Big Shoulders Fund COVID-19 Emergency Fund

We are in uncharted territory. I have no insights to offer on the COVID-19 crisis, except that I know it is only by working together that we will make it through this. 

While the fear and impact associated with the crisis is everywhere, I am amazed as I watch the American spirit of helping our neighbors in need and a can-do attitude that has pulled us through many challenges shift into high gear. In turn, our team here at Big Shoulders Fund and the many supporters I have heard from have been undeterred and focused even more on our mission.

The number of calls and emails we have received at Big Shoulders Fund offering help with food, school materials, and emergency scholarships for those truly living on the margins is uplifting. Fear is not winning. Our core American value of helping those in need is alive and well.  It seems President Franklin Roosevelt’s call to action – the only thing we have to fear, is fear itself! – continues to move us today. 

And so, in response to what we are hearing from the communities we serve and from people who want to help, we have set up the COVID-19 Emergency Fund, with a goal of raising at least $3M. This Emergency Fund will enable us to do everything in our power to ensure our students continue to have food and opportunities to learn and thrive, and to help our schools operate in this new reality.  This Emergency Fund will assist with everything from food cards, launching and investing in e-learning programs, and scholarships for families losing their jobs.

Please help us #LeapIntoAction for the 75 schools and 20,000 students we serve by donating today to the Big Shoulders Fund COVID-19 Emergency Fund. You will not only fulfill a need of our school, students, and families, but most importantly, you will provide hope that we will get through this together!

My thoughts and prayers are with you and your loved ones and with our country as we pull together, even tighter, the many pieces of cloth that created the quilt of our great United States of America.  Thank you for your continued partnership and support for the 20,000 children we serve!

Written by: Big Shoulders Fund President and CEO Josh Hale

BIG SHOULDERS FUND ANNOUNCES A NEARLY $50M INVESTMENT IN CHICAGO COMMUNITIES

Investment Ensures 30 Big Shoulders Fund Schools Serving 5,600 Children Will Remain Open

Big Shoulders Fund is proud to announce a nearly $50 million ten-year philanthropic commitment to 30 of its highest need schools, enabling them to remain open and viable, and to continue enriching their local communities. For 33 years, Big Shoulders Fund has supported Chicago’s neighborhoods by providing financial, programmatic, and operational support to its network of schools and ensuring students of all backgrounds have access to these important community-based organizations.  

“We are honored to be able to provide this historic level of investment to help strengthen communities throughout the greater-Chicago area. Our own research has shown that alumni of our schools go on to vote, study, work, and volunteer at rates higher than their peers, becoming the citizens and neighbors that make our communities and Chicago a better place for all of us to live.  Additionally, research has shown that when our schools close, communities suffer,” said Founding Chairman and current Co-Chairman, James J. O’Connor.

As part of this ten-year commitment, Big Shoulders Fund will not only significantly increase its funding level to help operate the schools, but will also take on an expanded leadership role with principals in these schools to help them manage their schools toward specific goals in key operating areas of academics, enrollment, development, and finances. Big Shoulders Fund will invest additional resources to help leaders in these 30 schools to improve, measure progress, and achieve an ambitious vision for the children, schools, and communities they serve. As a result of this investment, and a more active involvement in helping principals manage their schools toward long term viability, Big Shoulders Fund will be able to make a more significant impact on schools and communities in need.

“In many ways, this is the natural next step for Big Shoulders Fund in our relationship with these schools and the way we work with them today and in the future. Over the last 15 years, we have strengthened our scholarship programs, while adding significant new capabilities to provide operational and academic assistance for schools – marketing, financial planning, professional development for educators, talent recruitment and development, etc. – and we look forward to working with our schools in this new and evolving capacity. We have grown from investing $12 million in 2011 to more than $26 million this past year, with 45 percent of that focused on our operational and academic support to schools,” said Josh Hale, President and CEO of Big Shoulders Fund.

Under the agreement, the 30 schools will remain part of the Archdiocese of Chicago and will continue to receive financial support from the Archdiocese.

Big Shoulders Fund will also continue to support its full network of schools and programs through significant annual investments, which exceeded $26 million during the 2018-19 school year, in addition to the organization’s expansion into Northwest Indiana, as announced in October 2019. The expansion into Northwest Indiana was made possible through a fully-funded restricted gift, independent from Big Shoulders Fund’s Chicago program funding. 

Big Shoulders Fund enjoys support from a committed philanthropic community that believes in the potential of these students and is eager to support these schools and their long legacy of serving as some of Chicago’s most effective doors to opportunity for communities in need. Preliminary investments pledged toward this initiative total $5 million, with a lead gift from John and Kathy Schreiber.

“Kathy and I are proud to make the initial investment in this extension of Big Shoulders Fund programming to take on a more operational role in their schools. This accomplishes one of the primary areas of our philanthropy – provide financially poor children who are rich in talent, passion and hard work a pathway toward a brighter future,” said Big Shoulders Fund Executive Committee Member John Schreiber. Big Shoulders Fund will be launching a campaign to raise additional funds.


Statements from Big Shoulders Fund Leadership

“This is in an investment in Chicago.  Our focus is and always has been the children and ensuring their access to a quality, values-based education in a safe and structured environment.  But this long-term and very significant investment will pay dividends for Chicago’s ability to keep families, who want what all parents want, rooted in Chicago.” 

– John A. Canning, Jr., Co-Chairman, Big Shoulders Fund

“Daniel Burnham encouraged Chicagoans to make no little plans.  Like the day Big Shoulders Fund was founded nearly 35 years ago, a new plan has been put in motion that will again ignite the passion and souls of Chicagoans to help deserving children of diverse racial, economic, and religious backgrounds. Big Shoulders Fund has and continues to be a force for good in Chicago.”

– Monsignor Ken Velo, Co-Chairman, Big Shoulders Fund


The schools included in this agreement, and the community area they serve, are: 
  1. Academy of St. Benedict the African (West Englewood)
  2. Augustus Tolton Academy (Park Manor)
  3. Children of Peace School (Near West Side)
  4. Epiphany Catholic School (South Lawndale)
  5. Holy Angels School (Grand Boulevard)
  6. Leo Catholic High School (Auburn Gresham)
  7. Maternity B.V.M. School (Humboldt Park)
  8. Most Blessed Trinity Academy (Waukegan)
  9. Our Lady of Grace School (Logan Square)
  10. Our Lady of Guadalupe School (South Chicago)
  11. Our Lady of Tepeyac Elementary School (South Lawndale)
  12. Our Lady of Tepeyac High School (South Lawndale)
  13. Pope John Paul II Catholic School (Brighton Park)
  14. Queen of the Universe School (West Lawn)
  15. St. Ailbe School (Calumet Heights)
  16. St. Angela School (Austin)
  17. St. Ann School (Lower West Side)
  18. St. Catherine of Siena/St. Lucy School (Austin / Oak Park)
  19. St. Ethelreda School (Auburn Gresham)
  20. St. Gall School (Gage Park)
  21. St. Genevieve School (Belmont Cragin)
  22. St. John de la Salle Catholic Academy (Roseland)
  23. St. Malachy School (Near West Side)
  24. St. Margaret of Scotland School (Washington Heights)
  25. St. Mary Star of The Sea School (West Lawn)
  26. St. Nicholas of Tolentine School (West Lawn)
  27. St. Philip Neri School (South Shore)
  28. St. Pius V School (Lower West Side)
  29. St. Sylvester School (Logan Square)
  30. Visitation Catholic School (Back of the Yards / Englewood)

Big Shoulders Fund Extends Programming To Northwest Indiana Through Unique Fully Funded Gift

Expanded Footprint Ensures Access and Academic Opportunity for Thousands of Additional Families in Neighboring Gary, Hammond, and East Chicago

October 11, 2019 (CHICAGO) – Big Shoulders Fund, a Chicago-based, independent charitable organization that provides support and assistance to elementary schools and high schools that primarily serve students from low-income backgrounds, is excited to announce a generous new gift from Bruce White, Founder and Chairman of Merrillville, Indiana-based White Lodging, and his wife Beth. This gift from the Bruce and Beth White Family Foundation creates an exciting new chapter for Big Shoulders Fund through the extension of its programming to Northwest Indiana.

Big Shoulders Fund is building off the success of its efforts in Chicago with a long-term commitment to the region over the next decade. Through this commitment, the organization is bringing its unique approach to enhancing the capacity of school communities and supporting students and families to Northwest Indiana, with a special focus on areas of greatest need, including Gary, Hammond, and East Chicago.

The expansion of Big Shoulders Fund’s programming is made possible through the exclusive use of this generous gift, independent from Chicago program funding, totaling $16 million over the course of 10 years. As a result of this gift, Big Shoulders Fund will be able to help even more schools and communities in need, while also remaining fully committed to its network of schools in Chicago, where they have provided long-term academic and operational support for more than 30 years and invested nearly $400 million to date.

Initially, the investment in Northwest Indiana most directly impacts approximately 3,300 students in 10 elementary and high schools in the Catholic Diocese of Gary by providing operational support and academic programming. An additional 10 schools with 2,600 students will benefit from professional development opportunities made available to teachers and administrators through this initiative. Fully funded by this donation, the focus is exclusively on bringing Big Shoulders Fund’s impactful programming to benefit children through increasing volunteerism and enhancing these schools serving high need communities in the White Family’s native Northwest Indiana. Employees of White Lodging, based in Merrillville, Indiana, have also committed to supporting the initiative through volunteerism and other involvement.

“Big Shoulders Fund remains committed to educating students, strengthening families, and preserving communities by keeping schools open and providing children access to a quality, values-based education,” said Josh Hale, President and CEO of Big Shoulders Fund. “We’ve seen a tremendous impact from our efforts, and the investments of many, on those we serve in Chicago, and we are thrilled to be able to expand our involvement to neighboring schools and communities in Northwest Indiana and look forward to partnering with schools in the Catholic Diocese of Gary.”

In line with the organization’s overarching mission to educate students, strengthen families, and preserve communities, Big Shoulders Fund is working to enhance the quality of education in these Catholic schools in Northwest Indiana by offering access to technology, curricular resources, and instructional and data coaching. Furthermore, the organization seeks to improve the long-term viability of these schools by focusing on increasing student enrollment, providing financial aid opportunities and offering students access to STEM scholarships, enrichment, and summer programs.

“My family and I are strong believers in Big Shoulders Fund and its mission, an organization that has been dedicated to providing quality education and academic access for students in safe, secure, and supportive environments, strengthening schools and entire communities for more than 30 years,” said Beth White.

“Having grown up in the region, we are honored to be able to help Big Shoulders Fund expand its reach to Northwest Indiana and positively impact the lives of thousands of additional students and families and the communities in which they live,” commented Bruce White.

Hale added, “We are so grateful for the White Family’s tremendous support and generosity, which has made it possible for us to provide support and assistance to additional communities in need. Not only are they making this extension of our programming to Northwest Indiana possible, but they will also continue to support Big Shoulders Fund in Chicago through scholarships, operational support for schools, and summer enrichment programs. For our Board, this was an easy decision. A fully funded gift to help more children? Of course!”

For more than 30 years, Big Shoulders Fund has been making long-term financial and operational investments in 75 inner-city schools in Chicago that serve 20,000 students with the sole purpose of educating students, strengthening families, and preserving communities. The organization is committed to ensuring that access to a quality, values-based education, in a safe and inclusive environment, remains an option for all regardless of religion, race or socioeconomic background. Through innovative programming in four key areas – scholarship and enrichment, operational improvements, leadership development, and vigorous academics – Big Shoulders Fund plays a critical role in keeping schools open, preserving educational choice and academic stability for thousands of families.

Superheroes Have Big Shoulders

When we think about superheroes, we often picture capes, masks, and individuals who are strong beyond physical belief–those who defeat the bad guys and save the day time after time. Superheroes, to me, are more than that. They are the individuals who show up day in and day out even when the going gets tough. They lend a hand and sometimes a shoulder to those in need of a little bit of hope and guidance. I have been lucky to meet many heroes through my time at Big Shoulders Fund. Their superpowers may not be flashy but I believe they have the same, or dare I say an even bigger, impact on the fate of our City.

These heroes are principals, teachers, families, mentors, volunteers, community leaders, and students themselves who work hard to create a better tomorrow for all. The mission of Big Shoulders Fund calls loudly to many true, everyday heroes who work to summon the forces of good. Together, we form an unstoppable team that lifts schools and elevates entire communities thus, strengthening our City as a whole.

The Big Shoulders Fund 2018 year-end review highlights some of the superheroes who are helping to spread the mission of Big Shoulders Fund across the City’s limits such as:

Students like Luis and Alex who chose to spend their summer “free time” giving back. Big Shoulders Fund Beeson Scholar Luis ran a summer basketball camp for six-to-nine-year-olds from Saint Gall School. Dr. Scholl’s Scholar Alex helped lead the Boys and Girls Summer Basketball Camp at De La Salle Institute.

Big Shoulders Fund’s very own Senior Director of Academic Programs and External Affairs Rebecca Lindsay-Ryan is an Erikson Institute Barbara Bowman Leadership Fellow advocating for racial equity through early childhood policy and is part of The Chicago Council on Global Affairs Emerging Leaders program, which is helping to influence Chicago’s role as a global city.  

Principals Christine Boyd and Denise Spells lead by example. Boyd received Loyola University’s Justina Coffey Award presented at the Loyola Founders’ Award Night, which recognized her impact as principal at two Big Shoulders Fund schools, St. Mary of the Lake and St. Thomas of Canterbury. Her high expectations for all students leads them to success at some of Chicago’s top high schools and beyond. Spells received the NCEA Learn.Lead.Proclaim Award, in recognition of her work building the enrollment and academic rigor of St. Ethelreda School, which is also one of the top performers in our Covered Schools Initiative.

Holy Trinity High School rising Junior Susi is a Chicago Ideas Youth Ambassador. Susi is also a Junior Counselor at Big Shoulders Fund’s Staddle Camp in Wyoming, where she is sharing her knowledge as a former Big Shoulders Fund Staddle Camp participant to help ensure our campers this summer have the most positive experience possible.

It sometimes takes a team effort for superheroes’ dreams to take flight. At Big Shoulders Fund, we are thrilled to offer a variety of programs to students, teachers, and administrators that challenge them to take the next step into their future. 

The Big Shoulders Fund Stock Market Program exposes teams of inner-city eighth graders in our schools to the world of finance. Teaching them the basic skills of investing, managing stock portfolios, and financial career opportunities.  

The Early Elementary School Project (E2SP) opens the minds of students to the world of science through innovative teaching and focused field trips made possible by Rita and John Canning and in collaboration with The Field Museum, the Chicago Academy of Sciences / Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, and 10 schools within the Big Shoulders Fund network. E2SP is supported in Big Shoulders Fund schools by a grant from PNC.  The Big Shoulders Fund All Are Welcome Program encourages students to embrace and use their superpowers to achieve their full potential. The Program provides critical services such as occupational and physical therapy to students at 22 Big Shoulders Fund schools and is made possible through founding and continuing support from Bill and Kathleen Lynch, with thanks also to P. Jay and Jenny Fortner.

The Tax Credit Scholarship Program, which was not repealed or amended in the recent state budget negotiations, is creating colossal opportunities for families while shrinking donors’ taxes. More than 1,200 students received crucial support through this program last year and, this year, we are hoping to create a greater impact. This new Program along with our traditional scholarship programs are helping more students prepare for lifelong success by receiving a quality education.

These are just some of the superheroes Big Shoulders Fund is lucky to have on its side. Click here to read our full annual report for more. As you can see, there are superheroes all around us. They don’t wear capes or masks. They come in all shapes and sizes and their deeds are both big and small, but their impact…their impact is BIG. I am lucky to share in this mission with these individuals and am excited to continue to use our superpowers #paralosniños. 

Written by: Big Shoulders Fund President and CEO Josh Hale