The #FreedomtoExplore Shouldn't be a Privilege

August 25, 2022

I’ve been part of the Daymaker giving community since 2017, when the neighborhood community center in Chicago where I worked began partnering to support our youth with holiday presents and back-to-school supplies. That was also the first year I was at the center during a shooting.

We were hosting a children’s yoga workshop for our neighbors and volunteers. In the middle of stretching our spines like cats and cows and flapping our knees like butterflies, the sound of gunshots rang out on our block. The first person who heard them was an eight-year-old girl. She screamed for everyone to drop to the ground, before even the adults had processed what was going on.

Eight year olds shouldn’t be trained to hear gunshots.

Children should be losing themselves in play and imagination, not fearing they will lose their lives.

We’ve heard the statistics: Guns are now the leading cause of death among children and adolescents in the US. In the first half of 2022 alone, more than 650 American children and teens have been killed by guns. Coupled with widespread poverty, hunger, houselessness, and discrimination, our children face too many barriers to thriving.

Behind each of these statistics are countless stories of pain and loss. And countless stories of resilience and hope.

The rest of that day, we each began the work of healing in our own way. One of the kids did my hair. Some went to the garden to taste-test basil and look at the shapes of clouds. Others returned to yoga or just sat and processed. That evening residents began installing basketball hoops, moving forward to build something positive in their community.

I have personally witnessed the devastating effects of issues like gun violence on our children, families, and communities. I have also seen the power of committed people and organizations showing up and doing what they can.

Later that year, we worked with Daymaker to sponsor hundreds of children for the holidays with personalized gifts. Some young men from the community dressed up as Santa and elves, and we all shared hot chocolate and joy. And because we didn’t have to worry about buying the Christmas presents ourselves, we were able to devote our limited resources to hiring our first case manager — supporting our community in applying for jobs and government benefits, accessing affordable housing, and gaining more tools to prevent violence before it starts.

There are 60 more nonprofits just like this one in Daymaker’s giving community – each with their own stories of hardship and healing, showing up and doing what they can, working to change the trajectory for children in their community. Five years after that day in Chicago, I have the blessing of joining the Daymaker team to help write more stories of hope for the nearly 7,000 kids we sponsor each year and to show up for the people who show up – because I know how much this partnership means.

PC: Audrey Teo

I believe in Daymaker because I believe in helping create the childhoods our kids deserve — one with joy, resources, and support.

I believe in our nonprofit partners and the work they’re doing on the ground every day to make neighborhoods safer for our children to grow up in.

I believe in each and every one of us and our ability to create more goodness in the world, one day and one action at a time.

This back-to-school season, I invite you to join me in writing stories of hope. Check out our nonprofit partners working to address gun violence such as: Paving the Way

Kids Off the Block

Eliajah's Gift

Contribute to our back-to-school campaign celebrating and honoring every kid's right to the #FreedomtoExplore. Create more moments of children decorating their new school supplies, wearing their brand new backpack for the very first time, and showing up for the first day of school with the confidence that comes from knowing you’re never alone.

Written by Zelda Mayer, Director of Content and Storytelling