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. 

Scholarship recipients share passion for service

Scholarship recipients share passion for service

The Kiwanis Children’s Fund honors 7 scholars who developed skills through Key Club and CKI. 

By Erin Chandler 

The outstanding scholars who will receive this year’s Kiwanis Children’s Fund Scholarships stood out among 459 applicants not only for what they have already accomplished, but for their commitment to creating a more just and inclusive future. Through their membership in Key Club and Circle K International, these seven students have grown as leaders and are ready to further pursue their passions to create a more equitable world in the fields of science, healthcare, business, environmental stewardship and education. The Kiwanis Children’s Fund is honored to help them continue their education in the upcoming academic year. 

Maya Narayan, Linda Canaday Memorial Scholarship
Maya Narayan is a recent graduate of Goshen High School in Indiana, U.S., where she served successively as her Key Club’s secretary, vice president and president. She also served the Indiana District of Key Club as a lieutenant governor and as secretary-treasurer. Narayan was an officer in her school’s Multicultural Youth Alliance, three-year student council class president, an active leader in her local 4-H club and a record-setting captain of the Goshen High School girls’ golf team. Narayan has a passion for singing and has participated in multiple choirs as well as in national vocal programs. She won lead roles in school and professional musicals — most recently that of Wednesday Addams in “The Addams Family.” Initially hesitant about joining Key Club, Narayan was drawn in by how it helped her grow as a leader. “That is what I appreciate most about the Key Club community,” she says. “We are a group of tomorrow’s leaders whose horizons keep broadening.” She will continue to broaden her horizons next year as a freshman at Western Michigan University. 

Swarada Kulkarni, Kiwanis Children’s Fund Scholarship
Swarada Kulkarni is a recent graduate of West Ranch High School in California, U.S. She designed the website for her school’s Key Club before going on to serve as its vice president, then as her division’s project coordinator and finally on the California-Nevada-Hawaii District’s technology team. According to her former division lieutenant governor, Kulkarni is “a true brainstormer, team worker and, most importantly, a kind-hearted person.” In addition to Key Club, Kulkarni has served as an ambassador for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and taken on leadership roles in Academic Decathlon, Speech and Debate Club, the California Scholarship Federation and the National Art Honors Society. She is an award-winning Hindustani classical singer, world champion dragon boat paddler and volunteer in urgent care, emergency room and neonatal intensive care settings. Kulkarni is founder and CEO of the nonprofit Bridge to Hope Foundation, which works to minimize the effects of income inequality around the world. Next year, she plans to attend Vanderbilt University with the goal of becoming a neurosurgeon, providing affordable healthcare in underserved regions around the world.  

Lilian Thai, Kiwanis Children’s Fund Scholarship
Lilian Thai is the current president of Key Club International. A recent graduate of Garland High School in Texas, U.S., Thai was a member of Garland High School Key Club for four years. She served as a Key Club division governor before becoming governor of the Texas-Oklahoma District. In her role as Key Club International president, Thai launched a scholarship to increase access to the Key Club International convention, created resources for clubs in the newly chartered Philippine Luzon District, mentored fellow Key Club leaders and sought to promote diversity, equity and inclusion. “My priority has always been to serve the members of our organization with passion and love,” she says. In addition to Key Club, Thai is a member of UNICEF, served as treasurer in the National Honor Society and spent two years as captain of her varsity tennis team. She will take the skills she has acquired in her leadership roles to Southern Methodist University, where she will major in business administration. 

Brittani Meis, Circle K International Past Presidents Scholarship
Brittani Meis is a student at Colorado State University, U.S., where she is pursuing a degree in soil and crop science. She has served her school’s Circle K International Club, first as treasurer, then as president. As a club leader, Meis focused on creating more volunteer opportunities and partnerships that forged connections between CKI and the community. She even put her background in agriculture to use by partnering with The Growing Project, a community garden organization. Meis hopes to take the leadership and networking skills she has developed through CKI with her to graduate school and then around the world as she uses sustainable agriculture to help those suffering from malnutrition and poverty. Outside of CKI, Meis has served as vice president of the Striders running club, president of her school’s agronomy club and an agroecology lab assistant.  

Aleisa Tobin, John E. Mayfield Circle K International Scholarship
Aleisa Tobin is a student at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, U.S., where she is pursuing a degree in adolescent to young adult life science education. Under her leadership as vice president and president, her school’s Circle K International club increased its membership, service hours and number of projects, and it was able to secure university funding to send 10 members to the Ohio District convention for the first time. Her club’s advisor states that Tobin’s “charisma allows her to engage with her fellow students and motivate them to want to do more and make a bigger impact.” In preparation for her teaching career, Tobin is a Science and Math Education in ACTION Scholar and a board member for her university’s Science Education Council. She hopes to use the skills she has built in CKI to become a compassionate and inclusive teacher who inspires her students to learn and lead. 

Grace Nguyen, Kiwanis Children’s Fund Scholarship
Grace Nguyen is pursuing a degree in cell and molecular biology at Seattle University in Washington, U.S. She is the past secretary and current president of her school’s Circle K International club, and she takes pride in incorporating her passion for activism and social justice into her leadership. Her club’s advisor credits Nguyen with leading the club “to new and record heights” in membership and community involvement, for which the club received an Excellence in Service Award. In addition to Circle K International, Nguyen works part-time as a student peer research consultant with the Seattle University Lemieux Library and McGoldrick Learning Commons and as a student programming assistant with the Seattle University Office of Multicultural Affairs. She has held leadership roles in the Seattle University Japanese Student Association; Asian, Pacific Islander, Desi American Student Association; Vietnamese Student Association; and biology club. 

Matthew Yuro, Kiwanis Children’s Fund Scholarship
Matthew Yuro is a student at The College of New Jersey, U.S., where he is pursuing degrees in special education, elementary education and history. He has served on and chaired multiple committees for Circle K International at the club, district and international levels, and he is the current lieutenant governor of his division. At the 2022 Circle K International Convention, Yuro was honored as New Member of the Year and Outstanding International Committee Member. In his quest to become an educator, Yuro holds leadership roles in the New Jersey Education Association Preservice, Student New Jersey Education Association, Teachers of Young Children Association, history club and multiple peer mentoring organizations. He is a tutor at his college’s tutoring center, the Monroe Township School District and a private tutoring agency. “Circle K International is more than just a club for me,” Yuro says. “It’s a place for me to be my best self with a community of like-minded people who truly care for me and want to help others in the local community.” 

Visit the Kiwanis Children’s Fund Scholarship Opportunities page for information about scholarships distributed by the Children’s Fund, including who to contact with questions and award notification dates.