Charity & Grassroots in Saint Charles

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In 2004, four-year-old Jim Zellmer's life was changed forever when he was diagnosed with Type I diabetes. So his family did something about it. His grandparents owned a farm in Iowa, and Jim himself came up with the idea—what if the Zellmers grew pumpkins and sold them to support their cause? They raised more than $6,000 for diabetes research in their first year, and their harvest festival has grown every year since, featuring everything from food tastings to live music, carriage rides, and a petting zoo.

404 South 3rd Street
Geneva,
IL
US

In February 1995, residents of Aurora, IL were coping with two separate tragedies. Teens Moshe Rogers and Armando Mendez, both innocent bystanders, had been shot to death in crimes that occurred three months apart. In an effort to end the violence and honor the victims, the community banded together to form Project Unity—serving as a bridge between local schools, residents, and churches. The organization held the first Back to School Fair, which aimed to ready students from low-income families for the upcoming school year with free supplies, medical exams, and haircuts.

Communities In Schools of Aurora, IL (CIS) has since taken over responsibility for the school fair, one of its many projects to ensure equal footing for all students. Operating inside the former Fox Valley Park District building, the organization partners with more than 65 local social service and nonprofit agencies to help lower student drop-out rates. This it does by empowering students to succeed, whether through tutoring sessions, literacy training, or counseling services.

712 South River Street
Aurora,
IL
US

Historic Downtown Wheaton embraces many of the boutique gift stores, chic spas, and diverse culinary offerings that populate the historical storefronts of the western suburb’s walkable central shopping district. Before embarking on a day of checking off gift lists or simply sightseeing, slip under the colorful awnings at Front and Hale Streets to sneak a breakfast bite at the Egg Harbor Café, where The Handler sandwich tucks egg, bacon, and cheese onto a gourmet pretzel roll ($8.95). Eco-friendly gift shop It’s Our Earth's “buy recycled” philosophy unfolds space for ample creativity in the form of Snack Journals ($7 each)—fun notebooks reimagined from SpongeBob and Spiderman snack boxes that make the dog eating one's homework a slightly likelier excuse.

129 W Front St
Wheaton,
IL
US

Metro Dash pits athletes against their own limitations as they sprint through a 600-meter course dotted with 20 obstacles that test endurance and strength. High hurdles, balance beams, rope swings, and cargo nets impede the path as contestants—guts wrenching and muscles pounding—sprint to awaken their inner warriors. The Metro Dash staff stands by to control the flow of runners and penalize those who refuse to do an obstacle for fear of soiling their powdered wig.

Metro Dash staff members divide the race into waves, sending runners through the course to climb and crawl in their race T-shirts as spectators cheer on in support. They require runners in the Elite division to run the course a second time, totaling the scores for competition. After the race, awards for the top three cumulative male and female finish times will be announced. A portion of proceeds goes to benefit the Navy SEAL Foundation

2015 Manchester Rd
Wheaton,
IL
US

The Naperville chapter of Operation Snowball, a program of 360 Youth Services, operates under the notion that a simple message can spread and gain force organically through a community. Its programs focus on drug use, problem solving, and peer support for high-school students, both informing and empowering participants to create a change in their schools. Operation Snowball hosts three weekend retreats a year, with 225 teens and 40 adult volunteers in attendance at each. The retreats aim to prevent substance abuse and develop responsible decision-making skills. In small groups, teens participate in workshops and fun activities that range from reliving kindergarten and exploring mazes to dealing with grief. Friday night features a "no-talent" show to break the ice, and sessions of free time help youth learn about each other on their own terms.

See how Groupon helps you discover local causes and lend a helping hand at the Groupon Grassroots blog.

1305 Oswego Road
Naperville,
IL
US

Over the course of a two-hour energy assessment, Effortless Efficiency will perform an exhaustive top-to-bottom visual inspection and home assessment. Trained technicians will inspect airflow in each room and examine the permeability of doors, windows, and fireplace flue vents, seeking out dastardly drafts and leaks. Effortless Efficiency energy specialists will also inspect insulation inside attics and crawl spaces, assess the efficiency of all appliances, and provide water-use ratings for toilet, sinks, and showers before monitoring heating and cooling airflow and sitting down with homes' furnaces and AC units to conduct lengthy interviews on their age and efficiency.

200 E 5th Ave
Naperville,
IL
US