A Nonprofit Organization In Need of a Christmas Miracle
When Rob Perelka was a teen going through a challenging time, someone wisely taught him that every kid counts, even him. This notion was something that stuck with Perelka as he grew up and what eventually inspired him to help start the nonprofit organization Every Kid Counts, Inc. (EKC).
“We are a children’s charity without borders,” says Perelka, president and co-founder of EKC. “We help where we can, when we can and how we can, but primarily in education, athletics and through philanthropic giving.”
Currently, EKC is focusing its energy on the Books to Bikes Literacy Program, Character Counts Scholarship Program, Stuff the Pack Back to School Drive and Season of Giving Campaign.
A Holiday Miracle
“Every day you wake up and you know you are making a difference in someone’s life. We have a lot of great people who take the ball and run with it,” says Perelka.
Primarily through the generosity of Chase Bank, EKC stuffed 750 backpacks this year, 400 more than the year before. During the past four years, they have given away nearly 700 bikes to kids in the Creighton Elementary School District and have encouraged Arizona children to read more than 50 thousand books through the Books to Bikes Literacy Program.
“It’s a great learning experience for them and they get a brand new bicycle for doing something that’s a positive benefit to themselves,” says Perelka.
EKC hosts a monthly bike drawing for kids who submit their reading lists. EKC also creates opportunities for kids to deliver oral book reports so they can get experience with public speaking.
Even though EKC is out in the community doing great things, the program has scaled back because of the economy. While Perelka remains optimistic about its ability to continue to serve children, it’s clear that EKC could use a holiday miracle of its own in the form of sponsorships, toys and funding.
“We are making a difference and we can make an even bigger difference with more support,” says Perelka.
Favorite Time of the Year
EKC’s Season of Giving Campaign runs through December 24 and Perelka and his team are collecting toys, food and clothing for families. Donors can drop off goods or monetary gifts to any Chase Bank in the Valley.
EKC also has an impressive holiday events calendar filled with parties for various groups including the Creighton School District, military families at Davis Mathis Air Force Base and underprivileged children in Flagstaff.
One of Perelka’s favorite holiday events is the Secret Santa program. Board members stack boxes of gifts on people’s front doors, ring the bell and run. It’s a total surprise for the families receiving the gifts. Santa’s elves, as well as EKC, remain anonymous.
“Someone made a difference in my life when I was 14 and I’ve been giving back ever since,” he shares.
When Perelka was a teen his life was turned upside down when his parents divorced. They moved back to California and he had to become a young man well before he was ready. Jessie Orosco, a World Series major league baseball pitcher, was related to Perelka’s neighbors and heard that the kid next door was struggling. So one day, he stopped by to see if Perelka wanted to play catch. That one game of catch turned into a meaningful friendship that would set Perelka’s life in a new direction.
“Not only was I keeping up with the balls Jessie was pitching to me, he also changed my spirit because he talked to me. He told me that I could do anything I wanted to.”
Perelka’s heart began to mend, the pieces of his family eventually glued back together and his desire to help others grew. During college he started an athletes leadership program, and when he graduated he was hired by the Arizona Rattlers Arena Football Club and another nonprofit organization. Then one day, he and some friends had a brilliant idea for a program and founded EKC. That was more than 21 years ago, and he still continues to give with the same fervor and enthusiasm as when he first started.
“We make a difference in all kids, but we also make a big difference in the whole family.”
Learn more about Every Kid Counts and giving and volunteer opportunities at EveryKidCounts.org.