Like most 6-year olds, Jack O'Neil enjoyed playing with toys; unlike a typical 6-year-old, though, he played with his toys in the hospital. Jack was gearing up for corrective limb-lengthening surgery, a process that affected him long after his successful recovery. Once he was healthy, Jack wanted to make sure other hospital-bound kids had toys to play with. Jack began holding charitable lemonade stands, using the proceeds to buy toys. Over time, his pastime morphed into his current charity, Little Hands Make A Big Difference. Powered by fundraisers such as an annual 5K, the kid-run organization delivers Build-A-Bears and other toys to sick tots, fueling their play and filling their imaginations with geometric shapes. For more information, see the organization’s blog.
Founded in 1921, Dane County Humane Society (DCHS) is an open-admission shelter that cares for approximately 7,000 animals every year—including companion animals, exotic species, farm animals, and injured or orphaned wildlife. It accepts all animals regardless of age or health condition. In 2003, DCHS partnered with the University of Wisconsin's School of Veterinary Medicine to become the first organization to treat ringworm, an infectious disease once thought untreatable in animals, and has since saved the lives of more than 650 cats.
Every animal that enters DCHS’s facility receives necessary medical treatments. After being microchipped and evaluated for behavioral issues, companion animals are placed with permanent families. The organization also helps rehabilitate ill, injured, or orphaned wildlife through its Four Lakes Wildlife Center program. When not working directly with animals, DCHS advocates for humane animal laws and provides outreach programs to teach people about animal welfare.
Founded in 1884, the Mendelssohn Performing Arts Center is among the oldest community music organizations in the U.S., inviting patrons into its halls year after year to support and experience the excitement of live music. The center is home to the Mendelssohn Chamber Orchestra, which won the 2011 award for Best Chamber Orchestra from the Illinois Council of Orchestras. The group of in-residence musicians keep fans of classical music thoroughly entertained with concerts throughout the year and tag-team wrestling matches between the string and brass sections.
A network of volunteers at Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin help package and ship nutritious food from the organization's 42,000-square-foot warehouse to 315 partners in local communities, including food pantries, shelters, and other meal-distribution sites. Each year, Second Harvest Foodbank distributes more than 8 million pounds of food to 140,000 local residents in 16 Wisconsin counties, and 43% of the people it serves are children.
Since each woman's needs differ depending on her unique situation, Lean On Me provides customized support to survivors of domestic violence that typically reaches up to $200 worth of services for a woman and two children. Emergency resources may include toiletries (about $15/person), a night of shelter ($25/person), emergency transportation (about $20), and kennel services for one dog or cat ($15). Due to lack of funding, many of Wisconsin's domestic-violence programs, including Wisconsin Coalition for Domestic Violence, are struggling to accommodate growing numbers of women who have experienced domestic violence and need emergency resources.
Though 33 of 47 district schools already have the gardens, they still lack the resources to develop youth-gardening curricula. Teachers who attend professional-development courses on youth-gardening education can incorporate these practices back at school and model them for other teachers, along with their students. A weeklong course, sponsored by GROW, will cover topics such as organic gardening, nature study, games, and the role of youth gardening in the sustainable-agriculture movement.
The Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin strives to ensure bicycling is safe, accessible, and fun for residents across the state to achieve its vision of making Wisconsin one of the world’s best places to ride. Along with supporting campaigns such as Bike to Work Week and youth bike camps, the federation works to create bicycle-friendly policies that support riding opportunities throughout Wisconsin, reduce air pollution, and lessen traffic congestion. At neighborhood bike rides and safety presentations, city alders, community members, and police officers are invited to participate and learn about cycling options in their neighborhoods.