The Chicago Challenge is a nonsectarian, tax exempt charitable and educational foundation organized under Section 501 of the Internal Revenue Code. The Challenge helps to provide some of our City's most economically disadvantaged children with quality education, health care, counseling, after-school tutoring , extracurricular activities, and mentoring.
In its inaugural class, the Challenge made a commitment to ten children from the Robert Taylor Homes which is one of Chicago's most troubled housing projects. These ten children, who now range in age from 7 through 14, began school in August 1994 at Holy Angels -- one of the many quality Chicago-area schools which have been highly receptive to the Challenge and its programs. Since then, the Challenge has increased to 16 its number of participants, by selecting six additional children from the Robert Taylor Homes.
The Challenge finances the bulk of the students' tuition expenses, with the remainder paid through the schools' scholarship funds and through direct contributions from the students' families. The Challenge is committed to funding its participants through high school, provided they meet strict academic and disciplinary standards.
The Challenge is sponsored by Norm and Susan Van Lier. Its programs are funded by contributions from individuals, private foundations and corporations. Thus far, the contributions to the Challenge have ranged from $50 - $7,500. While the Challenge obviously appreciates any financial support, it encourages initial annual installments with commitments for future years, conditioned on the Challenge achieving its goals and demonstrating positive results. (Because the Challenge has received tax exempt status from the IRS, contributions to it are tax deductible.)
There are three attributes which, we believe, distinguish the Challenge from many other worthy causes. First, all of the Challenge's administrative and ancillary services are being provided on a pro bono basis. These services range from health care and psychological counseling for the children, to the Challenge's own legal, accounting, graphic design and printing needs, all of which are being donated by highly qualified professionals and firms. (For example, McGuireWoods LLP, the Chicago-based law firm which is a large supporter of the Challenge, is providing the legal and administrative services on a pro bono basis.)
Second, and largely as a result of the wide range of pro bono services, the Challenge operates extremely cost effectively. For example, the challenge's annual cost per child, with all services included, is still presently less than $2,000 -- a fraction of the educational costs alone at many Chicago schools, including the Chicago public schools. While the costs may increase over time depending on the schools with which the Challenge ultimately associates, the Challenge is committed to maintaining the highest standards of fiscal responsibility, and accountability to its contributors. The Challenge's financial statements are available to all donors, upon request.
Third, and perhaps most importantly, the Challenge "gives" only one thing: an opportunity for bright and motivated children to achieve and succeed. The onus remains on the children and their families to perform. The Challenge firmly believes that the financial and other demands which it places on its participants and their families, ultimately, will help to insure the program's success. The Challenge also firmly believes that it will be truly successful only when its participants reach the point where they need nothing from us but our friendship.
We may not be able to change the world, but we can change a life. Accept the Challenge!