Silver Dollar City Foundation’s Care For Kids
Targets Needs of Area Kids
Donated Funds Top $1.7 Million to Help Kids
To meet physical needs, the Foundation has given funds to the schools each year, this year alone giving over $157,000 to 14 area school districts. This brings the total funding donations through Care for Kids to $1.5 Million. The goal is to meet areas of need that fall through the cracks of existing resources and programs.
The Silver Dollar City Foundation received two “Friend of Education” awards in Spring 2012, one from the Missouri Association of School Administrators and one from the Southwest Region Teachers Association.
Most of the funds are used to address physical needs that require immediate attention, needs that teachers and school staff see but for which school funds can’t be used. “Kids who are in pain or hungry, who are cold or without shoes that fit, or who can’t see or hear the teacher – those kids can’t focus on learning,” Foundation President John Baltes said. “We give the schools these Care for Kids funds so they can act immediately to take care of those needs.
In the second year, Care For Kids added in-school mentoring programs to support the emotional and mental needs of kids. Mentoring options include “Book Buddies,” where volunteers read books with students who may need some extra help or attention, and “Lunch Buddies,” where volunteers have lunch with students once a week. The school administrators choose or design programs to meet needs at their individual schools.
“We can take care of the physical needs. They may be eyeglasses, jackets, or school pictures…even the smallest things make a big difference in a child’s life. It’s that classic line that says, ‘Preach the gospel daily and use words only when necessary.’ That action speaks louder than anything else could. And if you’ve been impacted that directly by the love of Christ, it lasts forever.”
– John Baltes, Silver Dollar City Foundation President
To facilitate the mentoring programs, the Foundation works with area churches, training volunteers to take part in programs the schools identify as important to their individual needs. Over 300 volunteers from 30 area churches were certified through the training program and worked in the school districts during the 2016-2017 school year.
School administrators say they could use hundreds more mentors, who provide positive role models, assist kids having trouble keeping up with schoolwork, and help build self-esteem in kids, Baltes said.
“Care For Kids mentors have helped in a lot of ways. We have lots of students who maybe they’re from a single parent home, or maybe they just need someone to talk to or spend time with…It really makes the kids feel special.”
– Pam Hazell, Branson Elementary School Counselor
The Silver Dollar City Attractions help support the Foundation with funds raised through an ongoing ticket donation program offered to partner businesses and tourism-related neighbors of the Silver Dollar City properties. Funds generated through this program, totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars, goes back to help children in Stone and Taney Counties.
“The vision of the Silver Dollar City Foundation is to prepare the hearts of kids to become men and women with Christ-like character,” Baltes said. For more information about Care For Kids, call 417-336-7077.
Donations to Care For Kids may be mailed to Silver Dollar City Foundation, 7347 West Highway 76, Suite A, Branson, Missouri 65616.
The Silver Dollar City Attractions are part of Herschend Family Entertainment Corporation and include Branson properties of Silver Dollar City, Showboat Branson Belle and White Water. The Silver Dollar City Foundation, which administers the program, has been in existence since 1996, providing grants to support youth and adult ministry programs, marital and parenting seminars, and helping to meet needs within Stone and Taney Counties.
2018 Care For Kids Mentor Training
Thursday, September 13, 2018 at 6:00pm
All training sessions are 6-7:30 p.m.
at Silver Dollar City Foundation Office, W. Hwy. 76, Branson.
Please call 417-336-7055 to sign up.
Additional mentor training sessions may be added as needed.
“ I wanted to let you know that I had one of my students who has faced MANY hardships in his young life show up to school wearing a shoe on his left foot different than the style he was wearing on his right foot so obvious as one was black/grey and the other white. Please know that Care for Kids saves me from being overwhelmed with the difficulties my students have to overcome. I was able to go get the boy a pair of shoes. Why should not matching shoes break my heart? I guess it symbolizes all that I want to spare students from, a life of chaos and obvious need. Thank you…”
-Grant Boyer, Forsyth Assistant Superintendent
“What do you think it means to a kid with tumors growing all over her hands who was able to go to the St. Louis Children’s Hospital to have them removed? What does it means to a boy who came to school covered with the stench of cat urine to have clean clothes provided? Or to a family whose rental home leaked so badly that rainwater poured in through the electrical outlets, shocking a child inside, to be able to move to a new place? The need is great, but I’m so thankful I live in this area with such compassionate people and a foundation and a company that put it all together.”
-L. West, Kirbyville Counselor
“ I have met with K, now in 2nd grade, the past 4 Thursdays, just as I met with her each Thursday that she made it to school, in 1st grade and Kindergarten.
What a huge change I’ve seen in her over the years. From a little girl who hid under the table and got to spend some time in “time out” for not following the rules in the lunch room, to a girl who now literally runs down the school hallway to meet me. ”
-Reeds Spring Lunch Buddy
“ One girl came to where I work, not even knowing to look for me. When we both recognized each other it was a wonderful reunion. As we filled her mother in as to how we knew each other she shared how much my help meant to the two of them. She said her daughter had struggled with math and had prayed for someone to help her. How indescribable to know that I was an answer to her prayer! What other confirmation did I need that what I was doing was exactly what God wanted me doing? ”
-Branson Schools Mentor
“ I have been a teacher, coach, principal and Superintendent of schools and have seen how much teachers and other adults can influence students. Sometimes all a child needs to blossom is a few words of encouragement from a friend, parent or other adult. I enjoy working with students in the capacity of mentor because it is non-threatening to them and they will ask for help in that situation. ”
-Blue Eye Schools Mentor
“ I have been a Lunch Buddy for three years now and I can’t tell you how satisfying it is. The first year, one little boy would come to the table with his head hung low and hardly talk. Now, the minute he spots us he starts waving and always gives us a hug when he leaves. He invites us to his programs and even wants us to come on his field trips. Sometimes I feel guilty because I get just as much satisfaction as he does. My grandchildren are scattered all over the U.S., so this is so satisfying. I tell people to try it just one hour and they’ll be hooked. Yes, I have their pictures on my refrigerator too! ”
-Lunch Buddy volunteer, Cedar Ridge Elementary
“ Who wouldn’t want to be with a bright-faced child who runs to give you a hug and holds your hand as you walk down the hall at school, sharing their joys and problems, who misses you if you have to miss a week? I hope to be in this little girl’s life to see her be all she can be! ”
-Mentor, Forsyth Elementary
“ I wanted to be a mentor because I am grateful. In looking back across the years I can easily see that the best decisions I made were influenced by adults who cared and helped. My faith encourages me not to be selfish, so I volunteered to do what I thought would be noble and share time with a Lunch Buddy. The reason I want to be a mentor now is that I know (this kid). He is a great kid with all the potential in the world. I want to encourage him and enable him to reach that potential. If he can believe now that he can excel, then I believe he is more likely to succeed. So I am grateful for the introduction and hopeful that I will have the opportunity to watch him as he matures. ”
-Lunch Buddy volunteer, Branson Elementary
“So many of the children don’t have the ability to thank you for the compassion that has been showered upon them during the past four years through the Silver Dollar City Foundation and the Care For Kids program. I wanted to share with you the heartfelt thanks they demonstrate through smiles, increased attention spans, better grades and improved attitudes. The biggest demonstration of their gratefulness comes when they just get to act like children without the weight of worry and frustration resulting from unmet physical needs.”
-Josh Phillips, Hurley Principal
“Grown-ups should be lunch buddies because kids like me wouldn’t feel lonely at lunch when they don’t have friends.”
-Third Grade Student, Branson Elementary School
“I have seen dramatic improvements in students in reading comprehension and mathematics from having a mentor. One of my below-grade-level students improved in reading to grade level and exceeded in math to above grade level. The one-on-one also builds bonds of trust and friendship between the student and mentor. The examples that the mentors set of selfless devotion to the students gives the students a feeling that the community cares about them and their education.”
-Fourth grade teacher, Blue Eye Elementary School
“My mentor helped students with their work and got to know them on a very personal level. By the middle of the year, my kids were begging our mentor to go to lunch and sit with them, simply because they loved being around her. Not only was this a great idea for the kids, it also let me help the kids who really need it.”
-Third Grade Teacher, Blue Eye Elementary School
“It makes me happy when she comes because mom can’t come here and I might be the only one sometimes whose parents aren’t at school. She always brightens my day.”
-Fourth Grade Student, Branson Elementary School
“My mentor, Mr. Ken, is a lifesaver in my classroom. Not only is it helpful to have another set of hands, he is great with my students. Mr. Ken helps the students who are behind in their school work catch up with the class. He also helps the students who are defiant and won’t do their school work. Mr. Ken has a way with students in getting them to do what is needed even if they don’t want to. Finally, Mr. Ken helps the students who need that extra time reading or working on items that are difficult for them. Overall, the mentoring program is really helpful and such a blessing to have.”
-Third Grade Teacher, Blue Eye Elementary School