Since 1996, the annual benefit dinner has been held in Kansas City in the fall each year to raise funds for Shadow Buddies and our Holiday Hugs program. Proceeds from this evening event provide Shadow Buddies at no charge to hospitals throughout the United States and other pediatric programs. We even have a few international hospitals that request buddies as well. Our event includes a dinner with a silent and live auction supported by the Shadow Buddies Foundation Board and our wonderful staff of volunteers. Each year we have approximately 40 pediatric hospitals that benefit from this annual event.
The Tony Gonzalez Foundation has made the Shadow Buddies Foundation its charity of choice. Adopting Shadow Buddies his rookie year, over 47,500 Tony Gonzalez Buddies have been distributed throughout the United States. He also sponsors a senior Shadow Buddies program helping thousands of senior residence in nursing homes. Over 5,900 Senior Buddies have been distributed to date. The Tony Gonzalez Buddies are all medium skin toned boys dressed in a Shadow Buddies t-shirt with his name and number 88 screened on the back and Atlanta Falcons shorts. Tony is also very involved in the "Know Your Buddy Book™" program promoting compassion and understanding through education for K-6th grade. This will be our 13th year partnering together.
This is our educational program for K-6th grade. The "Know Your Buddy Book™" is a comprehensive resource guide designed to educate children about disabilities, illnesses, and other medical challenges. Nurses, teachers, and counselors use this resource guide to educate healthy children about others with special needs. Also a great tool to use when helping children who are returning to school after an extended illness. The buddies are used as a visual and provide play therapy within the classroom. A great mentor program to promote health care as a profession to children in schools. We have reached over 1,500,000 children in schools.
This is our annual distribution of buddies during the holidays. We take some of the funds raised from our annual benefit dinner, plus other individual contributions, and send out hundreds of buddies to sick children during the holidays. The hospitals look forward to this every year, making the holidays a little brighter for children who are being treated during the holiday season. Beginning in October and ending in December, this is a great program supporting medically challenged children and their families as well as providing nurses with an educational tool during the holidays. These past two years, we’ve adopted a local Hispanic preschool, El Centro, Inc. Academy for Children, for the holidays and enhanced El Centro preschool with fresh paint, carpet, waxed floors, educational supplies, classroom and playground toys while the school was closed for the holiday season. In addition to the schools renovations, we were able to bring Christmas to the families of El Centro. Not only did we provide them with a warm holiday meal, but each family received a holiday gift bag, $75 Price Chopper gift cards and blankets for the seniors. Our Holiday Hugs giving is approximately $48,000 a year.
Shadow Buddies are used at specialty camps to help ease the first day jitters by welcoming the special campers! Endorsed by camp counselors and nurses at specialty camps, buddies are used to teach the children about their medical condition and promote a positive image. Each year the Shadow Buddies Foundation provides approximately 850 backpacks to these special campers. Each child takes a buddy home and has something to share with their family and friends. A year-long reminder of the new friendships they made at camp. Our total backpacks to date is 8,350.
The Books & Buddies program offers students volunteer opportunities during the school year that focus on seniors, and under-served group of the community. Introduced seven years ago and piloted by Tony Gonzalez, student’s liked the idea of getting involved with seniors in nursing homes within their community. The students take field trips and spend time reading, recording memories, and interacting with residents throughout the school year. The program culminates at the end of the school year with the students assembling a memory book which is presented to the center. In addition, participating seniors are given a senior Shadow Buddy autographed by their student. Each year we serve approximately 2,826 students and 530 senior citizens.
Our goal for this new program is to provide Shadow Buddies for EMT’s and rescue workers across the nation. During an emergency they can give a buddy to a child in their time of crisis. Whether they are the one injured or the passenger...our Rescue Buddy will be a sure comfort. When the EMT’s and rescue workers are busy doing their job, our Rescue Buddy can do his job...which is to be their friend. Whether a child is the one being treated or it’s someone they care about, our Rescue Buddy is there. This buddy comes with a special blanket to help comfort the child in need. Rescue workers are often seen in the eyes of a child as “heroes”. Our Rescue Buddy also comes with a Sharpie magic marker so that the EMT or rescue worker can autograph the buddy and stay with that child for a lifetime.