Top 10 Children’s Charities

1. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

Susie Almaneih St. JudesSt. Jude Children’s Research Hospital: Leading the way the world understands, treats, and defeats life-threatening childhood diseases

It can be all too easy to take for granted the healthy children in our lives.  But anyone who’s ever had a sick child knows how scary it can be, and the finances to pay for the best care possible is the last thing that should be worried about in such a scenario.

The kids who come to St. Jude are suffering from life-threatening childhood illnesses such as cancer and sickle cell disease, and many of the treatment protocols require care that can last for years.  St. Jude needs to be at the cutting-edge of the latest medicine and research in fighting life-threatening pediatric diseases, all while freeing families from the biggest burden in getting life-saving healthcare: the cost.  Unlike other hospitals, the majority of funding for St. Jude comes from generous donors.  It costs $2 million per day to operate St. Jude, and public contributions provide 75% of the necessary funds.  Families never receive a bill for treatment, travel, housing, or food.  While the organization does accept insurance, many services provided by St. Jude have never been covered by insurance, and will not be in the future.

Treatments invented at St. Jude have helped push the overall survival rate for childhood cancer from 20% when the hospital opened in 1962, to more than 80% today.  In addition, St. Jude has achieved a 94% survival rate for ALL, up from 4% in 1962, and the survival rate for medulloblastoma, a type of brain tumor, increased from 10 percent to 85% today.  St. Jude was the first institution to develop a cure for sickle cell disease with a bone marrow transplant and has one of the largest pediatric sickle cell programs in the country.  One child saved at St. Jude means doctors and scientists in communities everywhere can use that knowledge to save more children.

2. Big Brothers Big Sisters of America

Big Brothers Big Sisters of America: Here to Start Something

For many of us, we can clearly recall growing up and having that role model we could look up to, and in many cases interact with, to understand and develop into our full potentials.  Sadly, for various reasons, many children do not have this same privilege, and one person can really make that difference we appreciated in our own lives.

For more than 100 years, Big Brothers Big Sisters has operated under the belief that inherent in every child is the ability to succeed and thrive in life.  The organization’s core mission is to provide children facing adversity with strong and enduring, professionally supported, one-to-one relationships that change their lives for the better, forever.

As the nation’s largest donor and volunteer supported mentoring network, Big Brothers Big Sisters makes meaningful, monitored matches between adult volunteers (“Bigs”) and children (“Littles”), ages 6 through 18, in communities across the country.  The group strives to develop positive relationships that have a direct and lasting effect on young people.

National research has shown that positive relationships between Littles and their Bigs have a direct and measurable impact on children’s lives.  By participating in programs, Little Brothers and Sisters are 46% less likely to begin using illegal drugs, 27% less likely to begin using alcohol, and 52% less likely to skip school.  Big Brothers and Sisters has strived to start something, and the proof is in the numbers that the organization certainly has.

3. Canines for Disabled Kids

Canines for Disabled Kids: The Healing Power of Dogs

At Canines for Disabled Kids (CDK), there is one guiding mission – to support the creation of child-canine service teams to promote independence and social awareness.  The group assists children by pairing them with dogs to assist with a variety of medical needs, including guide dogs, hearing dogs, therapy dogs, seizure alert dogs, and walker/balance dogs.

The organization offers various ways to help educate the public about service dogs, including educational presentations, booth event participation, and Americans with Disability (ADA) consulting.  Members of the CDK staff and volunteers travel all over the country for these opportunities, talking to students of all grade levels, civic groups, religious groups, and businesses about the importance of assistance dogs.

CDK relies completely on private individual and corporate donations.  Without these, the organization could not offer the services that have helped so many.

4. CASA – Court Appointed Special Advocates For Children

CASA: Ensuring the Safety of Foster Children

Every day in this country, 1,900 children become victims of abuse or neglect, and four of them will die.  Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for Children is a network of 949 community-based programs that recruit, train, and support citizen-volunteers to advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children in courtrooms and communities.

Volunteer advocates—empowered directly by the courts—offer judges the critical information they need to ensure that each child’s rights and needs are being attended to while in foster care.  For many abused children, a CASA volunteer is the only constant adult presence in their lives.

CASA volunteers are appointed by judges to watch over and advocate for abused and neglected children, to make sure they don’t get lost in the overburdened legal and social service system or languish in inappropriate group or foster homes.  Volunteers stay with each case until it is closed and the child is placed in a safe, permanent home.

5. KaBOOM!

KaBOOM!: Play Matters

America’s kids are playing less than any previous generation.  In part, this is because kids ages eight to 18 now spend almost half of their days in front of screens instead of engaging in active play.  Only one in four children gets 60 minutes of physical activity or active play every day.  As play has decreased, obesity rates and behavioral and cognitive disorders have increased.

Founded in 1996, KaBOOM! is a national non-profit dedicated to giving all kids the childhood they deserve, filled with balanced and active play, so they can thrive.  KaBOOM! works to bring play into the daily lives of all children, particularly those growing up in poverty in America.  The group does this by creating great places to play, inspiring communities to promote and support play, and driving the national discussion about the importance of play in fostering healthy and productive lives.

To achieve its vision, KaBOOM! works to catalyze and create great places to play, empower advocates to promote and protect play, and elevate public discourse around the importance of play.  KaBOOM! believes play matters for all kids, because science affirms that play is critical to a child’s overall health, development, and well-being. Moreover, play can help tackle a number of urgent issues plaguing our society — especially those endemic among low-income communities.   Kids who have play as part of their school day do better in school, become better team players, and develop into more creative thinkers — and they are much more likely to carry these skills into adulthood.

6. Make-A-Wish Foundation

Susie Almaneih Make a WishMake-A-Wish Foundation: A Wish Experience is a Game-Changer

The philosophy may sound simple, but its impact is anything but.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation believes that wishes make life better for kids with life-threatening medical conditions.  Tens of thousands of volunteers, donors, and supporters believe a wish experience can be a game-changer, and this serves as the inspiration to grant wishes that change the lives of the kids served.

The wish process begins with a referral – medical professionals, parents, and the children themselves.  Kids from the age of 2 ½ through 18 who have been diagnosed with a life-threatening medical condition are eligible.  A wish team is then assigned to learn the child’s one true wish, creating an unforgettable experience personalized to match the wish kid’s idea of a perfect day.

7. March of Dimes

March of Dimes: An Organization with a Long, Rich History

President Franklin Roosevelt’s own personal struggle with polio led him to create the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis at a time when polio was on the rise.  Now better known as the March of Dimes, the foundation established a polio patient aid program and funded research for vaccines developed by Jonas Salk, MD and Albert Sabin, MD.  These vaccines effectively ended epidemic polio in the United States.

With its original mission accomplished, the foundation turned its focus to preventing birth defects and infant mortality.  The March of Dimes has led the way to discover the genetic causes of birth defects, to promote newborn screening, and to educate medical professionals and the public about best practices for healthy pregnancies.  The organization has supported research for surfactant therapy to treat respiratory distress and helped initiate the system of regional neonatal intensive care for premature and sick babies.  The recent Folic Acid Campaign achieved a dramatic reduction in the incidence of neural tube defects, birth defects of the brain and spine.

Since 2003, the March of Dimes’ fight to save babies has been strongly characterized by the Prematurity Campaign.  The rising incidence of premature birth has demanded action, and the March of Dimes has responded by initiating an intensive, multi-year campaign to raise awareness and find the causes of prematurity.

8. Toys for Tots

Toys for Tots: A Holiday for All

The holiday season brings to mind many cherished times, but the sight of children excitedly opening their presents may be one of the most heart-warming and memorable.  It’s devastating to think that there are many children who don’t know this joy.

The mission of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program is to collect new, unwrapped toys during October, November, and December each year, and distribute those toys as Christmas gifts to less fortunate children in the community in which the campaigns are conducted.  This toy serves as a message of hope that will assist recipients in becoming responsible, productive, and patriotic citizens.

Toys for Tots takes an active role in the development of one of our nation’s most valuable resources – our children.  The organization unites all members of local communities in a common cause for three months each year during the annual toy collection and distribution campaign.  However, Toys for Tots Campaign Coordinators conduct an array of activities throughout the year, which include golf tournaments, foot races, bicycle races, and other voluntary events designed to increase interest, concurrently generating toys and monetary donations.

9. Special Olympics

Special Olympics: Supporting Everyone to go for the Gold

Special Olympics transforms lives through the joy of sport, every day, everywhere.  It is the world’s largest sports organization for people with intellectual disabilities, with more than 4.5 million athletes in 170 countries – and millions more volunteers and supporters.

Through the power of sports, the participants discover new strengths and abilities, skills, and success.  The athletes find joy, confidence, and fulfillment — on the playing field and in life.  They also inspire people in their communities and elsewhere to open their hearts to a wider world of human talents and potential.  The Special Olympics offers the highest quality Olympic-style sports training and competition for people with intellectual disabilities all around the world.  This changes attitudes, and changes lives.

Since 1968, Special Olympics has been spreading the message: people with intellectual disabilities can – and will – succeed when given the opportunity.  Sports can teach us all important lessons.  When we train and strive for a goal, it teaches us to dream.  When we struggle, it teaches us determination.  When we win, we find joy.  And if we lose, we can find the strength to try again.

The Special Olympics brings together a large and inclusive community of athletes, supporters, and families, coaches, volunteers, and many others.  The athletes are at the center of it all.  They become the heroes — to the shared joy of themselves, their families, and their communities.

10. Ronald McDonald House Charities

Susie Almaneih Ronald McDonald HouseRonald McDonald House Charities: A Most Important Home away from Home

Sometimes seeking out the best possible care for a sick child isn’t so close to home.

Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) knows better than anyone that children heal better when they’re surrounded by their families.  While RMHC may not be able to make the medicine taste better or erase the pain of a much-needed treatment, since 1974, its network of local chapters has been making children happier and healthier by keeping families together – giving them a place to rest and refresh, in a place that feels like home.  These programs, tailored to meet the urgent needs of each community, can now be found in more than 60 countries and regions across the globe.

The mission of Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) is to create, find, and support programs that directly improve the health and wellbeing of children.  This includes focusing on the critical needs of children, celebrating the diversity of the people and programs, valuing RMHC’s heritage, and operating with accountability and transparency.  As pioneers of providing family-centered care, RMHC strives to be part of the solution in improving the lives of children and their families, providing programs that strengthen families during difficult times.

In 2014, the three-year “RMHC Impact Strategy” was launched, with a goal to serve one million more children and their families per year. This strategy not only builds on the success from the last 40 years, but also allows the foundation to be stronger and more efficient than ever.