This summer, I met a handful of organizations that work with Zealous Good. Some of them invited me to their office, recreational spaces and special events. Below are 12 people that truly inspired me with their positive attitudes, genuine personalities and warmhearted smiles.
1. Emily at Starlight Children’s Foundation
I met Emily during one of my visits with Starlight Children’s Foundation. She’s fourteen-years-old and living with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Autonomic Dysfunction, Thoracic-Outlet and more. This girl has a lot of fight in her, and she’s actively seeking others who share this deficiencies and new methods of treatment. It was a real privilege getting to know her on our Odyssey cruise made possible by Starlight.
2. Emily at Starlight Children’s Foundation (a different one!)
The Program Coordinator at Starlight, Emily Abbott, is a bright example of hard work and compassion. Watching the Starlight team at work during their annual summer cruise out of Navy Pier was not only special, but super impressive. This team goes above and beyond to insure a happy and carefree summer, even if it’s only for the night.
3. James and Jerome of Youth Outreach
The first time I met Jerome (left) and James (right), was during Youth Outreach Services Youth Employment program at St. Angela’s. These two help mentor a group of teenage boys into finding and holding different jobs and moving out into the real world… on their own. Throughout the week, they hold group discussions and share advice for scoring an interview, landing a job and focusing on the future.
4. New Moms/Bright Endeavors Affiliates
During one of my many visits to New Moms, Inc, I was invited to join in on one of their APD Professional Development Ceremonies. Mothers in the program complete an 8-week training course in becoming a professional worker and mother. “Transformation means becoming something new,” one of the affiliates read. This sentiment and thought put into this graduation filled the bright yellow room on McLean Ave that day.
5. David Krueger
During my visit to Arts of Life, I was given a tour by local artist, David Krueger. David whom, among nearly every other artist housed in Arts of Life’s studio, was very proud of his work. The daily routines inside the four walls of this studio are heavily influenced by the donations from Zealous Good. Broken crayons, recycled paper and donated computers provide these artists with materials they would have had seldom access to.
6. Audalee McLoughlin
New Moms President and CEO, Audalee has been with New Moms since 2005. During one of my many visits to New Moms, I was lucky enough to see the new facility being built in the Austin area. The city sold the property to New Moms for $1, and the end result was a $1 million building, designed to ensure safety, protection and serenity for program participants.
7. Michelle Dorrance
During my visit to the 23rd Annual Rhythm World Tap Festival, I was fortunate enough to witness the true passion of dance and teaching through professionals like Michelle Dorrance. To begin her tap session, she started out with a couple different songs, each made in different time frames. I quit my tap career around age 5, but watching her step brought this flow of energy through her students, and for an hour I felt as if I could set my camera down and be a dancer for the day.
8. CircusTeens at CircEsteem
For the last two years, I have photographed Circus performances by Helen C. Pierce International’s after school program. To have finally met Maribeth Joy and the CircusTeens at CircEsteem this summer, I have a full understanding and appreciation of the hard work this group puts forth into the community. Every Monday through Thursday this July, the group of teens helped train youth in the community to be able to perform for the public every Friday. The patience and dedication of these teens is undoubtedly infinite, and they deserve recognition!
9. AJ Styles Barber Shop Team
On another one of my visits to Youth Outreach’s Youth Employment Program, I met the team at AJ Styles Barber Shop. This program allows teens in the community to find jobs in the area, and fulfill employee duties full time.
10. CatNap from the Heart Volunteers
July 14th was a special weekend in LaGrange. Volunteers from CatNap from the Heart posted under tents and filled coolers with ice and water and prepared to sell as much stuff as possible. The annual fundraiser is what funds the shelter throughout the year, and this great team made over $6,000 on their first day.
11. Seun Phillips
My first visit to Project Syncere, I met the Director of Programs, Seun Phillips. This passionate guy helped run the summer youth programs at the Kennicotts Park District this summer, and was eager to invite me to see the progress participants were making on building their very own Vex Robots. Focusing on science and engineering, this group gives middle school kids the freedom and independence to explore their strengths in building and technology.
12. Found Volunteers
When it comes to rescue shelters, Found is an easy outlet of patience, love and affection. This group focuses on the needs of animals, and doesn’t mind making them feel like celebrities along the way. This summer, the group hosted multiple dog wash fundraisers. I was lucky enough to make it on my second visit! During the Scrub-A-Pup dog wash, trainers spent a few minutes giving a bubbly rub to each of the dogs in their shelter, as well as previous clients and street walk-ins.