Annual Initiatives

Helping kids thrive in every season

Poverty is a year-round condition. Young children outgrow essentials like clothes, toys, and books pretty quickly. Our mission at Cradles to Crayons isn’t based on a “one and done” philosophy. We undertake four major initiatives each year to serve kids and families all year long.

Gear Up for Winter

Remember the glory of wintertime as a kid? Bundling up to build a snowman. Wishing for days off from school. Crunching snow mounds with your boots.

For families in need, however, a Chicago winter can be debilitating. No child should have to wait at the bus stop in below-freezing temperatures without warm clothing.

Our Gear Up for Winter program supplies warm winter gear to children whose families struggle just to stay warm. This program includes our signature volunteer event, the annual Un-Gala®, which helps to prepare kids for winter before it becomes an emergency.

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Spring Greening

Children grow throughout the year — in every season. For families who struggle to make ends meet, it can be hard to keep up with these growth spurts.

Our Spring Greening initiative gives a second life to the new and nearly new clothing and goods tucked away in your kids’ closets and drawers by placing them in the hands of families and children who truly need them. The environment benefits as well because we are keeping perfectly usable goods out of already crowded landfills.

Gear Up for Baby

Imagine you’re a new mom, dad, or caregiver who’s living paycheck to paycheck. Diapers for one baby alone, which can’t be bought with governmental aid, will cost you $80 a month.* And without diapers, you can’t drop your baby off at daycare. That’s why many cash-strapped caregivers make the choice to quit work or school, often passing on the cycle of poverty to the babies they dearly love.

Our year-long Gear Up for Baby initiative collects and distributes basic essentials for parents and their babies. Our items include: diapers, blankets, bibs, soap, educational toys, car seats, and strollers. Our goal is to enable babies and toddlers to have a better quality of life and to help their caregivers breathe a little easier as well.

* www.nationaldiaperbanknetwork.org

Ready for School

A child must be emotionally and physically prepared to succeed in school. But in Chicago, more than 180,000 children live in poor or low-income homes. Many of these children lack the tools they need to translate their knowledge and creativity into confidence and academic success. In fact, by age four, children living below the poverty line are already 18 months behind their peers.*

Our Ready for School initiative is anchored by our annual Backpack-A-Thon®. Each year at the event, volunteers fill tens of thousands of backpacks with school supplies. The backpacks, along with KidPacks containing clothing, shoes, and more, are then distributed to kids in need, giving them the tools and confidence they need to learn and succeed in school.