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The Voice of the Black Community


Kid-run organization cultivates community
Published Wednesday, August 27, 2014
by Latisha Catchatoorian

DURHAM – When Heven Rooks was 10 years old, she saw a homeless man begging for money. From that day forward, she and her parents have been inspired to make a difference. Thus, By R.E.A.L. Kids was born.

By R.E.A.L. Kids is a membership organization for ages 7-13 “aimed at cultivating a generation of kids that are Responsible, Enterprising, and Active for Life.” As stated on byrealkids.com, “Members are exposed to learning experiences that will help shape their mental, physical and educational wellbeing. Kids Club members participate in fun filled events as well as community service activities.”

By R.E.A.L. Kids is run by a board of five 8- to 13-year-olds headed by Heven (who is now in the sixth grade) as the “Kid executive officer.” An adult executive board and management team backs them.

“As adults, we have no idea what’s important to kids or what’s the ‘in’ thing, so it was important for us to have a kids’ board so the kids can sit down and discuss what’s important to them and the things they want to do,” said John Rooks, executive board vice president and Heven’s father.

Heven and John Rooks were headed to Walmart one day when they saw a homeless man standing in the street’s median. Heven asked her dad if she could give him some money, which he agreed, but he thought she would forget about it later. When they finished their shopping, she insisted again.

“I allowed her to grab all my change and give it to him,” Rooks said. “He reached his hand in the car to grab the change, and he was so weak he could barely grab it or say thank you.”

Rooks said Heven silently cried as she looked out of the window all the way home. Later that night, he and his wife discussed the situation with Heven and came up with a plan.

“We talked about how we could provide a vehicle for her to help homeless people, but also on a bigger scale before they even become homeless,” Rooks said. “So we decided to start on the kids level when they are the most impressionable.”

By R.E.A.L Kids last weekend hosted a book bag drive and gave away over 300 book bags, which was 100 more than last year’s drive. In addition to music and games, the event had special guests like Spiderman and Princess Elsa from the popular Disney movie Frozen.

“It was very exciting because we had lots of things going on there, and we had lots of special people that came,” Heven said.

There are 234 kid members with various levels of activity.

“Being a member means that you want more information about what we do,” Director of Operations Tamika Morris said. “We will send you all the different things that we do, and you choose what you want to be involved with at whatever level you want to be involved in.”

Sponsors who donate money, volunteers and more support the organization. Rooks said they are looking to get certified as a nonprofit in 2015.

The kids’ board meets monthly and discusses what charity work they want to embark upon next. Rooks said the organization also hosts juicing events, where they teach kids about healthy eating, and movie nights, which are very popular.

Looking towards the future, Rooks said they are working on a high school mentors program, where high school students will be responsible for mentoring a kid in middle and/or elementary school. They want to “build a bridge that is so often broken between generations.”

“By R.E.A.L. Kids’ vision is to have a program throughout the United States of America and to go out into communities to provide a brighter future for children,” Heven said.

For more information or to donate, visit www.byrealkids.com. See video of the event here.



Posted on September 18, 2014
Hey we had a great time at this even and i can't wait to do it again next year.
Posted on September 18, 2014

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