Grants help Kiwanians comfort hospitalized kids

Grants help Kiwanians comfort hospitalized kids

Three Kiwanis clubs reached children in local hospitals, thanks to support from a Kiwanis Children’s Fund program. 

By Erin Chandler 

Through its Pediatric Medicine Support Grant Program, the Kiwanis Children’s Fund awarded grants for three worthy Kiwanis club projects in 2023. With that financial support, clubs are helping to renovate an entire hospital wing, bring much-needed equipment to a new play therapy room and jumpstart a new service for kids and families experiencing medical emergencies.  

Each of these projects had a common starting point: club partnerships with hospital staff and administration. After discussions regarding what kids need when dealing with overwhelming situations, each project was tailored to improve kids’ physical, mental and emotional health. 

Collaboration and renovation
Bustamante Children’s Hospital is the only children’s hospital in Jamaica, serving tens of thousands of kids. When the Kiwanis Club of Toronto Caribbean, Ontario, Canada, reached out to ask how it could help, members learned about plans for a much-needed renovation of the burn unit and plastic surgery ward. They also learned there was no budget to get it done. With a pediatric medicine support grant from the Kiwanis Children’s Fund — and in collaboration with the Kiwanis Club of Capital City Kingston, Jamaica — the Toronto Caribbean club is helping to bring the ward up to medical standards and creating a safer and more welcoming environment for young patients.  

The renovation will include an aesthetic redesign, with new paint, curtains, artwork and greenery; an unused dressing room retrofitted as a separate area for outpatient procedures, to help reduce the risk of infection; and an upgraded dressing room for inpatients, with new equipment and supplies. Other additions include a designated area called The Reading Nook, which will be established and maintained by the Capital City Kingston club — and where local Builders Club and Key Club members will join the Kiwanians in reading to patients.

New hospital, new ways to serve kids
Like Bustamante Children’s Hospital, Trinity Hospital in the U.S. is vital to a large region. The hospital serves patients, including thousands of children, from 25 counties in North Dakota and Montana. The new Trinity Hospital facility, which opened in the spring of 2023, replaces its 100-year-old predecessor and boasts significant upgrades — thanks in part to the Kiwanis Club of Minot, North Dakota, and a pediatric medicine support grant from the Kiwanis Children’s Fund.

For the new pediatric unit’s play therapy room, the Minot Kiwanians funded the purchase of all equipment and helped set it up prior to the grand opening. In the new room, supervised play therapy will help young patients and their families feel less anxious during the often-stressful experience of hospitalization — and help doctors better gauge and even speed along young patients’ progress.

Bringing bedside comfort
The Kiwanis Club of Long Beach, California, U.S., also aims to make hospital patients and their families more comfortable. Working with MemorialCare Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach administration and Child Life Program staff, the club developed its bedside comfort bags project. 

A pediatric medicine support grant from the Kiwanis Children’s Fund is helping the Long Beach Kiwanians purchase items for infants, kids and adolescents. Each month, the club will enlist the help of Key Club and Circle K International members to stuff the items — including books, toys, crayons, coloring books, journals and socks — into 125 drawstring bags, which are brightly colored and Kiwanis-branded. They’ll deliver the bags to the hospital, where the items will ease the anxiety of pediatric patients and their siblings — about 1,500 children per year. The club will also create and restock a pantry for parents and caregivers, so that Child Life specialists and nurses can provide toiletries, notepads, puzzle books and pencils, and even loan phone chargers as needed. 

How do I apply for a Pediatric Medicine Support Grant?
Made possible by the generosity of the Kiwanis governors’ classes of 2005-06 and 2006-07, the Pediatric Medicine Support Grant Program provides a onetime grant for clubs to fund projects that specifically support local children’s medical centers. Grant money can be used to purchase products or supplies for patients’ hospital stays or to support a capital improvement project. 

Learn more and apply for a pediatric medicine support grant at For more information about the Kiwanis Children’s Fund, visit

CKI member wins nationally televised tuition contest

CKI member wins nationally televised tuition contest

Victory in football-throwing competition brings money and kudos from across the U.S.

Kiwanis International congratulates Andrew Jiminez, a member of Circle K International — our Service Leadership Program for university students — for winning US$100,000 in tuition during college football’s SEC Championship Game on Saturday. A member of the Sandhills Community College CKI Club and lieutenant governor of the Carolinas District, Jiminez won the Dr. Pepper Tuition Challenge during halftime, tossing 18 footballs into the sponsor-branded “can” in a timed competition.

His win during the televised game got national attention and compliments for his technique. See some of the reaction below — including video of the contest when you click the CBS Sports tweet.

How your club can promote literacy

How your club can promote literacy

Looking for new ways to help kids read? Use these Kiwanis clubs as inspiration. 

By Julie Saetre 

To promote literacy and a love of reading, the Weston Kiwanis Club in Connecticut, U.S., helped a local school purchase a book vending machine. Does your club want to encourage kids in your community to read? Here are three more ideas that have worked for other Kiwanis clubs.  

Build a bookcase
The Conway Kiwanis Club in Arkansas, U.S., uses its Bookcase Project to promote literacy at an early age. Project recipients are 4- and 5-year-old preschool children enrolled in three area Head Start centers. Each child receives a personalized bookcase, a starter kit of age-appropriate books and a “reading buddy” — a stuffed animal. See how the club makes it work with local partners and supporters. 

Open some Little Free Libraries
In Waynesboro, Virginia, U.S., the Waynesboro Kiwanis Club opened Little Free Libraries in three local schools. Through Little Free Library, a Kiwanis International partner, Kiwanis clubs make books available in locations throughout their communities — and get help with construction and stewardship. In Waynesboro, the local Key Club also helps with upkeep and inventory. Learn how KIwanians in Waynesboro made multiple Little Free Libraries a reality. 

Give schools literacy tools
The Kiwanis Club of Papine in Kingston, Jamaica, helped 30 deaf students by providing access to virtual libraries and an online early childhood literacy tool. A Kiwanis Children’s Fund grant allowed the club to purchase more tablets and accessible devices. See how a club grant can transform your vision into a program.   

Kiwanis members promote literacy through free books in school 

Kiwanis members promote literacy through free books in school 

A Kiwanis club’s foundation grant helps a book vending machine encourage reading and kindness in school. 

By Bob Uzenoff, member of the Kiwanis Club of Weston ♦ Photographs by Reed Ameden, Lisa Barbiero 

Shelly Rinas, teacher-librarian at Weston Intermediate School (WIS) in Connecticut, U.S., dreamed of promoting literacy while supporting a positive school culture. In particular, she wanted to add a book vending machine to the school’s library. 

Such machines have become increasingly popular in elementary and middle schools. Students use tokens — coins made specifically for the machine — to “buy” a book from the device. 

At WIS, which serves about 450 children in grades three through five, the school budget combined with support from the Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) was enough to purchase new titles for the vending machine over the years. But Rinas needed support to purchase the machine itself — along with a custom cover in Weston blue and gold, a four-year warranty and 150 coins. 

What to do?
Weston Public School Superintendent and former Kiwanian Lisa Barbieropointed Rinas to Reed Ameden, chair of the Kiwanis Club of Weston’s Philanthropy Committee.  

On January 25, Rinas submitted a grant application to the committee. 

In June, the Kiwanis Club of Weston Foundation agreed to provide half of the money needed if Rinas could find funding for the remainder. The Weston Intermediate School PTOpledged to match Kiwanis’s funding.  

On June 24, Rinas was able to order the book vending machine. 

Today, the machine stands at the heart of the school’s “Caught Being Kind” program. When someone sees a student doing a good deed, that student earns a token. The first recipient, Cole, was recognized for helping reshelve and organize books during a book exchange. 

Thanks for additional reporting to Reed Ameden, Shelly Rinas and Barbara Gross. 

Ideas for your club
Are you initiating a program in a school or community location? Take some tips from the Weston Kiwanis Club: 

  • Be eventful! After the vending machine arrived, Rinas conducted an unveiling. She and fellow educator Paige Noonandevised a covering for the machine that would fall away when a ribbon was cut. 
  • Remind people who did it. As the machine was unveiled, attendees saw it wrapped in Kiwanis and PTO logos.  
  • Make people a part of the moment. Adriana Ilicheva, a student who had read 209 books, cut the gold ribbon and unveiled the machine. The event was also broadcast live to all classrooms. Other guests included members of the Weston club and the WIS PTO. 
  • Give a sense of ownership. The machine will have a name, and because of a school-wide naming contest, it will mean something to the students. 

Annual “Chocolate Walk” fundraiser makes a big impact

Annual “Chocolate Walk” fundraiser makes a big impact

A Kiwanis club makes use of its hometown’s renown for an event that’s sweet and scenic.

By Tony Knoderer 

The Kiwanis Club of Lititz Area in Pennsylvania, U.S., raised more than US$90,000 for local kids in October during its 22nd Chocolate Walk. Each year, the club works with chocolate makers big and small to provide treats to attendees. This year, more than 2,000 people bought tickets that allowed them to walk throughout Lititz, gathering goodies from 33 chocolatiers and chefs. 

One reason for the event’s success, says club member Charlie Stickler, is the town itself. 

“Lititz is known as one of the best small towns in America,” Stickler says. “It’s a well-visited tourist area.” 

A scenic small town is a nice place to hold an event where people walk around on an autumn day. It’s also a good place to build an event that people return to year after year — even when the weather doesn’t cooperate. 

“We had rain most of the day,” Stickler says. “But most people, rain or shine, they’re there.” 

Keep ’em coming
After more than two decades, the event’s reputation precedes it. The Chocolate Walk is usually held in the first half of October, with tickets on sale in July. This year, Stickler says, the club had sold out by mid-September.   

That success keeps the chocolatiers — as well as sponsors and partners — coming back. 

“The businesses here say it’s the second or third busiest day in town because of the draw,” Stickler says.  

Of course, a sizable event requires a large number of volunteers to run smoothly — especially for a club with not quite 30 members. This year the Lititz club got help from more than 200 people, including members of the local Key Clubs the Kiwanians sponsor. 

From near and far
At this point, the size and success of the Chocolate Walk attracts people from beyond Lititz itself. In fact, Stickler says, the Chocolate Walk attracts visitors from 16 to 20 other U.S. states every year. 

“A woman called me from New Mexico and asked about tickets,” he says. “She said her family figured, since they were on their way to a family reunion east of us, they might as well try to go to this event they’d heard about.” 

Thanks to the event’s success, the Lititz club has donated funds to several local organizations, such as the Schreiber Center for Pediatric Development, Lancaster Cleft Pallet Clinic and the Lititz and Manheim Township Libraries.

How they do it

The Lititz Kiwanis Club doesn’t have a huge number of members — but that doesn’t stop them from having a big impact. Here are some elements of the Chocolate Walk that could help your club’s signature project. 

  • Planning. The club starts planning each year’s Chocolate Walk in January, with monthly meetings that focus on the event. The key, Stickler says, is to keep members in touch with sponsors, partners and volunteers throughout the year. 
  • Recruiting. Members are reminded to talk about Kiwanis. In fact, the club has cards that feature Kiwanis and what members do — and invites people to attend a meeting.  
  • Town renown. Lititz itself is an attraction, so the club maximizes its fundraiser’s appeal by making it a “walk” — rather than restricting the event to one place. And with the town’s history as the home of Wilbur Chocolate, the club builds on a foundation of local renown. What’s your town’s biggest industry or claim to fame? 
  • Sponsors and partners. Fundraisers cost money. The Kiwanis Club of Lititz Area offsets the expense with sponsorships — everyone from the Ford dealer to insurance companies and local retailers. The “stations” along the walk range from shops to the Lititz Historical Foundation building. 
  • SLPs. Sponsoring and maintaining a bond with a Service Leadership Program club results in eager volunteers for the Lititz club. Even during homecoming weekend, Stickler says, the Manheim Township Key Club provided 15 to 20 volunteers. 
  • Add-on events. The success of the Chocolate Walk has encouraged the club to try smaller fundraisers with similar themes — including the Pretzel Fest and a wine-and-chocolate tasting, which cumulatively raise another $20,000 per year.