In 2001, 600 students at Vista Verde Elementary School attended an assembly as a part of a pilot project for what would become Team Kids’ flagship Challenge program. There, they met Jeremy, a three-year- old boy who suffered from a rare heart condition that required serious treatment. His family needed $20,000 to fly him to Minnesota’s Mayo Clinic to receive life-saving heart surgery, and his story inspired these students to help.
From selling popsicles and hosting coin drives to organizing a pancake breakfast with fire fighters, kids did everything they could to support Jeremy and his family. As media stories about their commitment appeared in the OC Register and the LA Times, the whole community began to take notice. Readers sent in checks, an anonymous celebrity gave a significant donation, and a local pilot offered his jet, pilot and fuel to fly Jeremy to Minnesota. Thanks to these students and the community, Mayo Clinic doctors performed successful heart surgery on Jeremy and sent him home to Irvine, where he is living happily today!
The entire process demonstrated that kids are a powerful community resource. These students sparked the birth of Team Kids, officially founded in 2001 by current CEO Julie Hudash, founding Board President Fire Captain Stephen McHale, and our first youth participants, many of whom have since graduated from college! Since the beginning, more than 100,000 students have completed the Team Kids Challenge.
Watch Team Kids Founding Story in Action Told By Founding Heroes
Read News Stories that Helped Launch Founding Story
We salute the following founding Team Kids partners whose shared investment in kids have created our successful model!