The Call, Project Zero and Immerse are hosting their annual Walk for the Waiting fundraiser with a goal of raising $150,000. The funds will be split between the three organizations to benefit the mission of providing the best resources for kids and teenagers in Arkansas’ foster care system.
There is a great need in the foster care community for homes that will be able to care for the many children in Arkansas’ foster care system. More than 4,600 kids are currently in the state’s foster care system, and 2,000 more foster families are needed to provide safe and stable environments for these children. Three hundred-twenty nine children are waiting to be adopted into a forever family, and due to the shortage of families, 200 teens are estimated to “age out” of the system this year and go into adulthood without the support and care a family would provide.
Each organization – The Call, Project Zero and Immerse – works to make the lives of children in the foster care system a bit easier. The three organizations started Walk for the Waiting nine years ago to raise awareness about the challenges Arkansas children face.
“We wanted to unify, hold hands and get the community involved together because all three of our organizations have very specific missions with foster care and adoption,” says Kandace Gerber, director of marketing and development for Project Zero. “This was the perfect way to come together and raise awareness and funds for all three organizations.”
The Call is a non-profit that provides training and education for volunteers to become involved and invested in the lives of foster children. Immerse focuses on the foster kids that have aged out of the system without finding a forever home and provides them with resources and help into adulthood. Project Zero specializes in the kids who are waiting to be adopted and encouraging families to consider adoption. Throughout the year, the three organizations collaborate on different projects and work together to continue bringing awareness and attention to the overall mission of finding the perfect forever family for each child.
The Walk for the Waiting event began as an in-person community event where everyone could gather at a location in Little Rock and walk that area together. COVID-19 forced the organizations to transition the event to a virtual setting for 2020, and without a clear picture of what this year would have in store, the 2021 walk was also made virtual.
“It’s sad that we can’t be in person and have this huge event, but at the same time this has cast a wider net where people all across the state can be involved and not just Central Arkansas,” Gerber says. “Walk in your neighborhood, walk with your church or walk with your soccer team after the game and celebrate adoption and raise awareness for foster and adoptive families.”
Participants can walk alone, with a team, or they can join a team that’s already been started. There is no limit to where or how much participants can walk or bike, and individuals and teams are encouraged to take photos and videos for social media with the tag #W4tW21. “You can raise money as a team, family or a church, or you have the option to join a team and ask your friends and family to sponsor you. There is not any set amount of miles or laps or anything like that, the sponsorship is just to join in financially,” Gerber says.
A true family event of families supporting future families, Gerber finds the sight of children attending to be a touching aspect. “We’ve seen kids grow up going to the walk with their families, and lately it’s kind of shifted to these kids carrying the torch and fundraising themselves and starting their own teams. Now they’re teenagers and it’s just really a beautiful thing to see kids walking for other kids and raising money because they see the need and they see that these kids are just like them but they don’t have a family or a support system or a mom waiting on them like they do. They are the next generation of fundraisers for this event we started nine years ago.”
“Every heart needs a home,” is the event’s tagline, and the phrase carries the important mission of the three organizations. “If you’re really drawn to the organizations and interested in continuing to support our missions, there’s a tab on the event’s website called “Now What.” This tab can help you get involved more or find out what are the next steps to becoming a foster or adoptive family, how to open your home, or becoming a mentor or volunteer,” says Gerber.
Walk for the Waiting is a big way to help the many children in Arkansas in need of homes and support, but more opportunities can be found on each organization’s website. Find more information on the event, the organizations, and pledge forms for the walk here.