Nothing warms the heart like the tale of an underdog succeeding over hardship. And it’s always rewarding to know that you’re part of a team that meets people’s needs and brings a little sunshine into someone’s life. One local group – Bellingham’s Blue Skies For Children – has dedicated themselves to making this happen, and they’ve built up a heartwarming collection of narratives just like this.

There’s the story of the young man who wanted nothing more than to run with his school’s track team. His family couldn’t afford the proper shoes, so his coach dug out an old pair of his own. They were a size too big, but the young man didn’t let that stop him. When the coach learned that Blue Skies donates shoes to kids in need, he brought his young charge in and found a suitable pair that fit properly. As soon as the youngster got them tied, he hit the sidewalk. Up and down the block he went, as the adults watched, back and forth in front of the building for the sheer joy of it – and ecstatic that he finally had the right gear.

A sampling of shoes and backpacks, waiting to be claimed by kids in need. Photo credit: Steven Arbuckle

Then there’s the story of the young lady who wore slippers to her high school classes. Not because she was trying to set a new fashion trend, but because she grew so tall so quickly that her parents were unable to keep her in the proper size shoes.

There was a boy from a broken home that didn’t have much joy in his life, but was given a guitar and a course of lessons that transformed him into a confident and skillful young man who now has a reason to smile.

Putting smiles on young faces is the goal at Blue Skies. Photo courtesy: Blue Skies for Children

These kids can’t control how much their parents get paid at work, and they can’t be blamed for rising rents or the cost of groceries. But they do need new goals to aim for and to explore hobbies and activities that allow them to discover their strengths and abilities. All of those activities come with very real price tags, and the team at Blue Skies believe that kids should not be held back – or set apart from their peers – just because they can’t afford the travel, training and equipment required to grow. So, they’ve set up a series of programs to help meet those needs.

In order to reach out to low-income, homeless and foster kids all over Whatcom and Skagit counties, Blue Skies partners with a host of service providers like the Opportunity Council, Lummi Child Services and Fostering Together. They are plugged into the area schools, with teachers, counselors and coaches keeping an eye out for clients to send their way. Local businesses, such as DeWaard & Bode, also help to keep their programs thriving.

Julie Guay, Holly Ste Marie and Andre Carrao are ready to make dreams come true. Photo credit: Steven Arbuckle

Blue Skies also looks to local community members for support. Their Sponsor-A-Child program is a favorite way to offer a direct, rewarding way for area citizens to provide help. For $60 a month, a donor can make an individual child’s dreams come true by affording them the chance to learn to play an instrument, join their school’s soccer team, or study martial arts, among other activities. The donor remains paired with that student, receiving updates on their progress, until they accomplish their goal or reach the age of eighteen.

This cello and classical guitar are a couple of the instruments that are available for students to borrow. Photo credit: Steven Arbuckle

Blue Skies also offer a variety of one-time donation options, which can cover the cost of dance classes, art lessons, or a bicycle and helmet. One program that delivers concrete results sends a youth to Driver’s Education classes. There is no shortage of stories of teenagers living with grandparents who aren’t as mobile as they used to be, or living far from employment opportunities, who have been given the chance to earn a driver’s license that lets them do the shopping for the family, or commute to work or school. They also operate seasonal drives including springtime’s “Shoe Give” and the “Winter Warm-Up,” which provides coats, hats, gloves and blankets.

Blue Skies started providing services in 1997, became a non-profit in 2002, and now produce results and statistics that are downright impressive. In 2018, they loaned out 30 musical instruments, granted 137 “Little Wishes” requested by the kids themselves, put shoes on 603 pairs of feet, and 792 backpacks into the hands of deserving students. Altogether they sent kids to 5,530 lessons and classes, touching the lives of 1,501 youth altogether.

They’d be happy to hear from you, either through their website, or at (360) 756-6710. They’re ready to work with you, and help you turn an unfortunate circumstance into a success story.

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