I was born on the Westside of Chicago. My father disappeared when I was eight years old. My mother, Patricia, became a single parent of four children. She was extraordinary. And she had to be. Our family faced many challenges.
"I am often asked why I started Dreams for Kids. The simple answer is"...
I was one of these kids. And my mother requested that I do it.
She said most people didn't think we would get through it all and asked me to do something to help kids in ways others had supported me.
There were many times when I questioned my future. I was working at twelve and I was angry. My mother worked two jobs and was forced to sell our home. It took the intervention of a special teacher for me to straighten out just enough to get into college
In my young mind, the way out of this situation was to become a lawyer. I would become rich and famous and never look back. And it would have been a disaster. I was channeling my abandonment and my anger towards a selfish future of more of the same. At 19, as I started my freshman year at DePaul University, I was already working for a lawyer and I was a jerk.
A real punk with long hair and a longer attitude. But one day, Jesse White walked into the law office. He was a State Representative at the time (who went on to become the Illinois Secretary of State) and he had founded a tumbling team, which was already in its 25th year.
'He invited me to come to see the kids in Cabrini Green, the most dangerous and
notorious housing complex in the world'
The day Jesse White took me into Cabrini Green was the day I stopped feeling sorry for myself. While we lived below the poverty level, seeing how kids in the Greens lived, made me realize how fortunate I was and that I had something to give. I was no longer a victim. Jesse has been my lifelong mentor. But it took a village to raise me.
Realizing how important someone can be in a young person's life, and how important it is for youth to learn how much they have to give, led to the birth of Dreams for Kids. Dreams for Kids has evolved in the ways I have. With a singular focus, we now mentor and teach young people to become entrepreneurs and create social enterprises to help others and to solve some of the critical issues of our time.
One person can change everything. Whether you are young or young at heart, you can be that person.
For more information about Tom visit his personal website, you can download his bio below.
Dreams for Kids has reached over 55,000 kids since Tom founded the organization.