting: local food banks
Location: personal homes
(mail carriers will pick up food)

May 12 (7 a.m.-2 p.m.)
15th Annual Wear Yellow Ride, Fun Run & Walk
Benefiting: Wear Yellow Nebraska
Location: Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum

May 12 (7:30 a.m.-noon)
2018 Omaha Heart Walk
Benefiting: American Heart Association
Location: Miller’s Landing

May 12 (6-8 p.m.)
Man & Woman of the Year Grand Finale Gala
Benefiting: Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
Location: Embassy Suites, La Vista

May 14 (6:30-9:30 p.m.)
Lung Force Breathe & Brew
Benefiting: American Lung Association
Location: Scriptown Brewing Co.

May 14 (11 a.m.-6 p.m.)
Chip in for Children Golf Tournament
Benefiting: Children’s Square USA
Location: Council Bluffs Country Club

May 15 (5:30-9 p.m.)
SAVE Program Graduation Dinner
Benefiting: SAVE
Location: Embassy Suites, La Vista

May 16 (10 a.m.-noon)
Goal Achievement Honors Celebration
Benefiting: Partnership 4 Kids
Location: Holland Performing Arts

May 16-19 (times vary)
Special Olympics Summer Games
Benefiting: Special Olympics
Location: Varies

May 19 (noon-6 p.m.)
Golf Scramble
Benefiting: Senior Health Foundation
Location: Shoreline Golf Course

May 19 (9:30 a.m.-noon)
Great Strides
Benefiting: Cystic Fibrosis Foundation
Location: Stinson Park

May 19 (9 a.m.)
Walk MS
Benefiting: Multiple Sclerosis Foundation
Location: Werner Park

May 21 (noon)
MCF Golf Tournament
Benefiting: Midlands Community Foundation
Location: Platteview Golf Club

May 21 (noon-7 p.m.)
21st Ronald McDonald House in Omaha Golf Tournament
Benefiting: Ronald McDonald House Charities in Omaha
Location: The Players Club at Deer Creek

May 21 (11 a.m.-5 p.m.)
Children’s Charity Golf Classic
Benefiting: Children’s Hospital & Medical Center Foundation
Location: Champions Run

May 23 (midnight-11:59 p.m.)
Omaha Gives!
Benefiting: more than 1,000 Omaha nonprofits
Location: online

May 25 (6-10 p.m.)
40th anniversary screening of Alien with guest Veronica Cartwright
Benefiting: Nebraska Kidney Association
Location: Joslyn Art Museum

May 30 (6-10 p.m.)
Pinot, Pigs & Poets
Benefiting: Completely KIDS
Location: Happy Hollow Club

June 1 (7:30 a.m.-2 p.m.)
Fore the Cure Women’s Golf Tournament
Benefiting: Susan G. Komen Foundation
Location: Tiburon Golf Course

June 1 (5:30 p.m.-midnight)
On the Road to Paradise—Hawaiian Style
Benefiting: Boys & Girls Clubs of the Midlands
Location: Marriott Downtown at the Capital District

June 1 (7-8:30 p.m.)
Run for the Young
Benefiting: Children’s Square/Omaha Foster Care
Location: Peak Performance

June 1-2 (8:30 a.m.-midnight)
Cattlemen’s Ball presents: Whip Cancer 2018
Benefiting: Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center
Location: Hergott Farm in Hebron, NE

June 2 (6-9:30 p.m.)
Cabaret 2018 featuring Jeff Dye
Benefiting: The Child Saving Institute
Location: Marriott Downtown at the Capital District

June 2 (6:30-11 p.m.)
Joslyn Art Museum Association Gala
Benefiting: Joslyn Art Museum Association
Location: Joslyn Art Museum

June 2 (6:30-10 p.m.)
Ollie’s Dream Gala 2018
Benefiting: Ollie Webb Center
Location: Hilton Downtown

June 3 (7:30-2 p.m.)
Stepping Out to Cure Scleroderma 5K Walk/Run
Benefiting: Scleroderma Foundation, Heartland Chapter
Location: Chalco Hills Recreational Area

June 4 (7:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m.)
Central High Foundation Golf Outing
Benefiting: Central High School Foundation
Location: Field Club of Omaha

June 5 (11 a.m.-6 p.m.)
Project Harmony Golf Invitational
Benefiting: Project Harmony
Location: Indian Creek Golf Course

June 6 (10:30 a.m.-6 p.m.)
Omaha Home for Boys Golf Classic
Benefiting: Omaha Home for Boys
Location: Tiburon Golf Club

June 8 (5:30-9:30 p.m.)
Baseball, Brews, and Babies Too
Benefiting: OneWorld Community Health
Location: The Blatt

June 9 (10 a.m.-noon)
Strawberry Brunch
Benefiting: St. Vincent De Paul Food Pantry
Location: St. Wenceslaus Conference

June 9 (5:30-9:30 p.m.)
NCHS 125th Anniversary Celebration
Benefiting: Nebraska Children’s Home Society
Location: Embassy Suites, La Vista

June 10 (9 a.m.-4 p.m.)
50th Annual Munroe-Meyer Guild Garden Walk
Benefiting: Munroe-Meyer Institute
Location: Regency to the Medical Center

June 10 (6 p.m.)
Fifth Annual Mission Possible Walk/Run
Benefiting: Open Door Mission
Location: Shadow Lake Towne Center

June 11 (10:30 a.m.-4 p.m.)
Swing for Health Golf Outing
Benefiting: CHI Health Foundation
Location: The Players Club at Deer Creek

June 11 (11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.)
CHANCE Luncheon featuring Joe Ricketts
Benefiting: Children’s Scholarship Fund of Omaha
Location: CenturyLink Center

June 11 (10:30 a.m.-7 p.m.)
16th Annual Golf Classic
Benefiting: the Hope Center for Kids
Location: Champions Run Golf Course

June 12 (11 a.m.-6 p.m.)
Third Annual Golf Tournament
Benefiting: the First Responders Foundation
Location: Oak Hills Country Club

June 13 (11 a.m.-1 p.m.)
Scholarship Luncheon
Benefiting: Boys & Girls Clubs of the Midlands
Location: Scott Conference Center

June 13 (11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.)
WCA Tribute to Women Luncheon
Benefiting: Women’s Center for Advancement
Location: Hilton Omaha

June 13 (5:30-8:30 p.m.)
17th Annual Hops for Harmony
Benefiting: Project Harmony
Location: Werner Park

June 15 (6-9 p.m.)
Strike a Chord 14
Benefiting: Heartland Family Service
Location: Mid-America Center

June 16 (5-9 p.m.)
Joslyn Castle Unlocked
Benefiting: Joslyn Castle Trust
Location: Joslyn Castle

June 17 (7:30 a.m.-1 p.m.)
Rollin’ to Colon
Benefiting: Great Plains Colon Center Task Force
Location: Douglas County West High School, Valley, NE

June 21 (all day)
The Longest Day, an individualized fundraiser
Benefiting: Alzheimer’s Association
Location: Donor’s choice

June 23 (11 a.m.-4 p.m.)
Wheels of Courage
Benefiting: the Jennie Edmundson Foundation
Location: Quaker Steak & Lube, Council Bluffs

June 29 (11 a.m.-8 p.m.)
2018 Golf Classic
Benefiting: ALS in the Heartland
Location: Tiburon Golf Club

Event times and details may change. Check with venue or event organizer to confirm.

Young Heroes

July 23, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

It’s good exercise. You get to help people. You get to wear cool boots. And maybe best of all: You get to hang out with horses all day.

But there’s one other advantage to volunteering at the Heartland Equine Therapeutic Riding Academy: Even teen volunteers are critical to the operation.

“At some volunteer jobs we didn’t always feel useful or needed,” says Sarah Kopsa, 18, the eldest of three teens in the Kopsa family who volunteer at HETRA. However, she says, when the three arrive at the stables, there’s always something for them to do. “We know that if we are on the schedule we better show up because they really will have a problem providing the therapy without us,” Sarah adds.

And so it is, every Wednesday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. that the Kopsas participate in a variety of activities including mucking stalls, sweeping, grooming, setting up the ring for students, laying out toys, and more. “During the lesson I’m really busy resetting the rings and toys for the next student. It’s good for me to wear boots because it gets dusty in there,” Maria shares.

HETRA’s mission is to improve the quality of life—both physically and emotionally —for adults and children with disabilities using equine-assisted activities. Those with special needs go the HETRA facilities in either Valley or Omaha each week for lessons to help them improve their core strength and balance.

Arriving just after school on Wednesdays, the Kopsa children immediately set out to groom and care for the horses. As kids begin arriving for their sessions, the Kopsas are there to not only welcome them, but also to help get everyone ready to ride, working with anywhere from three to five children each session. “The horses are mild-mannered, but we still have to be at their side at all times, holding the reins and spotting the rider” Sarah says. “The activities, like throwing balls through a hoop or reaching out to take a stuffed toy off a post, may seem simple to us, but to our riders it is challenging.”

While volunteering at the facility may not be forever, it has done plenty to inspire plans for the future among all three Kopsa children. Sarah, who has worked as a Certified Nursing Assistant in an assisted living facility, plans on studying nursing and credits her experiences at HETRA and in assisted living for showing her how to support and interact with others. Maria is considering teaching as a career path “so I’ll be able to better help kids with special needs.”

And James? He hopes to go into accounting and eventually, law. “HETRA is strengthening my desire to serve others in need,” he says. “I think I will always be more sensitive people who are disabled, to the parents of disabled kids and to organizations like HETRA. I don’t know how accounting and law will play into that, but it seems like there could be a good fit someday.”


The Science of Charity

May 21, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Kali Baker knows well how the better angels of our nature think. She knows that although they are angels, they still love a little competition. They love variety, too. They love prizes. Like their less-noble brethren, they even like to party.

Omaha Gives 2014, the 24-hour-long, online telethon Baker organizes, is as much a psychological experiment as it is a charity. Still, the bottom line isn’t rocket science: The event raises a heck of a lot of money for a heck of a lot of Omaha charities. Last year, in its first outing in the city, this online telethon put on by the Omaha Community Foundation raised $3 million for charities in the area.

“It was just remarkable to watch,” says Baker, who is director of communications for the Foundation. “It’s such a different type of event, we didn’t know for sure what we were getting into. It just felt so good when we saw the numbers.”

Impressive numbers. From midnight to midnight one day last spring, nearly 11,000 people made online donations to 318 participating non-profits.

This year’s Omaha Gives 2014 will be held May 21. At 12:01 a.m. that Wednesday, you can go to omahagives24.org and donate to any one of more than 500 charities in the region.

Here’s how it works. Area non-profits sign up to be a part of the event. All the participating charities are then included on a sort of “Big Board” on the Omaha Gives website. On May 21, people can begin going to the website and donating to any one (or, of course, any number) of the charities listed. Each charity’s name on the board with have a real-time running tally of the money they’ve received.

So, here’s where the mind games come in. The website becomes a scoreboard. All of a sudden, somebody is winning. As is human nature: The volunteers and donors for the five hundred or so other charities decide it would be neat for them to be the leader.

Baker calls that “incentivizing” the event. It gets better.

Last year, many of the charities held events during the day. Donors and volunteers gathered, had fun and very often got on their smart phones and donated. Also, as the excitement built through the day, they contacted their friends, who contacted their friends. That social media thing. Pretty soon, the event was drawing hundreds of new donors and volunteers to the charities involved.
Then came the prizes for hitting certain donation targets. This year, non-profits will compete for prizes in three categories depending on the group’s annual budget.

The Omaha Community Foundation also will be offering matching funds. In addition, each hour, one donation will be randomly selected to be augmented with an additional $1,000.

That’s yet another clever carrot.

“Things can get a bit slow at some points, especially in those early hours of the day,” Baker says. “But that $1,000 each hour should get people fired up to stay involved all day long.”

One group that benefitted greatly was The Union for Contemporary Art. The young non-profit (started in 2011) hosted a lunchtime pizza party the day of the event last year as well as an open house for donors. Numerous donations were made from donors onsite, but most of the donations came through social media, says Brigitte McQueen Shew, The Union’s executive director.

“I basically spent the entire day jumping online and reminding people that even a gift of $10…would make a huge difference.”

More than 200 people donated a total of $13,000, “A huge amount for us,” she says. The Union’s effort earned them one of those $1,000 bonus prizes.

“Omaha Gives basically enabled us to launch (programs) years before I thought we’d have the funds available to make it happen,” she says. “We are truly looking forward to the event this year.”
Sara Boyd, president and CEO of the Foundation, echoes that sentiment. There’s good reason to believe Omaha Gives could grow exponentially in coming years.

“As we look at these event in other communities, the second year presents a huge opportunity to get more people involved in giving,” she says. “People who didn’t know it was happening last year or didn’t understand the premise have a greater opportunity to participate.”

The Omaha Gives day is modeled after a few similar 24-hour, online fundraisers that have popped up in recent years around the country. Because of the immense success of this fundraising formula, Baker says, more and more will likely be showing up around the country.

“It just has been proven to work on numerous levels,” she says. “It has an amazing way of getting people involved, even people who have never been involved before.”

That may be the greatest power of this fundraising formula. Thanks primarily to that intense social media burst, it’s estimated that 30 percent of last year’s donations at the Omaha event came from first-time donors.

“I think one of the great things about Omaha Gives is that it gave us a vehicle for raising awareness about our programs and work,” McQueen Shew says.

That new awareness, and all those first-time donors, means a whole new army of volunteers and donors for those charities as they move forward.

“It’s not just about the money raised, it’s about introducing a great number of new people to a great number of non-profits,” Baker says. “All these neat incentives are just ways to promote giving and bring the community together in new ways.”

Omaha Gives “is empowering, accessible, and meaningful,” Boyd says. “That’s especially important as we seek to develop a new audience of givers in our community.”


Powering Across the Finish Line

January 6, 2014 by

It was man versus machine. An epic competition of tug-o-war. A true test of physical and mental strength. An all-out battle to the finish line where everyone who competed was a winner.

On May 18, Performance Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram of Bellevue hosted a truck pull for charity. Six local teams pulled heavyweight Ram trucks, competing to raise money for their favorite charities. The dealership gave away more than $4,000 in cash prizes at its first annual Performance Community Truck Pull. The grand prize of $1,500 went to the wrestling team from Bellevue East High School. The team raised money to support the costly medical treatments for their fellow East graduating senior, Jake Pannell, who was diagnosed with lymphoma last year.

Tyrone Williams, president and general manager of Performance, says the concept for the truck pull was devised by his managers and Carroll Communications. “We are having discussions about this being an annual event. I was looking for an event to introduce the dealership to the Bellevue community as well support the community,” he says. In a family-friendly atmosphere that boasted food, fun, and face painting, the dealership encouraged the community to not only support their favorite competing team but also to simply take a look around the new facility.

The team from Bellevue East High School pulls a 2500 Ram truck at the Performance Bellevue dealership to raise money for graduating senior Jake Pannell, who was diagnosed with a form of lymphoma last year. East Principal Brad Stueve runs alongside the team cheering them on.

The team from Bellevue East High School pulls a 2500 Ram truck at the Performance Bellevue dealership to raise money for graduating senior Jake Pannell, who was diagnosed with a form of lymphoma last year. East Principal Brad Stueve runs alongside the team cheering them on.

Performance ensured that none of the six competing teams walked away empty handed. Teams included Bellevue University, Bellevue East High School, Bellevue West High School, Bellevue Community Foundation, Offutt Police, and Bellevue Fire and Police. “The turnout was excellent, and the store donated over $4,200 to the charities. Carroll Communications, the Bellevue Chamber, and Mayor Rita Sanders were very instrumental in helping us pull the event off,” Williams says.

Matt Briggs, head coach of men’s soccer at Bellevue University, says he was grateful that his team competed in such a charitable cause. “We raised money for the Wounded Warrior Family Support group and raised $750,” he shares.

The Bellevue Community Foundation also competed, winning $250 to support the city of Bellevue. Mayor Sanders says she was thrilled with the funds raised and equally excited that they would be going toward the newly created Bellevue Community Foundation. “It came about through the City of Bellevue strategic plan,” she says. “I was tasked to start a community foundation so we can help the community raise money individually or privately. The Community Foundation can help aid with some of the support systems through the city.”

Allie Baxter

August 29, 2013 by
Photography by Allie Baxter, The Salvation Army, and Prudential

Since she was a little girl, Alexandra ‘Allie’ Baxter could be heard ringing bells next to The Salvation Army’s iconic red kettles during the holiday season, taking donations for those in need. Now, her relationship with the signature red kettle takes on new meaning as the founder of the Red Kettle 5K Run.

Baxter, a recent graduate of Millard North High School who will be attending Northwestern University in the fall, started the fall charity event in 2010. Assigned to come up with a project for school, Baxter turned an idea for a charity event into a full-fledged business proposal, which she pitched to The Salvation Army. The inception of a run as a charity event, however, happened earlier that year while partaking in her favorite hobby.

“I was running another 5K charity event, and I noticed there were tons and tons of people there. And I thought to myself with that many people, you can really spread a message to lots of different people but also bring in lots of money and food,” Baxter says.


The 5K run takes place at Lake Zorinsky and asks that participants pay a $10 or 10-food-item entrance fee. This year’s run will take place on Oct. 12. While the format of the run has not changed in its three years, fund- and food-raising efforts have skyrocketed. The first year brought in 16,000 food items for The Salvation Army, while last year garnered 45,000 items.

“Since we do a low-cost, high-benefit event, where we put in as little as we can to get the most out of it, whatever we bring in goes straight to the pantries and is immediately helpful,” Baxter says. “There seems to be an increasing need every year with the financial situations as they are. More people need the help and they all need it at the same time, especially going into the winter season.”

Omaha is not the only city where Baxter’s influence runs deep. The Salvation Army has started Red Kettle 5K Runs in major cities like Chicago and St. Louis.

“We’re trying to maintain a blueprint for the event. In Des Moines, they don’t need food because someone else helps them, so they bring in toiletry items. It adapts to what you need, and that’s what’s great about it,” she says.

For her efforts, Baxter received The Prudential Spirit of Community Award this past spring. The award, created in 1995, recognizes young people for their outstanding volunteer service. Baxter traveled to Washington, D.C., to receive her award, meeting Academy Award-winning actor Kevin Spacey along the way.

Allie Baxter meeting actor Kevin Spacey at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History in May.

Allie Baxter meeting actor Kevin Spacey at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in May.

“[The recipients] were put into groups, and we all were able to present our projects and hear what other people thought of them. I like hearing feedback from other people and learning how I can improve what I’ve started,” Baxter says.

Baxter is uncertain what her future holds for her at Northwestern, but she admits that through working with The Salvation Army, the business world has piqued her interest. Whatever she decides to do, she wants to continue working with The Salvation Army in Chicago and help combat hunger.

“There is this divide where people don’t realize there is a need, that there are people going hungry, there are people without homes. There’s a nonattachment between teens and what’s actually happening,” Baxter explains. “Hunger and homelessness are issues that are tough to fix. And when they are hard to fix, it makes people give up trying.”

Allie Baxter is one person who refuses to give up.

American Cancer Society

June 20, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Being “the official sponsor of birthdays” doesn’t mean the American Cancer Society shows up at parties to oversee the unwrapping of presents or the blowing out of candles on the cake. It’s a tougher sponsorship, one that requires copious amounts of fundraising, long-term research, and dedicated volunteers. Because they believe everyone deserves to have a full life without the looming threat of cancer.

“We are determined to make this cancer’s last century,” says Joy King, regional vice president of ACS in Omaha, who previously worked as a regional executive director in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. “We want to change the stats from two out of three people surviving today in the U.S. to three out of three surviving. As an organization, we have never been more ready to put the American Cancer Society out of business.”

The organization, which is currently celebrating its 100th anniversary, holds 47 Relay for Life events, two galas, and a breast cancer walk each year in Nebraska. Besides the events, ACS also supports several awareness campaigns and collaborative efforts, including Colon Cancer Awareness Month in March and the Great American Smoke Out each November.

“We are determined to make this cancer’s last century…As an organization, we have never been more ready to put the American Cancer Society out of business.” – Joy King, regional vice president

“We’ve played a role in nearly every cancer research breakthrough in recent history,” adds King. “Each year, we help cancer patients get the help they need when they need it. For example, last year alone, we assisted more than a million people who called us for help providing free services, like a place to stay while traveling for treatment, rides to treatments, emotional support, and so much more.”

King knows from years of working with ACS that silence and a sit-back-and-watch attitude don’t finish the fight against cancer—it’s action that accomplishes these breakthroughs.

Another person who understands the importance of action is cancer survivor Michelle Belsaas. She was 20 when she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. “I thought cancer was an elderly person’s disease,” she says. “It came out of nowhere. There’s no known cause, so no one really knows how I got it. I was just reaching down to start the shower one day, and my neck cramped up…I went to the doctor, and he was like, ‘Oh, there’s a lump.’”

Belsaas had two cancerous nodules in her neck, but the doctor told her not to worry. After all, thyroid cancer is one of the lesser evils with about a 96 percent survival rate. “They took my thyroid out the next day, and then they gave me radioactive iodine to kill off the thyroid tissue.”

Although Belsaas didn’t need chemotherapy or lose her hair during her treatment, her thyroid cancer reared its ugly head once more about 10 years later while she was getting a check-up. This time, the treatment made her very sick and required her to be quarantined to a room in her home for weeks. “They had me withhold from foods with iodine for six weeks over Thanksgiving, which was really tough. You don’t realize how much food has iodine in it until you can’t eat it.”

“For once, I wasn’t alone. Knowing that there are people who go through the same thing and know how it feels to continually wait, it was like finding a family.” – Michelle Belsaas, cancer survivor

Today, Belsaas is 100 percent cancer-free. She still goes in for blood tests and ultrasounds every year to make sure her hormone therapy is regulated well—something that she will have to deal with for the rest of her life—but otherwise, everything is back to normal.

When she lived in Lincoln, Belsaas stumbled across Relay for Life. “I thought, ‘I’m a cancer survivor…let’s go!’” she says with a laugh. But when she did the survivor lap at her first Relay event, it suddenly dawned on her that what she had survived was a big deal. “I couldn’t emotionally handle it,” she says. “For once, I wasn’t alone. Knowing that there are people who go through the same thing and know how it feels to continually wait, it was like finding a family.” That’s when she decided ACS was the organization for her. She started getting more involved with ACS, volunteering her time and chairing events, like ACS’ newest fundraiser, Hope in the Heartland Gala.

This year’s Hope in the Heartland Gala takes place on July 19 at Stinson Park at Aksarben Village and is themed “An Evening at the Races.” In its first year, the event raised over $201,000. This year, ACS hopes to raise at least $300,000 through auctions, honorary luminaries, and more.

Connie Sullivan, who is chairing the gala alongside husband Tim and co-chairs Addie and Robert Hollingsworth, hopes to make this event the premier gala in Omaha. She says she can’t think of another charity that affects more people—both those suffering and those who know someone suffering.

Sullivan herself can attest to the effect cancer can have, as she lost both her parents to lung cancer in just three years’ time when she was in her early 20s. “I hadn’t ever been involved with anyone personally with cancer,” she says. “I was devastated. It happened so quickly between diagnosis and death.” Just when she thought it couldn’t get any worse, she lost her aunt and her cousin to cancer as well.

“It’s hard to say no to a cause that you believe in…I lost four significant people in my life to cancer, so I can’t think of anything else that I’d have more passion for.” – Connie Sullivan, chair of Hope in the Heartland Gala

Following the overwhelming grief of losing loved ones to cancer, Sullivan got involved with ACS. She and Tim lived in Lincoln at the time, but they helped out with a jazz festival event for ACS. “We just called and said that we’d like to volunteer, and we started going to meetings. I love the cause. It’s hard to say no to a cause that you believe in…I lost four significant people in my life to cancer, so I can’t think of anything else that I’d have more passion for.”

Since moving to Omaha, Sullivan and her husband have only gotten more involved with ACS. “ACS does so many good things for people with cancer…Diagnosis is overwhelming. [ACS] is there to help.”

The American Cancer Society Omaha will host its annual Hope in the Heartland Gala on July 19 at Stinson Park at Aksarben Village. For more information, visit cancer.org or call 402-393-5800.

Bringing Community Responsibility to Life

May 25, 2013 by

Pythons. Hooded Pitahuis. Pygmy Marmosets.

Omaha is known by many across the nation because of Wild Kingdom, Mutual of Omaha’s primetime television show that brought animals to life in our living rooms.

But the show’s impact has been more profound for us (Omahans) than it has ecologically speaking. We identify with and claim the show’s reputation as our own. We feel community pride because, after all, it’s Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. This pride generates a strong sense of community responsibility. So maybe not coincidentally, community responsibility is accepted as one of the five Omaha City Values.

Wild Kingdom is one of the coolest examples in Omaha of what is called “traditional philanthropy.” This kind of philanthropy refers to the age-old practice of companies making cash donations or in-kind contributions to worthy causes. Most companies participate in traditional philanthropy because of their sincere desire to be involved in their communities and/or to give something back. Traditional philanthropy promotes reciprocity that produces important business benefits, including increased customer loyalty, higher employee retention, and enhanced corporate reputation.

As compared to traditional philanthropy, strategic philanthropy is a concept that has grown in prominence since the 1990s. This kind of charity involves a process where companies align their community relations initiatives with their core business products and services. Instead of a Wild Kingdom animal television show sponsored by an insurance firm (What’s the connection there?), corporations donate to specific community projects that align with their core competencies. For example, ConAgra does strategic philanthropy by focusing its charity on food and hunger issues, like Kids Cafés.

Some organizations are finding ways to impact their communities through employee engagement practices. Firms like PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) recognize that young professionals crave choice. So they’ve created an innovative program for performance incentives that offers a choice to support a cause in their name. Every staff member gets to choose how they receive their incentive—cash, a charity match, a tech package, or a gift card. This is an ingenious way to bring community responsibility to life.

At the furthest end of the community responsibility spectrum are social enterprises. These organizations flip the capitalist model on its head. Maximizing profits is no longer the purpose of these businesses. Profit is a means to a broader end of enhancing the well-being of the community. Nonprofits, as well as for-profits like Herman Miller, Grameen, and PlanetReuse, are bringing community responsibility to life in this way. Their employees and clients are supporting their model with extreme loyalty.

From traditional philanthropy to social enterprise, we challenge Omaha businesses to continue to enjoy the intrinsic and extrinsic rewards that come from bringing community responsibility to life. And don’t forget—a sense of community responsibility starts with our kids. One of the ways the Business Ethics Alliance has promoted this is with our team of moral superheroes who live in the Itty Bitty City at the Omaha Children’s Museum. Take your kids to the museum and kick-start their sense of community responsibility by spending time with superhero Reese.

Beverly Kracher, Ph.D., is Executive Director of Business Ethics Alliance and Chair of Business Ethics & Society at Creighton University’s College of Business.

Project Everlast

April 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The first time Akeeme Halliburton was placed in foster care, he was in middle school. His infant brother had been born with drugs in his system, so he and his siblings were removed from their mother’s care and taken into protective custody until alternate care was found. He and his younger brother jumped between foster homes for a few years before they were allowed to return home. But when Halliburton was attending Central High School, his mom became physically abusive, so he called Child Protective Services, who placed him and his siblings back into the system.

“There were good memories and also some bad,” Halliburton, now 20, says of his years in foster care. “When I was younger, I was more of a rebel. I didn’t know why I was in foster care, and I just wanted to go home. When I was older, I just wanted to make a good impression so I could find a better home.”

Halliburton was placed with a foster mom the first time, though their relationship was often strained. “I volunteered at Creighton [Hospital] a lot and always got home pretty late, so she called the cops on me.”

The second time was with a foster dad, who let him volunteer and have more freedom, but Halliburton only received one meal a day, never had proper clothing for winter, and spent a lot of his time alone.

Fortunately, the last foster home he was in was with a woman who provided quality care. “She understood and listened,” he says. “I was a lot more obedient, too, because of the good environment. She didn’t just want me there for money; she cared about me.” But, eventually, Halliburton grew old enough that he was no longer able to remain in foster care.

“When I was younger, I was more of a rebel. I didn’t know why I was in foster care, and I just wanted to go home. When I was older, I just wanted to make a good impression so I could find a better home.” – Akeeme Halliburton, former foster child

While there is always concern for children within the foster care system, there has been a surprising lack of concern in what happens to the youth who age out of foster care when they turn 19. It’s a frightening thought for many former foster care youth, who no longer have a home, steady income, emotional support, medical care, transportation, or education. Worse, the statistics are against them. One in five young people who age out of foster care will be homeless before age 21.

Fortunately, Halliburton heard about Project Everlast, a grassroots effort that promotes community resources to improve a youth’s opportunities and networks for housing, transportation, and health care during the transition to adulthood.

Project Everlast formed in 2007, when the Nebraska Children & Families Foundation met with a steering committee of Omaha youth, the Nebraska Department of Health & Human Services, the Sherwood Foundation, and the William and Ruth Scott Family Foundation. Together, the youth and the representatives of the organizations developed an innovative plan to help aged-out foster care youth with resources for housing, transportation, health care, education, employment, personal and community engagement, and daily living.

Now, with youth-driven councils all across Nebraska—in Omaha, Lincoln, Norfolk, Grand Island, North Platte, Scottsbluff, Geneva, and Kearney—Project Everlast is able to provide a source of peer-to-peer support and mentoring to members, as well as allow foster care youth to have a voice in advocating for changes in agencies and systems, locally and statewide. The councils are open to any youth or young adult with foster care experience between the ages of 14-24 and are supported by a Youth Advisor, who provides training and support.

Project Everlast also has several community partners in Omaha that work with them to create a network of support for youth in transition, including Family Housing Advisory Services, Child Saving Institute, Central Plains Center for Services, Omaha Home for Boys, Lutheran Family Services, Heartland Family Service, and Youth Emergency Services.

“Foster care can be a very isolating experience, and decreasing that isolation is a vitally important part of our work.” – Rosey Higgs, associate vice president of Project Everlast

“My foster mom told me about [Project Everlast],” Halliburton says. “I didn’t know what it was, but I had seen some fliers outside of my school. We went to a group one day, and after that, I just started going more often and getting more involved. They gave me all kinds of numbers to call for help and resources on how to age out of foster care. If I hadn’t found them, I wouldn’t have aged out with as many benefits.”

“Our work is guided by young people in foster care and alumni of foster care,” says Rosey Higgs, associate vice president of Project Everlast.

Higgs, who has undergraduate and graduate degrees in social work from the University of Nebraska-Omaha, had some past experience in launching new initiatives for domestic violence, homelessness, and HIV prevention. When she heard about Project Everlast, she jumped at the chance to be a part of it and add child welfare into her career expertise. “I was instantly drawn to its philosophy and was really energized by the amazing group of young people who were involved,” she adds.

Although she provides oversight and direction to the Project Everlast initiative of the Nebraska Children & Families Foundation, Higgs’ primary responsibility is to convene with community members, nonprofit agencies, the government, and young people to address barriers faced by youth in transition from foster care to adulthood.

“While there is still work to be done, we are well on our way to creating a culture that seeks out and honors the inputs of [those with foster care familiarity] in administering services for youth in foster care and alumni…People who have experienced foster care have important insight to share as we write child welfare policy and create new programs.”

Other organizations focused on foster care often talk about transitioning foster care youth to adulthood through achievements of independence, but Higgs thinks that’s inaccurate. “Hardly anyone lives independently,” she states. “Most people have a network of trusted friends and family that they depend on for advice from time to time or even just for a social outlet. Foster care can be a very isolating experience, and decreasing that isolation is a vitally important part of our work.”

“Young people aging out of foster care require ongoing support so they can reach their full potential and take advantage of the opportunities Nebraska offers to other children their age,” says Mary Jo Pankoke, president of the Nebraska Children & Families Foundation.

Pankoke, who holds an undergraduate degree in education and a graduate degree in psychology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, has been with the foundation from the beginning of its creation in the 1990s. “We bring public and private sectors together throughout the state to prevent problems that threaten the well-being of our children. It’s a wonderful mission that motivates me every day.”

“Young people aging out of foster care require ongoing support so they can reach their full potential and take advantage of the opportunities Nebraska offers to other children their age.” – Mary Jo Pankoke, president of Nebraska Children & Families Foundation.

Having seen the results of Project Everlast’s work, Pankoke knows the initiative is going in the right direction. “In just two years, measuring success in Omaha, more youth received a high school diploma or GED and went on for more training…the number of youth with a paying job [went] from 55 percent before Project Everlast to 68 percent…[and] an increase in youth having full-time, stable employment [went] from 26 percent to 53 percent.”

Higgs and Pankoke both believe that it’s in everyone’s best interest to ensure that all youth have a fair shot at becoming successful adults.

“I always encourage people to think about how they support their own children as they prepare for adulthood—youth in transition from foster care need exactly the same things,” says Higgs.

“We all win if youth can receive a high school diploma, prepare for meaningful work, find emotional support and connection when they need it, and have a safety net when money or housing becomes an issue,” says Pankoke.

As for Halliburton, his time in foster care and with Project Everlast has left quite the impression. He’s currently looking at colleges where he could study sociology and social work. “[Project Everlast] has been phenomenal,” he says. “Everything they’re doing is for the good of foster care…Any kids aging out of foster care should really think about coming in and getting involved because it’s a great asset.”

For more information, visit projecteverlastomaha.org.