RedHotFundraisingIdeas.com had an opportunity to interview Tom Tuohy, founder of Dreams for Kids, a true fundraising success story.
Q: Why did you start Dreams for Kids?
A: I started Dreams for Kids at the request of my mother, Patricia Tuohy, a single parent who raised her four children through difficult times. After I was able to achieve my dream of becoming an attorney, my mother said it was time to help other kids realize their dreams. Thus began an amazing nineteen year journey. It was the best decision I have ever made.
Q. What is the most rewarding part to you, personally, of working with Dreams for Kids?
A. The most rewarding part of Dreams for Kids for me is to be a part of such great change. To witness children come from the sidelines of life and into the activities of their dreams and to see their lives change is magical in ways that brings reward beyond measure. We live in difficult times. Our new Dream Leaders youth leadership program has been an extremely rewarding experience. To see this generation of young people inspired to make a lasting difference, I am convinced this is the generation we have been waiting for and that they will truly change the world.
Q. What do you consider the greatest success, to date, of Dreams for Kids?
A. The greatest success for Dreams for Kids is yet to come - and today's youth will take us there. To have arrived here at all, I would have to say the writing and publication of Kiss of a Dolphin, the story of Dreams for Kids and the amazing individuals who have made all this possible has been a great success. The response to the book has inspired the global expansion of Dreams for Kids. In the days and years ahead, what has been life changing for thousands will now impact millions of children who are isolated. In no small part this will happen because of how Kiss of a Dolphin has touched people’s hearts.
Q. Is Dreams for Kids just in Chicago, or are there chapters in other locations?
A. Dreams for Kids began its work in a tiny homeless shelter on the Southside of Chicago on December 24, 1989. Our effort to bring hope for the holiday has grown into the largest event of its kind in the world for homeless and underprivileged children. On December 22, 2007, groups in over 35 cities and 7 countries will host Holiday for Hope, a collective day of giving hope for our children in the greatest need. Our programming is now in several countries in North America and is many states in the United States.
Q. What advice do you have for other professionals who are interested in starting or becoming active in charitable organizations?
A. I have grown as an individual and as a professional because of the time I have invested in Dreams for Kids. Dreams for Kids has not taken valuable time away from my profession - it has added to me as a professional and enhanced my life in immeasurable ways. I would encourage every person to find the time to balance their professional life with an outreach program. I have found it to be so true, that when we give it is returned to us tenfold. It may seem as if there is little to no time to spare, however, when we make time it opens us up to a new world and improves every area of our lives.
Q. What is the greatest lesson you have learned along the way of founding and developing Dreams for Kids?
A. One person, in one moment, can change a life. One ordinary person can accomplish the extraordinary and leave a legacy of giving that can change a generation of lives. These moments surround each of us every single day. The opportunity to make a lasting difference in the time we have lived, and to play a significant part in changing the world, one person at a time, is available for every person to capture in a single moment of grace. In our children's hearts and thorough their eyes and in their dreams, we can see the future. I have learned that if we come together, as one compassionate force, and support our children in every way possible, we can eliminate isolation and conflict, inspire them to believe in all that is possible - and we can truly help them to change the world.