The Impact of Mercy Home’s March for Kids, Ep. 8 of Around Our Home Podcast

The Impact of Mercy Home’s March for Kids, Ep. 8 of Around Our Home Podcast

– Welcome to “Around Our Home”. a show about the impact, Mercy Home for Boys & Girls, has on kids and families in need in the Chicago community. Each episode, you’ll hear informative interviews, as well as supportive tips and strategies that you can use in your daily life, to become a happier, healthier version of yourself. This is “Around Our Home”. I’m Christine Nikolich. Our guests today are Joe Wronka, vice president of our advancement department. And Mark Schmeltzer, director of communications. In this episode, Joe and Mark discuss the importance of our March for Kids campaign, how it impacts our kids and families, and other ways you can support Mercy Home for Boys & Girls throughout the year.

– March for Kids has been… We’ve been doing March for Kids in one form or another, and under several different names for the last 25 years. And it started as a way to sort of seize on the excitement, and Celebratory nature of St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago, while also kind of having a very ready-made theme for us. There’s a strong Irish American, Irish Catholic history to our home. We were founded by the archbishop at the time Patrick Fiann was a native from Tipperary, Ireland. And the priests who founded it and every priest that’s run it since, including our current president, Fathers Gotatiu are of Irish-American descent. So there’s been that thread of Irish-American history and contribution to our work and to our home. And so, it was like the perfect opportunity to celebrate that while also raising some recognition and awareness about what we do, and hopefully raise some funds to help us do it. And so we started by, just getting into the St Patrick’s Day parade. And after some time we had a party that would accompany that. And eventually in 2004, we had changed the name of the program to Shamrocks For Kids. And that reflected one of the centerpieces of the campaign at the time, which was to have volunteers fanning out across the route of the parade, distributing these Mercy Home Shamrocks, as a little reminder and as a little thank you for donations to the home. More and more partners would join us and help amplify the message. For example, ABC7 in Chicago, has been our television partner, really since the beginning. So they’ve been promoting this campaign through PSAs, and news stories since then. But in more recent times, radio stations like US99 have been promoting us as well. And Wintrust has been helping us get the word out through some advertisements. And just really any, overtime like more and more of our friends and partners have helped us promote what we do as a home, and what we’re doing as part of this campaign. So that by 2014, we decided, “Hey, we wanna name that’s gonna reflect the fact that this is…” While it’s centered around St. Patrick’s Day, it’s really something that we do all month long, throughout the entire month of March. Because our presence was so great throughout that month. We said, “Let’s do something that reflects… That hearkens back to this idea of a parade, but also reflects that we’re doing it throughout the month.” So we called it March For Kids, and that’s where we’re at now. And so in addition to things like the parades, and the St Patrick’s Day celebrations, or the in-office fundraisers that people may hold for the campaign, and any of the sort of St Patrick’s Day related activities, we also have opportunities for people to get involved throughout the entire month, even in those two weeks after St. Patrick’s Day. This is the time when we really get out there to talk about the Home and raise awareness, and raise support, but also hopefully raise some new friends who are gonna help us in many different ways, to do our work in the future.

– How has COVID-19 affected March for Kids, both this year and last year?

– So, it did impact the way in which we get the message out to folks, which had been predominantly on the street with volunteers selling those Shamrock’s pins, and letting people know about the efforts of the Home and not having those feet on the street has, again impacted us at the revenue side of things. But, we also have been able to keep our partnership with the media outlets that Mark spoke about going and coming on wonderful podcasts like this and sharing the message has allowed us to keep the spirit of the campaign alive and generate some revenue as well. But we expect that we’ll see a downturn in funding because we don’t have a presence at those parades and we won’t have the party. And that’s where we’re really looking for people to step up online and make a donation which I would like to note is matched throughout the month of March. So, “A Dollar for Dollar,” we have a match from a gender sponsor going on right now, which will hopefully help us get near to the goal that we had budgeted for.

– He says, we couldn’t have a live presence in the parades and everything. We also decided to… So many events in general are going virtual in different ways. So we decided to hold a bunch of other smaller virtual events under this March for Kids umbrella as well. So throughout the month, we’d had, “Poker Night,” which we typically have in January and it’s a live event. We decided to move that into March. The associate board created a brand new event, that we did this month as well, that was around revolution brewing. And we have a car raffle as well, which actually continues to the breast of this month, so, that you could still get it on and potentially win a Jeep Cherokee, the proceeds, again, go to Mercy Home.

– What impact does this campaign have on our kids and families?

– Great question Christine and the whole purpose of that campaign from day one and to this day is really to let individuals and companies that might not be aware of the home supports, delve further into it and give people an opportunity to learn about the home in many ways, in which we support youth and families. The fundraising standpoint, Mercy Home’s privately funded 100% of our operating expenses met through the generosity of donors across the city and the country here. And so, we use this campaign to talk about the supports and the incredible resiliency, and skills that our young people and families have, and how the home helps enhance those. And helps the youth and families develop new skills so that they can overcome some pretty serious traumatic pasts. And succeed academically and career-wise, and certainly as individuals in society here. And the youth and families obviously, are impacted when the homes wonderful core workers, bringing those supports to them on a daily basis, and have been doing that for the past 134 years. So, just reinforces all the good that Mercy Home’s about in the City of Chicago.

– So obviously, March is only one month out of the year. What’s next after March for Kids?

– We keep marching on. There’s no question it is a non-stop work. And because of our commitment to youth and families, we don’t stop our advocacy, our awareness building of our supports here at Mercy Home. And again, the fundraising efforts. And so, there’s so much intentionality that goes into the care that we provide our kids, and their families, and there’s that same level of intentionality, and how we’re bringing the message of Mercy out to the larger public here. And so, after the campaign ends, we continue to dialogue with individuals and companies that gender silly donated during that campaign, by ways they can further impact the Home. So, whether that’s continuing their donation, and making new ones, or volunteering with us through tutoring and mentoring opportunities, which are limited during COVID. But we have plans once it’s safe to bring our volunteers back to do so. And that’s really it, it’s engaging the public through this campaign, that that allows us to establish a relationship with them. And it’s not always around money. It’s sometimes getting that person who has the hour to dedicate to a academic tutoring session during the school year, to come in on, because they learned about the home through March for Kids. So we don’t stop our youth and families are incredibly resilient, and strong, and we’re inspired by them to keep our workup a year round here.

– We can’t succeed if people don’t know more about us, and it don’t get that invitation to be involved. And sometimes those conversations take a little while. So if March for Kids is the first time someone learns about us, the relationship grows from there, and hopefully they become a partner with us, well after the pact or, well into the future. So a again, another really important part of this program.

– The intergenerational support that occurs because people as a family unit experience participating in the parade on the Mercy Home float are going to our post parade parties. It’s not unusual that I work with individuals now who are saying, “Happy to buy tickets for me and my family, for this parade, or to make a donation now.” Because I remember when I was 10 years old, going down and seeing the Mercy Home parade and my grandparents, or my parents taking us to the Hilton ballroom for the post parade party. And so, we really do build future supporters through this campaign. And it’s really cool that legacy of support that runs through many families.

– How has March for Kids grown beyond St Patrick’s Day, and become one of our favorite traditions?

– We’re obviously urging donations throughout this month as Joe indicated earlier. And one of the reasons that’s a particularly opportune time to donate to Mercy Home this month is because we have a match, and the match makes your support go twice as far. And that’s a value for you as a donor to know that you’re doing twice as much through your support. It goes beyond the parade day, we have a lot of fun. We’ve been, always had a lot of fun pre COVID and we’re trying to have as much fun as we can in this sort of virtual realm during COVID. And we’ll get back out there again, and we’ll get back on those parades and we’ll we’ll have those parties and everything else but, public awareness and support that comes from our partners, makes it go even further than just one weekend. It’s the way that the Blue Cross Blue Shield building puts our names up in lights every year around this time. Or, like I said, the ABC7 support of us through public service announcements. So, right now there are featuring, spots with Allan Karceski and anchor. And then also, it engages… There’s a lot of opportunities for our board members and other friends of the home in the business world to conduct fundraising campaigns in their offices, which they do every year. So these are sort of like employee give back days. So that happens throughout this month as well too. And not just at the parades.

– March for Kids, what are other opportunities for donors to get involved year round?

– When COVID comes to an end, during we can safely gather with people in person, there’s a need for volunteers consistently at the Home in a couple of ways academic tutors during the school year, September/May. And then our friend’s first mentoring program, consistently has a need for individuals that are able to commit to that relationship with youth, living out in the community, in need of a positive adult mentor. And then advocates at the fundraising level. We’re always looking for people that are willing to bring the homes message to their networks. And it’s as simple sometimes of sharing things on their social media, and talking about it as appropriate within their companies, to see if they can derive resources, or donations for the organization in those three areas. Whether you’re donating your time, or your resource, or making your network aware of Mercy Home, is how this place has been able to be so successful. The best way for folks to get to reach out to us is through the web.

– It’s also a pretty, I think, impactful that, this opportunity to raise awareness about the Home, and what we offer, and the services we offer. It has an impact on people who may need these services, or who may know somebody who needs these services. So it’s good to get the name out there so that people are aware that this might be an option for someone that they know and love.

– Well, thank you so much for joining me, and helping to get the word out about the importance of March for Kids.

– Thank you– so much for your time, Christine, we appreciate it.

– Thank you for listening to, “Around Our Home.” Thank you to Joe and Mark for joining us today, and telling us more about the impact of March for Kids. Be sure to visit, to make a donation, and help our kids build brighter futures today. If you have any questions, please email us, please like subscribe, and share this podcast, with your colleagues, friends, and family. Mercy Home for Boys & Girls is a solution for kids in crisis. And we hope this podcast will motivate you to support our mission. My name is Christine Nikolich and this is “Around Our Home.”

Welcome to Around Our Home Podcast, a show about the impact Mercy Home for Boys & Girls has on kids and families in need in the Chicago community. Each episode you’ll hear informative interviews, as well as supportive tips and strategies that you can use in your daily life to become a happier, healthier version of yourself.

#8 – The Impact of Mercy Home’s March for Kids

In this episode, Christine Nikolich interviews Joe Wronka, Vice President of our Advancement Department and Mark Schmeltzer, Director of Communications. In this episode Joe and Mark discuss the importance of our March for Kids campaign, how it impacts our kids and families and other ways you can support Mercy Home for Boys & Girls throughout the year. 

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