Fresh Start Caring for Kids

Photo courtesy of Danny Diaz Photography.

A newcomer to Chicago, Fresh Start Caring for Kids Foundation is devoted to making a difference in the lives of children with physical deformities.

The Foundation provides no-cost medical services to children ages 1 through 17 through surgery weekends and follow-up medical care. A majority of the surgery hours and follow-up care are donated by a group of medical professionals, from anesthesiologists to registered nurses. Insurance companies deem many of the surgeries that Fresh Start performs luxuries rather than necessities, and so, without insurance to cover the costs, families are left to either shell out thousands of dollars or choose to forgo the surgery altogether.

The Fresh Start Caring for Kids Foundation, 4th Annual Philanthropy Awards winner in the Health & Wellness category, has been growing rapidly since landing in Chicago less than two years ago. It’s based on a similar foundation in San Diego and is in partnership with the Plastic Surgery Foundation. Eventually, the center aims to be a model to be replicated around the country.

“When we started in Chicago we had nothing,” Utica Gray, the Chicago regional director of the Foundation says. “The first day I started was our first Chicago surgery weekend. We had a desk and a computer, no website, no staff.”

There is a full-time staff of three: one registered nurse, a development manager and Gray, the regional director. Winning the Philanthropy Award will go a long way toward educating the Chicagoland area about the work the Foundation does.

“We intend to use the video to help us leverage marketing in the area,” Gray says. “So few people know who we are and what we do, so we hope it will spread the word and raise money and recruit patients.”

So far, winning the Philanthropy Award has been Fresh Start’s proudest accomplishment in Chicago, Gray says.

“We’re so new; I think this is definitely the highlight,” Gray says. “It’s truly validation for all the hard work we’ve put in. Obviously we have a long way but it means so much to get this honor so early on in our existence.”

The Foundation is looking forward to its second fundraising gala in June, guest starring former White Sox player Jermaine Dye, and intends to use the marketing package from the Make It Better Foundation to spotlight their fundraising efforts. Fresh Start has recently received a few sizeable grants, which Gray says they will use to jump-start their efforts to market their work to the Chicagoland area.

“We can’t thank the [Make It Better] Foundation enough for stepping out and having faith,” Gray says. “We had a great first year and we’re really just looking to build upon that.”

Fresh Start Caring for Kids By the Numbers:

  • $0 — the cost to the patient’s family for surgery and medical expenses
  • Ideal number of surgeries in the coming fiscal year: 30
  • Number of surgeries performed by Fresh Start: 28
  • $800,000 in donated medical care
  • A $5 contribution would provide medical photography for one patient for one Surgery Weekend

Award Sponsor: Nancy Searle 


This article is part of our 4th Annual Philanthropy Awards series. Find more of our winners here: