Ronald McDonald House Charities, Inc. exists to directly improve the health and well-being of children. Every night, more than 12,000 families stay close to their hospitalized children in more than 336 Ronald McDonald Houses and 197 Family Rooms around the world. These locations include comfortable beds, kitchens, showers, and laundry facilities?everything families need while they focus on helping their children heal.
In addition to serving families receiving care at 78% of the world's top pediatric hospitals, Ronald McDonald House Charities, Inc. and its network of local Chapters also provides health education and treatments for families in vulnerable communities who have difficulty accessing health, dental, and medical care. Fifty Ronald McDonald Care Mobiles around the world provide immunizations, dental care, check-ups, and referrals to ongoing medical support to kids from Thailand to New Orleans. Extending its reach around the world, the organization also invests in grants to nonprofits that focus on critical needs of children, and awards scholarships to rising U.S. high school seniors working toward a higher education.
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Aspire CoffeeWorks was born out of a partnership between Metropolis Coffee and Aspire, a nonprofit that helps children and adults with disabilities. Together, they create job training and employment opportunities at Metropolis's roasting facility on the North Side of Chicago for adults with developmental disabilities. Working side-by-side with the Metropolis staff, Aspire CoffeeWorks’ employees help weigh and grind the coffee; package, label, and date batches of beans; prepare orders for shipping; and deliver the coffee to retail stores. 100% of the proceeds from each bag of Aspire CoffeeWorks’ organic, fair-trade coffee benefits the organization's programs. One-pound bags of Aspire CoffeeWorks' beans come in roasts such as the sweet and velvety Aspire Bold ($12.95) or the big-bodied Dream Big Decaf ($13.95).
The Center has welcomed kids onto its farm since 1936. It probably wasn't as much of a novelty back then, when Illinois was home to more than 220,000 farms and the U.S. government issued everyone a farmer's hat at birth. But that number has decreased steadily with each decade, dropping to just 76,000 by 2010, per the USDA. Which means that today, The Children's Farm at The Center gives kids and their families something increasingly special: the chance to experience life on an independent rural farm. Here, chickens lay eggs, goats give milk, and horses eat hay harvested right on the farm. The staff also leads tours of these grounds and explains how each animal fits into farm life. They even let kids pet some of the livestock before finishing up tours with a hayride.
For a completely immersive experience, The Children's Farm hosts summer camps for ages 3–17. During each camp session, campers live on the farm for days or weeks at a time, spending their days riding horses and caring for the animals.
Toy Box Connection aims to help all children receive the gift of a toy or a book year-round, serving as the connection between the families and businesses that donate these items and the children who need them. After accepting new and gently used toys, Toy Box Connection sorts and cleans them at its warehouse, then redistributes the toys and books to its partner nonprofit organizations. From there, the items are given directly to the children in need. Special projects include donating toys to children in the hospital, families of returning troops, and children in special needs or foster camps.
The Historical Society of Oak Park and River Forest makes history accessible with a museum, family research materials, and walking tours. At the museum, visitors can explore a range of costumes, photographs, and artifacts that have been donated by local families. Permanent fixtures include an exhibit on local writer Edgar Rice Burroughs, the man behind Tarzan, featuring dozens of photographs, movie stills, and Tarzan toys. Those who want to see history come to life around them can check out one of the walking tours, which explore sights such as breath-taking stained glass and religious imagery around the neighborhood or the elegant estates of Oak Park, built in the Prairie School of Architecture style.
Growing Power provides the means for communities to grow and distribute healthy food among their own residents through three important functions: growing demonstrations, education, and food production. Demonstrations come in the form of workshops designed to teach locals of the Midwest, the South, and New England how to grow fresh produce. On the education side, outreach programs for farmers, youth, and entire communities help spread awareness about the importance of community agriculture. Finally, the organization produces food in demonstration greenhouses and rural and urban farms in the Midwest. It distributes the produce and grass-fed meat it produces through 300 family farms as part of the Rainbow Farmers Cooperative, and to local families through the Farm-to-City Market Basket Program. This way, the people the organization benefits can have access to nutritious food regardless of location, income, or scarecrow phobias.