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Most of us remember what is was like to play soccer after school with friends or be a part of a team or club after school — it’s routine for some kids, something that comes without a second thought. But often we don’t realize how important extracurricular activities can be for our youth. After-school programs can be a vital help for students on the way to becoming well-rounded adults.
Not everyone can afford the cost of a soccer uniform or activity fees. That’s what the Day Dreams Foundation focuses on — eliminating the financial barriers for students to participate in extracurricular activities. Since its founding in 2014, Day Dreams has helped nearly 150 kids participate in extracurricular activities, providing over $27,830 in activity fees, $3,184 in equipment costs, and $1,500 in college scholarships.
Kids 18 and under who are Columbia or Boone County residents and receive a free or reduced lunch are eligible for these scholarships. Day Dreams Foundation has also extended eligibility to students who are homeschooled if they fit the financial income requirements.
“I think it’s so important for kids growing up to have additional people in their life trying to put them on the right track,” founder and president Joe Bradley says. “Oftentimes, that person is a coach or an instructor in those extracurriculars.”
Day Dreams Foundation doesn’t just give these scholarships away. One requirement for participants is to become active in the community by completing a designated amount of community service, depending on the age group. Day Dreams wants to be sure the kids they help are going to get as much out of the program as possible.
The experiences students have, whether it be playing sports on a team, learning to play an instrument, or taking art classes, can translate to behaviors and skills practiced in the classroom and beyond, and extracurriculars can help students excel in other important areas of development. They give students real-world experiences where they must make quick decisions. These decisions aren’t like the ones they make in the classroom, which may have a later effect on something like a grade on a paper; rather, the decisions they make directly affect their teammates, their coaches, and their friends, oftentimes immediately. They learn the importance of honesty, respect, and confidence. These experiences help form the kind of person they will become.
“Sometimes,” Bradley says, “I think that confidence on the basketball court or on the field can also translate to confidence in the classroom and confidence in the community, being willing to raise your hand in class or go out and help a neighbor.”
Being a scholarship-focused nonprofit, fundraising is a constant background focus for Day Dreams. They need capital to fund their scholarships, and to do this they need to raise awareness of their cause and fundraise accordingly.
Day Dreams Foundation has three main fundraisers. The big one is their annual gala — the main push for large donors. The gala is a formal dinner that features speakers and a silent auction. At the gala, the board awards a college scholarship and the Star-Kid award, given to a child nominated by the board who has previously been awarded a scholarship by the Day Dreams Foundation and who has excelled in their community activity.
“We’re really excited,” Vice President Mark Kirchhoff says. “This is our chance to hit people that will be year-long donors and to find some ways to get some more sustainable funding streams. That’s the biggest thing for an all-volunteer group such as ourselves.”
They also hold a trivia night and a “bubble soccer” tournament. (“Bubble soccer” is soccer, but played with every player encased in a giant inflatable ball.) During the fundraising lull between events, Day Dreams Foundation also does profit-shares with local Columbia restaurants and businesses.
Day Dreams Foundation is always growing and looking for new, creative ways to fundraise and increase the opportunities they can offer. The board is expanding as they try to find a variety of people that can represent all of Columbia. In the future, Day Dreams Foundation would like to have a full-time staff. Right now, it’s about a search for sustainability for the organization — finding ways to keep helping as many kids as possible.
“We all believe in the mission,” Kirchhoff says. “It’s exciting to see how much community support there is for this concept.”