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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