Grants bring Key Clubs and communities closer

Grants bring Key Clubs and communities closer

The Kiwanis Children’s Fund awarded 17 Youth Opportunities Fund grants to outstanding Key Club projects in April.

By Erin Chandler

This year, Key Club International is celebrating 99 years of making a difference in schools and communities around the world. The Kiwanis Children’s Fund established the Youth Opportunities Fund so that Key Club leaders can continue taking action for the next 99 years and beyond. 

In April, the Children’s Fund awarded Youth Opportunities Fund grants for 17 outstanding Key Club projects that foster collaboration between clubs and their communities. Of the top 11 projects — as determined by the Key Club International Board committee and Children’s Fund representatives — eight are new projects launched this year. In alphabetical order by club name, the top 11 are: 

Firebird Garden
Key Club of BASIS Phoenix, Arizona, U.S.
The BASIS Phoenix Key Club will work with their school’s National Honor Society, Science National Honors Society and National Art Honor Society to turn part of the campus into a raised-bed community garden with a decorated bench and shed. The garden will serve as a hands-on outdoor “lab” classroom where students will be responsible for growing and studying pumpkins, watermelon, carrots, tomatoes and more. It also will be a space for social interaction, collaboration and the cultivation of mental health. 

Children Christmas Lane and Community Fund Day
The Key Club of Bishop Michael Eldon High School, Grand Bahama, The Bahamas
Teaming up with the Kiwanis Club of Freeport, the Bishop Michael Eldon High School Key Club is bringing holiday cheer to the entire community. The project began by distributing holiday gifts to kids in need but is now expanding so that 100 families also receive grocery bags filled with food and toiletries. The event will also feature festive decorations, an arts and crafts corner, a bouncy castle, face painting, games and stations where nurses will provide health screenings. 

Operation Warm Coats
Key Club of Huntington Park High School, California, U.S.
With monthly food baskets, grocery gift cards, and school and hygiene supplies, members of the Huntington Park High School Key Club have been helping people who struggle with homelessness and food insecurity in their community — including students in the Key Clubbers’ own school. Now they will expand their project by providing warm winter coats to students at Huntington Park High School, Marquez High School and Roybal-Allard Elementary School. Members hope the coats will help more students attend school regularly in poor weather — and maybe even help save lives. 

Supporting Our Seniors
Key Club of Lake Ridge High School, Texas, U.S.
“Supporting Our Seniors” is an expansion of the Lake Ridge High School Key Club’s previous “Elevating the Elderly” program. Club members will combat loneliness among residents of Walnut Creek Assisted Living and Memory Care with planned visits, events and projects, including a talent show, care packages, handwritten cards, arts and crafts, and fun games. The senior citizens will benefit from the companionship and excitement, while the Key Club volunteers will learn about their elders’ life experiences and receive their advice. 

Gifts That Keep Giving
Key Club of Mayde Creek High School, Texas, U.S.
The Key Club of Mayde Creek High School will support people experiencing homelessness in their community by assembling 90 care packages containing high-quality, long-lasting resources to safeguard recipients’ physical and mental health. The packages will contain hygiene supplies like body wipes and bandages, socks and underwear, reusable water bottles, notebooks and writing utensils, and candies that will be especially helpful as grounding aids for people with PTSD. Club members will also personalize the packages by including handwritten letters. The club will make some of the packages available to fellow students at their school and will donate the rest to be distributed to those in need by two local ministries. 

Cozy Care for Companions
Key Club of North Garland High School, Texas, U.S.
When members of the Key Club of North Garland High School heard about the overcapacity and lack of resources in Texas’s animal shelters, they knew they had to do something to help both the animals and the shelter workers. Through donation drives — including tennis balls donated by the school’s tennis coach — and events dedicated to making pet toys, the club will provide beds and care packages to comfort and enrich the lives of the furry shelter residents. Club members will also write adoption biographies and volunteer to support shelter staff. In collaboration with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Garland Animal Shelter, they additionally hope to create informational posters for new and potential pet owners. 

Key Club of Santa Ana Valley High School, California, U.S.
In the Key Club of Santa Ana Valley’s “Adopt-a-Kinder” program, high school students “adopt” kindergarten students at a local elementary school for Read Across America, an annual day to celebrate and promote literacy. The high schoolers read books with the kindergarteners, and each kindergartener then keeps the book — and gets a tasty treat. The project has been so successful that it is expanding from one to three elementary schools this year. 

Soles for Souls
Key Club of Southmoore High School, Oklahoma, U.S.
In their “Soles for Souls” program, the Key Club of Southmoore High School will place decorated donation boxes in classrooms and local businesses to collect new shoes and socks for people who need them in Guatemala. The club hopes to collect 2,000 shoes that will be distributed, in cooperation with Believe Guatemala, to approximately 100 Guatemala City families who make their living by picking through a landfill for items to resell. The shoes and socks will protect the feet of adults and children alike from glass, needles, chemicals and other hazardous materials. 

Clean Shores Initiative: Bin the Waste, Keep the Coastline Great!
Key Club of St. Maarten Academy, Sint Maarten
Members of the Key Club of St. Maarten Academy took it upon themselves to maintain the public Little Bay Beach for their community, as well as for visitors to the area — but they noticed that trash continued to pile up between their bimonthly cleanups. To help address the problem, they will install six waste bins along the beach with signs that promote the preservation of the environment and its fragile ecosystems. Additionally, club members will contribute hand-painted signs encouraging the proper disposal of waste, painted murals to further beautify the area and sea grape trees to protect the shoreline. They also plan to partner with the St. Maarten Academy science club to install three recycling bins as part of their UNESCO-funded Green Dream project. 

Enhancing Senior Well-being
Key Club of Stephen F. Austin High School, Texas, U.S.
The Key Club of Stephen F. Austin High School will bring mental and social engagement to residents of the Clayton Senior Living Center with a roster of activities. Club members will lead residents of the center in various workshops, including board games, bingo, crochet and other arts, and technology. In doing so, they hope to forge stronger intergenerational bonds in their community. 

Sleep in Heavenly Peace
Key Club of Webster High School, South Dakota, U.S.
The Key Club of Webster High School will partner with the Sleep in Heavenly Peace organization to build twin beds for children in the community. Having learned how children sleep better in their own beds — and enjoy better mental, emotional and physical health — the club members will work with local Kiwanis and Builders Clubs to help measure, cut, sand, stain and assemble the beds. Sleep in Heavenly Peace will then deliver the beds to families.  

How to get involved
Does your Key Club have a project idea that could benefit from a Youth Opportunities Fund grant? Learn more about the grant and how to apply on the Key Club website. If your club does not yet sponsor a Key Club, learn about the advantages of chartering one today on the Kiwanis Service Leadership Programs page. 

Grant project helps kids with autism 

Grant project helps kids with autism 

The Kiwanis Club of Lalbandi’s program brings aid and awareness to a Nepal community.

By Erin Chandler

The Kiwanis Club of Lalbandi, Nepal, became aware of the challenges faced by people with autism in their community when a child in a club member’s family was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Fortunately, members were able to call on the expertise of a fellow Kiwanian — Navaraj Banstola from the Kiwanis Club of Nilgiri — who leveraged his experience in healthcare to guide the child and their family through screening and treatment. But the club knew that not everyone would have the advantage of this kind of connection. 

In fact, the Lalbandi club’s research indicated that four to five cases of ASD were diagnosed each day in one Kathmandu health clinic alone. On average, each of the six autism centers in Kathmandu Valley treats 450 children with ASD every month — a case load that is difficult to manage. Children in rural areas often can’t get treatment and therapy at all. Because of these obstacles and widespread misunderstanding of ASD, some children with autism stop attending school. 

In March, the Kiwanis Club of Lalbandi received a club grant from the Kiwanis Children’s Fund for its autism spectrum disorder program, which will enable more kids with ASD and their families to receive screenings, diagnoses and support, along with treatments such as speech language therapy, play-based therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy and nutritional therapy. The club has partnered with the six area autism centers and Bir Hospital for the program and received additional funding from government organizations, club members and the community.   

“Overall, the autism project will serve as a catalyst for positive change within the club and the broader community, fostering understanding, support and empowerment for individuals with autism and their families,” says club president Kavita Upadhyay.  

In the first steps of the program, specialists will train Lalbandi club members on screening for ASD and assisting in some therapy services. Those who conduct the screenings will refer kids to healthcare professionals as needed. The club will pay for therapies, medicines and nutritional supplements for children whose families can’t afford them, and club members will assist within the therapy centers. 

On top of all this, a key part of the Kiwanis Club of Lalbandi’s program is to raise awareness and educate the public about ASD. Misconceptions about autism — defined by the World Health Organization as “a diverse group of conditions related to development of the brain…characterized by some degree of difficulty with social interaction and communication” — can be difficult to dispel. 

“Many were reluctant to discuss the issue,” says Upadhyay. “Even now, there remains a lack of awareness of the implications of ASD, with many community members lacking information about the condition.” 

She describes one mother attributing her child’s signs of autism to “past sins, believing it was a punishment from a higher power and therefore incurable. However, through our discussions, she came to understand that autism is not a divine punishment.” 

In planning its program, the club learned that addressing autism is not just about helping children with ASD adapt to their communities; it’s about helping the community adapt to the kids.  

“Engaging the community in the project fosters a sense of solidarity and collaboration,” Upadhyay explains. 

She hopes the project will increase understanding and acceptance, leading to a more inclusive environment for people with autism and their families. The community formed by the project could even lead the way in amplifying the voices of people with ASD to advocate for more inclusive practices elsewhere. 

“By working together toward a common goal,” she says, “community members become more invested in supporting individuals with autism and promoting their wellbeing.” 

More about Kiwanis Childrens’ Fund grants  
Kiwanis Children’s Fund grants improve the lives of children around the world by identifying projects like the Kiwanis Club of Lalbandi’s, which create a continuum of impact in a child’s life — one that spans their entire childhood and sets them up for a bright future. By funding projects that target the Kiwanis causes — health and nutrition, education and literacy, and youth leadership development — whether through a Kiwanis club’s local service project or a club’s partner, the Children’s Fund ensures that its grantmaking has the greatest possible impact.  

If you are interested in extending the impact you and your club make beyond your community, give to the Children’s Fundor learn how your club canapply for a grantto help kids in your community. 

Microgrants fund beds, bookmarks and blooms

Microgrants fund beds, bookmarks and blooms

From January through March, the Kiwanis Children’s Fund helped smaller clubs fund big ideas.

By Erin Chandler

In the first three months of 2024, the Kiwanis Children’s Fund again awarded microgrants to clubs making a big difference with fewer members — giving away books, collecting supplies for kids in foster care, promoting inclusive outdoor play and more. Below, you can read about three projects that take an innovative approach to service in each of the Kiwanis cause areas: health and nutrition, education and literacy, and youth leadership development. 

Health and nutrition 

Sleep in Heavenly Peace
Members of the new Kiwanis Club of Wentzville, Missouri, U.S., know that a good night of sleep is essential for the health and development of a growing child. That’s why this club and the Kiwanis clubs of Lake St. Louis and Troy are partnering with Sleep in Heavenly Peace, which builds single bunk beds for children who don’t have beds to sleep in. The club has already participated in volunteer events to help construct beds. A Children’s Fund microgrant will help members purchase mattresses and bedding sets to accompany the newly built beds for 10 local children. 

Education and literacy 

Kiwanis Kids Day
When the Kiwanis Club of Willmar’s first Kiwanis Kids Day — held in celebration of the Minnesota, U.S., club’s 100th anniversary in 2023 — drew over 800 attendees and resulted in five new active members, the club decided to make it an annual event. In addition to food, entertainment and crafts, this year’s Kiwanis Kids Day will feature a service project in conjunction with United Way of West Central Minnesota. A Children’s Fund grant will pay for supplies kids need to make bookmarks using pressed, dried flowers. These bookmarks will go into hundreds of bags of “tools” that United Way gives out at preschool Early Childhood Screenings with the goal of engaging young learners. Each child who makes a bookmark will receive a free book to take home — so the project promotes literacy both for the children who receive the bookmarks and the children who make them. 

Youth leadership development 

P.E.A.C.E. (Positive Environment for Allowing Change and Engagement) Garden
The Kiwanis Club of May Pen, Clarendon, Jamaica, will use funds from a Kiwanis Children’s Fund microgrant to help establish the first of what members hope will be a number of “P.E.A.C.E. Gardens” at local primary schools. The project aims to address the increased violence in schools by creating an enclosed garden space — complete with seating, plants and flowers — that will serve as a tranquil setting for fun and reflection. P.E.A.C.E. Gardens are designed for mediation, peer counseling, mentorship and programs that promote positive values. The first garden at Toll Gate Primary and Infant School will be built and maintained by the club and the school’s K-Kids and Builders Club. May Pen Kiwanians hope students will internalize the garden’s lessons about managing their emotions and resolving conflicts.   

How you can help 

To learn more about Kiwanis Children’s Fund microgrants, visit

If you want to amplify your impact to reach children around the world through the Kiwanis causes of health and nutrition, education and literacy, and youth leadership development, you can make a gift to the Children’s Fund or learn how your club can apply for a grant to help kids in your community today.