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Mini-golf for Ghana: A Better Life For Kids draws families for African children in need

Source: Chicago Tribune

A healthy stream of miniature golfers came to Skokie Sports Park June 4 for a fundraiser for A Better Life For Kids. The non-profit helps impoverished children in Ghana.

A healthy stream of miniature golfers came to Skokie Sports Park June 4 for a fundraiser for A Better Life For Kids. The non-profit helps impoverished children in Ghana. (Kevin Tanaka / Pioneer Press)

An old adage among avid golfers is that “it never rains on a golf course,” which means it’s always a good day to hit the links.

That was especially true when a few sprinkles came down recently at the Skokie Sports Park’s miniature golf course where dozens of people were playing a round.

According to the nonprofit A Better Life For Kids, which held a fundraiser June 4 at the mini-golf course, more than 100 people braved the inconvenient elements to participate.

It wasn’t that they were so avid about traversing the various obstacles of Skokie’s mini-golf maze, organizers said, but that they knew playing there was about so much more than just a game.

A Better Life For Kids began when former Middleton School Teacher Shelley Nizynski Reese traveled alone to Ghana years ago to help orphaned children in need. She was so taken with their struggle, she said, that she returned again and again and eventually founded A Better Life For Kids to help these children.

Meanwhile, former McCracken Middle School teacher Jennifer Ciok inspired her students in an after-school club to team up with Nizynski Reese’s cause. The efforts raised thousands of dollars for A Better Life For Kids, the organizers say.

While the two teachers worked at Skokie School District 73.5, they raised their funds through all kinds of student-run events. Each year, Nizynski Reese and team developed a new project for Ghana.

One year, they were able to buy mosquito nets so children could combat the onslaught of Malaria; other funds helped bring medicine to the children; several deaf children were able to attend school there thanks to the funds raised. During the teachers’ last year in the district, they raised funds so the orphanage could maintain its own farm and have self-sustaining nourishment.

Nizynski Reese said A Better Life For Kids’ program this year is called Tomorrow’s Leaders.

“Through this initiative,” she said, “we hope to be able to support some of our sponsored children who have demonstrated an incredible amount of motivation, passion and leadership to attend the university and receive a higher education.”

Ciok, a board member of A Better Life For Kids, said the miniature golf outing is one of the organization’s favorite fundraisers.

“It’s really a time when kids can help kids to gain access to a better future through education,” she said.

Ciok said former students who are now current or newly-graduated Niles North students, volunteered at the event. Sullivan High School freshmen created some of the carnival games as a part of a service learning project, she said.

Ciok currently works at Umoja, an organization that aims to help young people succeed in college and in the future. A grant from WE Day, which “empowers children to be drivers of social change,” contributed to the success of the outing, she said.

According to the organizers, the Skokie community sponsored holes along the course and donated raffle prizes. In the end, they said, more than $5,000 was raised.

“This will help to allow us to provide school supplies, transportation and tuition for our sponsored children who live in the orphanage and in the northern village,” Ciok said. “It will also help to start the kickoff of our New Leaders program, which will allow some of our most promising students to continue their education.”

Ciok said one young woman in Ghana was able to succeed at school thanks to A Better Life For Kids and now is hoping to become the first woman doctor in Ghana.

For more information about A Better Life For Kids, go to abetterlifeforkids.org.

Source: Chicago Tribune

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