Monday, October 17, 2016

Homeless Little Boy With Cat Takes On Powerful Political Figures

[Naperville, IL, 10/17/16] The bedraggled little boy clutching a cat that almost matches him in size faces strong competition, but it’s

© Pat Van Doren

really no contest. In the end, Charlie will win, inspiring compassionate deeds on behalf of millions of America’s children and youth in homeless situations.
HEAR US, a Naperville-based national nonprofit organization giving voice and visibility to homeless children and youth, is launching The Charlie Book: 60 Ways to Help Homeless Kids, a 24-page guide to anyone wanting to make life a little better for the millions of mostly-invisible homeless kids in every community. 
The cover of this little book bears Charle’s iconic picture, taken by Naperville photojournalist Pat Van Doren back in the days of the Aurora-Naperville struggle to get homeless kids into school. This little boy, whose image she captured outside the shelter at Hesed House in Aurora, became the poster child for the successful 1994 “Charlie’s Bill” campaign, making Illinois the first state to guarantee the rights to education for homeless students. (Ret.) Congresswoman Judy Biggert led the successful effort to enact this law on the national level in 2002. More than 1.3 million students without homes benefitted from this law last year.
The Charlie Book, written by national homeless education expert Diana Bowman for HEAR US, reflects tried-and-true practices from across the nation. HEAR US founder and president Diane Nilan edited the book and provided photos from her vast collection of images she’s amassed in her past 11 years of cross-country travel to chronicle children and youth homelessness. Beth Adams, a local graphic artist, volunteered her layout and design services. 
Charlie, aka Charles, is real. He and his wife and 3 children now live in West Virginia, where he works. He and Nilan connect occasionally. She’s sending his family several copies of this book. 
The book is suitable for schools, shelters, scout troops, faith communities, service groups, and well-intentioned individuals wanting to make a difference for children in their communities. It sells for $10 (+s/h).
Information and ordering instructions are on the HEAR US website, Proceeds from the book support the continuing work of this well-regarded organization. 
Nilan is loading up hundreds of copies of The Charlie Book in her van/home/office. She heads to Orlando on Thursday for a national conference of homeless student educators, many of whom have expressed great interest in this unique book. 
Who is the competition Charlie (and his book) face? None other than the national presidential candidates who occupy the media with their campaign fodder. When the dust settles, the goodness Charlie and his followers accomplish will touch lives of millions of kids without homes, a story worthy of widespread media coverage. 

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Monday, October 3, 2016

George and Charlie to Help Homeless Kids in Naperville and Beyond

Press Release
For Immediate Release
October 3, 2016

[Naperville, IL] Launching The Charlie Book: 60 Ways to Help Homeless Kids at the October 13  George Winston HEAR US Benefit concert will bring together the perennially popular musician George Winston with the iconic Charlie, the homeless boy who opened school doors for millions of homeless kids nationwide. Mr. Winston will play at St. Timothy Lutheran Church in Naperville.

HEAR US Inc., the Naperville-based national nonprofit giving voice and visibility to homeless children and youth, uses the image of Charlie in its logo. Naperville photojournalist Pat Van Doren photographed the little boy holding a cat, an image that became the poster child for the campaign to pass the first statewide law guaranteeing homeless kids access to school, legislation now in effect across the entire nation.

The Charlie Book: 60 Ways to Help Homeless Kids, written by Diana Bowman, a nationally prominent expert on homeless children, contains photos by Diane Nilan, former shelter director at Hesed House in Aurora, one of the people responsible for the homeless education laws. Nilan founded HEAR US 12 years ago and has been on the road since then, living in a small camper, chronicling homeless children and youth.

HEAR US will sell the books for $10, with proceeds supporting this unique nonprofit’s efforts to expand the common perception of homelessness to include children and youth. The 24-page Charlie Book gives practical suggestions to help kids and families. Nilan said, “This is a perfect tool for shelters, faith communities, scout troops, community organizations and individuals who want to make an impact in their community. When I ran the PADS shelter I would have loved to be able to hand the book to people who expressed sincere desire to help families and youth.”

This is the 3rd concert George Winston has done to benefit HEAR US. Nilan met up with George in Seattle recently at one of his performances. “I’m awed a musician of his prominence gives so generously to causes of homelessness and hunger,” she said. Winston has asked those attending the concert to bring donations of food for Loaves & Fishes Community Services, a Naperville-based agency providing food and services to those in need.

Nilan will be in the Naperville area for a short time before taking off for Florida to present at the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth’s annual conference on the new HEAR US effort, Yay Babies! According to Nilan, most people have no idea that over 1 million homeless babies and toddlers, mostly with their families, struggle to survive without enough formula or diapers. Her 2-minute Yay Babies! public service video calls attention to this little population.

Naperville was “ground zero” for the birth of this important civil rights legislation that guarantees access to school for over 1.3 million children and youth without homes. Naperville area legislators, educators, and activists were involved in this campaign in 1993-94, including Nilan. “We’ve got ‘skin in the game’ on making sure this law works and that policymakers pay attention to the needs of families and youth in homeless situations,” stated Nilan. She’s coming back to make good on that promise. 

Information about ticket and book sales:  

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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

By George! George Winston To Return for HEAR US Benefit

August 30, 2016
For information: 
Diane Nilan, 630/267-5424

[Naperville, IL] Homeless babies, toddlers, kids of all ages are counting on fans of George Winston, the popular musician whose piano and guitar music has delighted fans for decades. His benefit concert for the Naperville-based national nonprofit HEAR US Inc. on Oct. 13 at St. Timothy Lutheran Church in Naperville will support the organization’s newest project, Yay Babies! Yay Kids!

“George is incredibly supportive of programs serving homeless and hungry people,” states Diane Nilan, president and founder of HEAR US, a unique effort giving voice and visibility to millions of homeless children and youth in the U.S. 

Winston has performed 2 other benefit concerts for HEAR US since it started in 2005. Nilan, former shelter director at Hesed House in Aurora, has been living in a small van, traveling the country raising awareness of and inspiring compassion for invisible homeless families and youth.

The Oct. 13 concert will feature a variety of George Winston’s styles including melodic folk piano, New Orleans R&B piano, and stride piano.  He performs songs from his seasonal favorites “Autumn,” “December,” “Winter Into Spring,” and “Summer,” as well as Peanuts pieces from his Vince Guaraldi tribute albums “Linus & Lucy –The Music of Vince Guaraldi,” and Love Will Come-The Music of Vince Guaraldi, Vol. 2,” and more.

HEAR US relies on generous donations and events like this concert to fund efforts to improve lives of over 3 million homeless children and youth. Their latest project, Yay Babies! Yay Kids!, creates ways to help babies, toddlers and kids in local communities. Nilan’s latest video production is a 2-minute public service announcement film, Yay Babies! It’s designed to be shared on social media and focuses on the segment of the homeless population seldom considered—babies. The video can be found at

© Pat Van Doren
Another exciting HEAR US effort is underway—the publishing of “The Charlie Book” outlining 60 ways to help homeless kids—which will have its national release at the concert. This 20-page guide gives practical information and offers ways individuals and groups can help families and youth in homeless situations. With the extensive HEAR US network, this book promises a national impact, both in practical ways and in focusing attention on an often-neglected population. 

The book is named after Charlie, the iconic photograph of Charlie, a small homeless boy holding a cat, an image captured by photojournalist Pat Van Doren, a HEAR US board member. This image, now central to the HEAR US logo,helped Illinois pass the nation's first state law to remove barriers common to homeless students attempting to get their education. Van Doren, Nilan and many other HEAR US board members were part of that campaign that led to passage the federal law, The Education of Homeless Children and Youth Act which protects the educational rights of over 1.3 million students without homes. 

Information about the concert and ticket sales can be found at  

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