Ashlee Tate's Launchpad4Kids
● By Sue Ralston
Kids StuffNovember 2014
By Sue Ralston
Photo by: Brett Van Auken
For Ashlee Tate, a light bulb went on a couple of years ago after her daughter’s soccer practice. Tate and her husband, Randy, a local surgeon, became aware that one of their daughter’s teammates was going to have to drop out, simply because the family couldn’t afford the cleats, socks and shin guards required. “We went out that night and purchased everything and donated it anonymously so this child could play. And right then it occurred to me that there were lots of people I know who would sponsor a child’s activities if only they knew where the need was,” she says. “I said to him, ‘We should start something like this.’”
Launchpad4Kids was born from that first awareness of need. With the mission “to provide a way for one person to directly impact a child in need, by providing funds to an activity of the child’s choice,” the newly emerging nonprofit is designed to match the needs of children between the ages of 3 and 17 with willing donors. This direct, personal funding site allows small monetary gifts to make a big difference in the lives of those who otherwise wouldn’t have access to enrichment programs, sports teams, art or dance classes, or mentoring opportunities. Donations are tax-deductible and all donors receive a personal thank-you note from the child whose activity they fund.
“The program is kind of like a cross between Make-A-Wish and Adopt-A-Child,” says Tate, a mother of two young children, 7-yearold Bria and 5-year-old Bair, and a seasoned self-employed public relations professional. “Not everyone has time to be a direct mentor, but they can reach into their pocket and fund a child’s dance classes for a month or two.” As she shared the idea with friends, it took off, and she put her PR business on the back burner to focus on Launchpad. The program is set up for kids from low-income, at-risk or underprivileged environments. Each child is nominated by schools or nonprofit organizations.
As the word spread among her friends, referrals began to come in. “We get our referrals from PlusONE Mentors, One SAFE Place, Northern Valley Catholic Social Service and even some schools,” she says. Activities in the areas of cultural experiences, arts, personal mentoring and sports are eligible for funding. “Our goal is to get them to complete each thing. If you start soccer, you need to finish out the season. We believe the process of completion and achievement boosts their self-esteem.” Ongoing experiences are emphasized over one-time enrichment activities.
A particularly rewarding match was made earlier this year through Shasta Regional Medical Center. When Tate became aware of a teenage girl who longed to rise above her difficult home circumstances and become a surgeon, she got in touch with Karen Hoyt, the hospital’s director of public relations and marketing. Says Hoyt: “We loved the idea. SRMC donated $1,000 to Launchpad. And when we found out there was a teenager who wanted to learn more about being a surgeon, we said, ‘We can bring her in and she can watch a heart surgery.’” Dr. Douglas McConnell, a cardiac surgeon, was happy to have her shadow him and the team. “She was able to see the whole process, observe the various roles on the cardiac surgery team, and view the actual surgery. Then she continued volunteering in the hospital this summer,” Hoyt says.
Along the way, Tate has benefited from help and advice from such community leaders as Jean King of One SAFE Place. “She’s been a huge help to me, figuring out how to set it up and get it off the ground,” says Tate. She has assembled a board of directors, including Summer Ryan, Tim Rayl, Dr. Pam Ikuta and Anne Peterson. “Anne has been by my side since the beginning. She’s been my sounding board, my guidance counselor, and the one who tells it like it is. She’s like a fairy godmother to me.”
Launchpad4Kids’ website features the requests of each child, along with the amount of funding required to make their wishes come true, usually between $50 and $200. Successes are also highlighted, including such funded projects as guitar lessons, a drawing class and jiujitsu classes.
“I’m a big proponent of exposing kids to lots of different things so they gain confidence. We can’t change their environment, but we can change their outlook,” says Tate. “There are so many people who have come together to help with this. It really does take a community to wrap their arms around these kids and help.”