6 Midwestern Organizations Helping Children Thrive

While every child deserves to be successful, not all of them have access to the knowledge and resources required to thrive. Fortunately, a lot of groups are dedicated to empowering and helping kids by providing them with all of the support they need to succeed. In no particular order, here are some organizations assisting the youth of the Midwest.

First up, at #1, we have Junior Achievement of the Upper Midwest, an organization that offers financial literacy, college and career readiness, and entrepreneurship education to students in grades K through 12. Its programs aim to empower students to make connections between what they learn in school and how it can be applied in the real world.

Among its programs is JA BizTown, which is a simulated city located at the organization's state-of-the-art facility in St. Paul. Several weeks of classroom learning culminate in a day-long visit to this experiential learning lab, where students discover what it takes to run a successful business, manage a debit card and checking account, and work as a team.

Next up, at #2, is Children & Families of Iowa. Headquartered in Des Moines, it is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of children and families throughout the state, providing services such as early childhood development, domestic violence prevention and intervention, mental health therapy, and support for at-risk youth and young adults.

The organization also offers intensive care and education for kids with severe emotional and behavioral disorders, as well as programs for children coming from low-income working families. Its Connect 2 Careers program helps participants identify a career pathway based on their individual skills, interests, abilities, and current labor market demands, and provides them with support in working toward a high school diploma.

Coming in at #3 is the Shadow Buddies Foundation. It is a Kansas City-based charity dedicated to providing support and knowledge to children with severe illnesses and disabilities who are undergoing medical treatments or emotional trauma. The Foundation offers programs designed to enhance the lives of children and adults, fostering compassion and awareness of differences through its line of condition-specific Shadow Buddy dolls.

Each Shadow Buddy doll is carefully crafted and researched to represent each child's medical or emotional condition, providing them with the companionship of a friend just like them. The organization has also created various charity programs and events, including Books & Buddies, which offers students volunteer opportunities that focus on under-served seniors of the community, and Holiday Hugs, an annual event that provides toys and dinner to hundreds of Kansas City Metro families.

Taking the #4 spot is Minnesota Reading Corps. Launched in 2003, it trains and places literacy tutors in schools to assist children who need extra support to succeed in reading. Trained AmeriCorps members are placed in early learning centers and elementary schools statewide to work with children one-on-one and in small groups daily, providing literacy interventions that are tailored to each learner's needs.

Consultations with experienced educators and supportive services are provided as a free resource for families. The group's website also contains a library of curated videos that learners can use to support skill-building and growth, with activities that tackle topics ranging from reading and early numeracy to elementary-level math.

Next, at #5, we have Children's Health Alliance of Wisconsin. Founded in 1994, its mission is to ensure that the state's children are safe and able to thrive. In order to achieve this, the Alliance provides resources, training, and connections that enhance the efforts of healthcare providers, public health departments, and policymakers.

Its various initiatives focus on different aspects of children's health, such as emergency care and early literacy, with each working to efficiently and effectively address an unmet need in the state. Among its many programs is Reach Out and Read, which trains doctors and nurses to advise parents about the importance of reading aloud, and to give books to children at pediatric checkups.

Finally, at #6, we have Children's Hunger Alliance, a nonprofit dedicated to fighting childhood hunger in Ohio. It partners with organizations throughout the state to provide meals to at-risk kids who need them most. Working with various after-school programs, the organization helps provide nutritious food to children who may not have dinner available at home.

The Alliance works with centers to offer the EatPlayGrow curriculum, an 11-week program developed by the Children's Museum of Manhattan in cooperation with the National Institutes of Health. Through fun, hands-on activities, such as storytelling and art-making, it aims to teach children ages six and younger about nutrition, as well as how exercise and sleep affect their health.