SOS Illinois 2017 Year in Review: Top 10 Highlights

Each year we are inspired by new partnerships, the deepening connections with existing partners, and the tireless dedication our extended family and community show our mission.

2017, just as in past years, proved to be eventful and inspiring in so many ways. As the new year begins, we invite you to look back on ten of these special moments with us. Each highlight underscores the foundation of hope that is so pivotal to our mission, helping us move forward with optimism and renewed dedication. We thank you for being a part of our “super-community” and look forward to doing more great work in 2018.

Kids playing in winter (2)

10. SOS Illinois Airs Its Uniqueness

Throughout Foster Care Awareness Month this past May, SOS Illinois took several initiatives to share our unique story. Terri Hemmert interviewed SOS Illinois CEO Tim McCormick on WXRT and Crain’s featured ads all month long to help raise awareness for the children in our care.

Listen here and read more ways our community supports our work and how you can join in to help further our mission.

9. College Bound Programming Teaches Success for Life

In 2017, we developed three signature engagement events, where our supporters can witness our programs in action and interact with our families, while providing educational programming for our children.

SOS Illinois STEM Expo 2017
Children at our first STEM Expo enjoying the fun and messy sides of science—with slime.

Our STEM Expo, newly created in 2017, is an event where our children learn about science, technology, engineering, and math through playful activities. The All Village Graduation Celebration took place for the second year. This event brings together all sites to recognize the value we place on individual academic achievement. Special recognition is given to all of our graduates, especially our children completing high school. Harvest Day is a tradition at our Village, and this year we revamped the event to not only highlight our gardening programs, but also added informative and engaging programming around our health & wellness initiatives. Read more about the 2017 events for STEM Expo, 2nd All Village Graduation Celebration, and Harvest Day.

8. Ships Ahoy – Chicago Regatta Sails for Charity

SOS Illinois spent a day on Lake Michigan for The Chicago Regatta, hosted by the Chicago Yacht Club and sponsored by Wintrust. The event raised funds for SOS Illinois and two other charities focused on children. The event was comprised of three different races during the day, from speed sailing to a poker run, and ended with a Chicago-themed dinner that featured a silent auction. We are so grateful to our partners at Wintrust and the Chicago Yacht Club who made this day in the sun fun and memorable.

7. 1000s of Dollars, Hundreds of Hours – Our Corporate Volunteers are Invaluable

Growing and nurturing a sense of community is pivotal to the SOS Children’s Villages model of care. We seek to not only provide each child in our care the feelings of security, confidence, and hope, but we also strive to teach them that they are not alone, just like SOS Children’s Villages Illinois is not and does not work alone. It is thanks to our incredibly generous and thoughtful partners that we are able to carry out our mission and improve the services we provide.

With the help of some of our incredible corporate sponsors, the youth in our care gained lifelong skills and made lasting memories this year!

Once again, in 2017, our amazing corporate volunteers contributed their time, talent, and treasure. Giving thousands of dollars, volunteering hundreds of hours, our corporate partners are truly invaluable to us.

6. SOS Illinois Got Superfied

This past May, for Foster Care Awareness Month, SOS Illinois shared how extremely awesome our organization is from the children in our care to the surrounding communities that help us. They are all super in one way or another.

We unveiled our #RaisingSuperheroes campaign to raise awareness for our children, as well as all children in foster care. SOS Illinois also revealed its very own #SuperSiblings who reappeared at our Evening of Hope. Additionally, we shared storied of our Super-Community, which is comprised of our four Chicagoland sites we operate, together with each community member and all of our partners, donors, volunteers, and neighborhood friends, to create our collective Village – the Super-Community.

Super Siblings SOS Illinois
This spring we unveiled our Super Siblings, a brave sister and brother duo inspired by the youth in our community.

We are grateful for all the support we receive from every community member. To read more and join our Super-Community click here, or you can do something very important: spread the word about our mission, our superheroes, and our Foster Parents

5. SOS Illinois Youth Speak Up

Two teens lent their voice in an effort to raise awareness for children in foster care. Our first SOS Illinois youth spoke about her experiences with parental neglect at a dialogue about children without parental care or at risk of losing it. The event, which took place on February 14, 2017, in New York City, was sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Austria to the United Nations and is part of a series of dialogues in which policy makers, UN actors, and civil society explore ways to ensure how to “Leave No One Behind” in the implementation of development policies. Learn more here.

Our second SOS Illinois youth shared his story with 300 guests at a Black Tie Gala for Maestro Cares in New York this past March. With multiple interruptions from applause and a standing ovation, our teen shared his journey through foster care and how SOS Illinois and his Foster Parents have helped transform his life. This youth was chosen as Posse Foundation Scholar and is now at college on a full-ride scholarship.

We are so proud of our youth and all the children in our care. Together we work to rebuild trust, self-confidence, and independence, which all our children to go on and lead self-reliant and fulfilling lives

4. SOS Illinois Foster Parents Net Blackhawks Spotlight

Last February, two of our very own Foster Parents were featured at a Blackhawks home game. Tony and Carmen, two of our exceptional Foster Parents, were featured on the jumbotron during the “Everyday Heroes” feature, sponsored by Jockey. As the segment played, fans seated around them recognized the two, applauding and commending them. They even received acknowledgment and accolades from certain individual fans who took the time to show appreciation for what they do. Read more and watch the segment aired on the jumbotron here.

3. “The Voice” Star Shares His Gifts

Chicago Actor/Artist Mark JP Hood, well-known as a contestant on the ninth season of “The Voice,” brought a lot of holiday cheer to the children at SOS Children’s Villages Illinois this year through the Karaoke For Kids Toy Drive, presented by his new organization, the Hood Dreams Foundation. Focusing on “Turning Dreams Into Reality”, the Hood Dreams Foundation was excited to partner with SOS Illinois to remind the children that they are not forgotten.

Mark Hood and Amy
Director of Development Amy Kaczmarek and recording artist Mark Hood pose for a quick photo during the Karaoke For Kids Toy Drive.

The Foundation collected over 100 toys and gift cards during the Karaoke event at the Hard Rock café on Thursday, December 21; and Mark was able to distribute the gifts in person during a holiday pizza party at the Chicago Village on Friday, December 22.  Read more about Mark Hood’s personal commitment to help children and how our children were able to help him celebrate his birthday.

2. A Princess Visits the Village

SOS Illinois was treated to a royal visit when Princess Salimah Aga Khan visited our Chicago, Roosevelt Square, and Lockport Villages. As SOS Children’s Villages International Ambassador for the past three decades, Princess Salimah Aga Khan, has traveled the world visiting numerous Villages. On October 22 and 23, the Princess. We are grateful to have such a remarkable woman advocating for children at our Villages around the world.

princess salimah
Lockport Village staff and Foster Parents were just as excited as the children in the Village to meet Princess Salimah!

1. New Community Center Offers New Hope

At our Annual Meeting, Board President Don Biernacki shared SOS Illinois’ plans to build a Community Center at our Roosevelt Square Village. The construction of the 17,000+ square foot facility, designed by internationally recognized architect Juan Moreno, is projected to serve over 5,000 individuals annually from University Village, Lower West Side/Pilsen, Little Village, North Lawndale, and other surrounding neighborhoods. We are looking forward to this exciting opportunity to make a larger impact on the children and families in our care and those who live in nearby communities. To learn more about this project and make an investment, check out our annoucement blog.

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Thank you to all of our sponsors, corporate partners, Board Members, staff, and individual supporters and friends for all that you contributed in 2017. We cannot fulfill our mission without you. We look forward to having you join us in 2018 for continued hard work and successes.