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Stories that CONNECT – May 2, 2019

Join us on May 2, 2019 for Stories that CONNECT. We’ll celebrate, share and build the powerful connections among our young people and caring communities. The event will include an open bar, heavy appetizers, a collaborative art experience, a silent auction, a paddle raise and a brief program featuring our young people.

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Thomas & Anita’s Story

Though Thomas spent two and a half years in our foster care program, his story begins and ends with his relationship with his mom, Anita. Today, we know Thomas as a bright 4-year-old who loves eating crispy foods and playing with musical instruments. But when he first came into our programs, he and his mom had faced several traumas.

When Thomas came into our foster care program, he was 2 years old and had developmental delays. While many children speak in full sentences at his age, Thomas had a hard time communicating or showing affection. His mom, Anita, accessed the services she could, but she was unable to meet all of his needs.

“I knew my son had special needs, but I was embarrassed,” said Anita. “I just wanted him to be what I thought was normal. With Kaleidoscope, I learned there were a lot more special needs children, and they were all so cute and special! Y’all showed me that there are a lot of moms and kids with special needs. We’re not alone.”

We placed Thomas in a nurturing foster home while we helped Anita to better understand and care for him over time. Through our comprehensive case management, Thomas got expert care and was diagnosed with Autism. As a result, his care team at Kaleidoscope, his foster family and his mom had a clearer understanding of his needs. We collaborated with his family, DCFS and the other adults in his life to get him extra help at pre-school, occupational and speech therapy, and the tools he needs to feels safe, like sensory toys and a weighted vest.

Still, the biggest barrier for Thomas and his mom was that he could not speak; not knowing how to communicate made it very hard for them to connect. That connection is vital, and Kaleidoscope works with every one of our families to mend the bond and form new, lifelong connections that help children grow.

For Thomas and Anita, that meant specialized therapy beyond what Kaleidoscope’s government contracts allow. We sought and received funding Help For Children foundation to hire a specially-trained therapist to provide in-home, relationship-based therapy for them. Working with their therapist, Catherine, has been life-changing.

Antia said, “Working with Catherine has been amazing. She really has a humble spirit, and you could tell she really cares about her job and invested her care in me and my son. She taught me a lot about Autism, and the cues and signs I noticed before but didn’t know what they were. She really gave me a better understanding of the Autism spectrum, and she enlightened me with all kinds of books about sensory issues, ways to calm him, the benefits of the weighted vest. She has been very helpful, and I’m very grateful for her.”

Through play-based therapy every week, Catherine worked with Anita to understand how his body communicated his needs. Therapy also helped Thomas to more calmly navigate the world and practice connection and reciprocity. He made improvements across the board, including recovery from trauma. At the same time, Catherine worked to empower Anita to feel capable of meeting of his needs on her own and to honor the role that she has played in his healing.

As the bond between Thomas and his mom grew in therapy, she learned how to communicate in a way that works for Thomas, and how to support his growth and show him the love he needed – and vice-versa. The results have been astounding.

“Thomas is calmer, makes gestures and other cues more clearly, and his mom better understands what his sensory and emotional needs are during daily life,” Catherine said. “He feels calmest when he’s with his mom, and she feels so much more confident to give him what he needs in ways that are so sensitive to him! We’ve seen him make strides because of this.”

In August, after 2 and half years in foster care, Thomas was able to return home to live with his mom. In the last few months, they have celebrated many new milestones and are looking forward to spending Christmas together.

“It’s wonderful to have him home,” Anita said. “It was the little things that I missed the most, like picking him up from school or just sitting down and watching T.V. with him. I appreciate just being in his presence.”


That’s what makes Kaleidoscope special: We are committed to going above and beyond for every child, every time. Your gift now ensures that we can provide this customized, loving care and support for kids just like Thomas.

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Save the Best for Last

Kids who have experienced trauma have a hard time feeling safe. At our arts camps, campers feel safe to express themselves, be themselves and explore who they will become. This young man was scared to share at first, but with the support of our community, he shared his original rap with a crowd! Elevate and celebrate his voice this GivingTuesday with a donation in his honor.

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Shoot love, not bullets.

No matter what they’ve experienced, our kids are hopeful, and they dream of a brighter future for all of Chicago. At camp this year, young people made banners about issues that are important to them – from schools to reducing gun violence to being smoke-free – and led a demonstration through our offices.

Our arts camps are about elevating and celebrating youth voices. Donate now to make this and so much more possible for kids in Chicago healing from trauma.

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Kaleidoscope awarded $17,500 from Impact Grants Chicago

We are thrilled to have been awarded a new grant from Impact Grants Chicago. Through a competitive application process, we were awarded $17,500 for our clinical services, ensuring that every youth we serve has access to therapy – free of charge – at our offices.

The above video is from the final presentation to Impact Grants Chicago members. Therapist Jill and Karlyn shared their stories about the lasting impact of Kaleidoscope’s therapy services. Karlyn is a former foster youth and Find Your Future intern, and she now volunteers as a teaching artist with our arts camps. Today, she’s a new mom and on track to graduate early with a degree in social work. She spoke on behalf of our young people

Learn more about our therapy program, or make a donation to support our services for Chicago’s young people healing from abuse and neglect.

Corporate Relocation Council of Chicago Event

Thank you to our friends at RELO Direct for connecting us with Corporate Relocation Council of Chicago. Executive Director Kathy Grzelak spoke at this event, which raised more than $4,000 for our services. We’re grateful for RELO Direct’s long-term partnership and support of many areas of our work!

Kaleidoscope’s New Office


As of Tuesday, February 20, our main office will be on the Near West Side, located at:

1901 W. Caroll Ave
Chicago, IL 60612

We are thrilled to be in this new, larger space as we enter our 45th anniversary serving Chicago. Our new offices, meeting rooms and other spaces enable us to continue improving our services and programs for children, youth and families healing from abuse and neglect in Chicago.

See the space for yourself on Thursday, May 10 at our Stories that MOVE fundraiser and anniversary celebration! Learn more.

Find Your Future: Rapheal

Rapheal gained professional experience through our Find Your Future (FYF) program, which matches current and former DCFS-involved youth with paid internships, job skills training and other development opportunities. As a FYF employment partner, RELO Direct got to see first-hand what an amazing communicator and motivator Rapheal is when he spoke at our FYF closing luncheon last summer. Now one month after graduating from Lake Forest College, Rapheal has accepted a position in RELO Direct’s communications department.

Donate now to help Rapheal and the more than 600 children and youth Kaleidoscope serves in Chicago each year.

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Meet Karlyn

Karlyn came to Kaleidoscope through our Find Your Future program, and we are honored to have been a part of her journey. Today, she is pursuing a Bachelors Degree in Social Work and Criminal Justice, and she continues to help youth at Kaleidoscope by volunteering with our Arts Camps, inspiring us all with her poetry and connecting with children and youth who have similar experiences to her own.

Donate now to help Karlyn and the more than 600 children and youth Kaleidoscope serves in Chicago each year.

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Tix4Cause

Looking for a great gift or some hard-to-find tickets? Kaleidoscope is now a beneficiary of Tix4cause! When you purchase someone’s unused tickets to sports, concerts or other events, you can choose Kaleidoscope as the charity beneficiary of some or all of your purchase. Start searching on their website for your next night out: www.tix4cause.com