But meet them they shall, at a banquet in April, when the Badger Hearts of AC present each of their unknown beneficiaries with gift cards worth hundreds of dollars that will help them transition more easily from foster care to life on their own.
Those who “graduate” or age out of foster care typically face the prospect of establishing new households without the benefit of essential possessions, like cooking utensils or even bedclothes.
Badger Hearts is a philanthropic student organization that was formed at AC in 2004 for the express purpose of ensuring that graduates of foster care have a solid foundation when they go out on their own.
Each year, the Badger Hearts solicit gifts and donations yearlong from area businesses and private donors. They conduct a popular raffle in the fall. And they host special fund-raising events like the one on Nov. 29th, when for a donation of $5, patrons could use myriad art supplies to create one-of-a-kind Christmas ornaments.
“I like helping others, helping them feel good about themselves,” said Perla Leal, who helped operate the ornament concession at the College Union Building. “I didn’t know anyone in Badger Hearts when I went to my first meeting, I don’t think any of us really did, but we all came together and clicked right away.
“It was apparent that all of us wanted to do something good for people less fortunate and good for the community.”
Lesley Ingham, Badger Hearts advisor, said the organization has set its sights on purchasing about a dozen $500 gift cards and escorting the recipients on a shopping spree sometime in the spring. She also hopes Badger Hearts will have the wherewithal to again make a traditional contribution to the Tricia Stevens Scholarship, an AC Foundation fund that supports former residents of foster care who attend AC. Badger Hearts bolstered the fund with a $1,000 contribution a year ago.
Gift-card recipients are courteously chosen, based on need, by representatives of the Department of Family and Protective Services and PALS (Preparation for Adult Living Services).
Badger Hearts member Desiree Kinney said. “Foster kids typically don’t have an actual home. What we do helps them acquire necessities and other things that are all their own. Maybe our help will even assist them in starting college.
“This just seems really important to me,” she said.
Members of Badger Hearts this year at AC, in addition to Perla and Desiree, are Leslie Ascacio, Keeley Bahn, Cheyenne Cox, Jade Gipson, Meranda Graves, Belle Hayhurst, Sarah Hutcherson, Marissa Patterson, Hunter Pennington and Jasmine Ramirez.