As the Evan Rachel Would story began to take shape in our collective Wildfang brains, we knew we wanted this concept of saying ‘yes’ to life to extend beyond just 3 minutes of mascotting, karaoke, and one ridiculous round of poker. As long-time admirers of Friends of the Children, we knew that their commitment to giving the most vulnerable youth the ability to create new stories made them the perfect partner to take this crazy journey with us.
With full-time, paid mentors, Friends of the Children commits to each child for not one, not five, but twelve and a half years—NO MATTER WHAT. Translation: they spend 4 hours with every kid, every single week, for 12.5 years from kindergarten through high school. By providing stability, love, and support, Friends of the Children ensures nearly 100% of their graduates will avoid juvenile delinquency, even if their parents are incarcerated; 83% will get their high school diploma, even if their parents did not; and 98% will have a child when they’re ready, not when they’re still kids themselves. 100% of proceeds from our Evan Rachel Would tees will go directly to the amazing folks at Friends of the Children. We’ll be rocking ours with pride and would love for you to join us! (Click here to snag your tee.) In the meantime, we invite you to get to know Kevin, one of the incredible Friends of the Children graduates, as well as Natalie, one of their current kickass mentors. #EvanRachelWould!
Natalie, what inspired you to work with Friends of the Children?
NATALIE: Before I started at Friends of the Children, I had worked in a few different social service agencies and I was feeling ineffective and a little defeated. I was inspired by the Friend’s model and how it values relationships, developing a genuine connection, and emphasizes the importance of understanding the needs of each child.
Why do you think Friends of the Children has such a high success rate?
KEVIN: I think it’s successful because it’s a program that cares about our well being. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for Friends of the Children. I am in college—a place that my mother said I would never make it to, I’m working toward my computer programming degree, and I joined a dance troupe —because of Friends of the Children’s help. NATALIE: We offer consistency, we engage in who they are and what they’re interested in. They can expect that I will show up and follow through with issues or discussions. Also, our outings are a time where they can step away from whatever they may be going through—a time to play, laugh, or focus on what brings them joy. We all look out for each other like family. KEVIN: Yeah, that’s definitely been the most rewarding thing for me—the lasting friendships that I now have. It’s great knowing that at least 40 people genuinely want you to succeed.
Kevin, can you tell us more about how Friends of the Children has helped you change your story?
KEVIN: My story would have ended abruptly if it wasn’t for the help of Friends of the Children. I was in a dark place in my high school years—I only had a few friends, bullies were tormenting me, and I didn’t have a safe place to go home to. My mother, the person who should’ve been nurturing and loving me, instead neglected me. She would tell me that I wouldn’t amount to anything, that I would never go to college, that I would end up in prison. If it wasn’t for Friends of the Children stepping in and paving a safe path for me to walk on, I wouldn’t be where I am today. My mentor would always tell me, “prove them wrong,”—and I did. I graduated high school with a 3.45 GPA, now I’m in college, making music, cracking jokes—I’m happy. I’m excited about the future. I am free.
Natalie, what’s been the most rewarding thing for you as a mentor?
NATALIE: I want my youth to believe they are capable of making a difference in the world, that they are valued and worthy. The most rewarding thing for me is seeing them come into themselves. They inspire me, they make me feel hopeful. Photography: Friends of the Children, Chris Hornbecker