By Caitlin Duke
Each year, as foster children turn 18 and age out of foster care, they no longer are considered a ward of the state, which leaves thousands of foster children on their own. According to national statistics, 27,000 foster kids “age out” every year. Of the 27,000, 40 percent have been homeless or couch-surfed, 54 percent earn a high school diploma and only 2 percent obtain a bachelor’s degree or higher.
Amarillo College’s club Badger Hearts is a nonprofit organization that helps foster children who recently have aged out of the system as they start on their own.
Badger Hearts was organized in 2004 by a former foster child who wanted to help other foster children raise money for an apartment or a dorm. Currently, the club has six active members, and they are seeking new members who are interested in getting community service hours or just want to give back to their community.
Members raise funds throughout the year for a May banquet for foster children in Amarillo who are aging out of the system. Each person receives a “hope chest” valued at about $700 containing household items that are useful in a new dorm or apartment, including desk lamps, shower curtains and microwaves. Last year, the people who were aging out even received a mountain bike. Badger Hearts hopes to open the banquet up this year to students who are graduating from Boys Ranch.
Badger Hearts members, who must be dedicated to be in this club because of the amount of fundraising need for the banquet, gain leadership along the way.
“We have excellent student leadership in Badger Hearts,” said Lesley Ingham, a Badger Hearts sponsor and speech instructor. “These kids are very driven and get stuff done.”
Even though much work is put into one event, club members say it is worth it.
“My favorite part of Badger Hearts are the looks on the kids faces during the banquet,” member Alicia Kochenower said.
The club is seeking members.
“What we need are people who love to give,” said Toby Sexton, Badger Hearts president and a social work major. “We aren’t a group that raises money to go on trips at the end of the year or get plaques. All the money is given to the kids at the end of the year.”
The next Badger Hearts’ fundraiser will be Oct. 31 when they will serve food on the Washington Street Campus. They will continue to do at least one fundraiser a month until the banquet in May.