The cost of kids activities can be a burden to many parents for many reasons.
Rachel Calabrese of Foxboro a founder and executive director of non-profit ConfiKids, said “Today’s kids do not play in neighborhoods as much as they participate in recreational programs that introduce them to friends with similar interests and develop self-confidence.
“For kids whose families do not have the financial resources to enroll them in activities, these children miss out on this important part of development,” she said. “With so many children these days over-scheduled, you would be surprised at the number of kids that sit at home alone because they cannot participate in activities.”
“We wanted to help those kids,” Calabrese said.
She wanted children to be able to follow their passion, but there was a nagging feeling that for some kids it is not so much a passion — interests may change or redirect — and she thought about why she enrolls her children in enrichment activities, which is to build their overall confidence.
That’s what led to the creation of ConfiKids.
Calabrese left her job at the Foxboro Recreation Department in December 2016 to start this journey with a group of her friends. In April 2017, they had a name and a mission statement. In October 2017, they obtained non-profit status and gave out their first scholarships at the end of 2017.
In 2018, ConfiKids gave out over $42,000 through 142 scholarships. This year, the organization has already given out over $67,000 in funding to over 170 scholarships and funded some programs. About 51 households in Foxboro have benefited from the program representing about 30 percent of the funds raised, Calabrese said.
ConfiKids helps with karate, dance, and gymnastics classes, which are expensive activities that build confidence.
“We get thank-you letters and photos from a lot of children who are excelling in these activities. We also help with sports programs, music lessons, art and theater classes and so much more,” Calabrese said. “Our largest group project this year was funding 35 children in a soccer program in Brockton this summer.”
Sandy Covey of Halifax saw a post on the town locals page on Facebook about ConfiKids. Her daughter Jasmine, 12, who is in the seventh grade was shy and didn’t have many friends which often caused her to be sad.
“Our family was unable to afford the drama program my daughter was dying to do and it broke my heart. With funding through ConfiKids, she was able to join and has performed in multiple plays since,” she said.
“With the program funding Confikids provided, my daughter found a way to come out of her shell and found her personality and confidence level which has improved as she participated in the drama programs. Years later, she confidently walked into her first year at a new school with new kids and has made lots of new friends and even joined the school’s drama club,” Covey said. “If it wasn’t for the funding provided by ConfiKids, we wouldn’t have been able to sign her up and she may not have the same level of pride and confidence she has now. Our family is forever thankful to ConfiKids for all their support.”
An anonymous mother who got a recommendation from the town’s recreation department about ConfiKids was able to enroll her 10-year-old daughter in a gymnastics class, which is something the mother would not otherwise be able to afford.
“Being a single mother, our budget doesn’t leave much room for extracurricular activities. ConfiKids has impacted our lives greatly. Thanks to Confikids, my daughter was able to start gymnastics last year. She moved up 2 levels within the year,” the mother wrote in a letter to ConfiKids. “It has boosted her confidence and given her additional motivation to set, meet and exceed personal goals (outside of academic goals),” said the mother, who added, “When anyone asks her what she wants to be when she grows up, she proudly answers ‘A famous gymnast.’ Because of the funding through ConfiKids, she is one step closer.
My daughter has gone through a lot of difficult events in the last couple of years. Being able to see the smile on her face when she is at gymnastics, there aren’t enough words to express how grateful I am for ConfiKids.”
The organization’s funding comes from several events, such as Foxtoberfest which is scheduled for Oct. 18, Foxboro Family Variety Show, Kentucky Derby parties, yard sales on the common, a fishing derby in Bourne and lemonade sales by children in the area. They are also part of the Rodman Ride for Kids and have a goal of raising $50,000 this year.
Calabrese said Don Rodman was inspirational on every level when creating and developing ConfiKids.
“I worked alongside him at Birthday Wishes and his dedication and creative approaches in helping kids in need were infectious. He allowed ConfiKids to raise funds but also extremely generous with his resources and talent. Don passed away recently and he will never be forgotten,” Calabrese said.
“Children building confidence and being part of a ‘group’ changes their life pattern. An active child can be a focused child and one that might be able to resist bad choices later in life,” she said of the group’s mission. “We all want our children to grow up healthy mentally, socially and physically. We feel like we are helping that goal even if it’s one child at a time.”
Colleen Brightman of Foxboro, who is one of six board members of ConfiKids, said she loves volunteering for the organization.
“Every donation contributes toward a soccer season or a dance lesson. Those are things that brought my kids joy and I’m excited to help bring that same joy to a kid in need,” Brightman said.
Calabrese said ConfiKids is hoping to expand to more towns in Massachusetts in five to 10 years and help as many children as possible.
“We are hoping to apply for more grants and be able to possibly be a model for other groups to follow in their regions.”
Children who are on the free lunch program at school and are within grades 1-8 are eligible to apply for a scholarship. Apply online at confikids.org.