Imagine being in the seventh-grade, and starting school without new clothes, school supplies or even basic hygiene products. Although this may sound like a bad dream, it’s a reality for thousands of foster kids who are literally whisked away on a moment’s notice, unable to pack more than a few basic items.
This is where Bridge the Gap comes in.
The Clark County organization is a community outreach program designed to enrich the lives of abused and neglected children.
“It was founded through my own experiences growing up and my vision as a child that I would do something as an adult to make a difference for abused and neglected children,” said Founder Tauni Hemminger.
According to co-founder and Washougal resident Peggy Hays, the organization has helped 1,500 children per year during its 10 year existence.
Youth are referred through their social worker at the Division of Children and Family Services. Bridge the Gap will accept requests for up to $100 per child, per month, if the request is for arts, academics, athletics, tutoring, graduation expenses, skill building, camps or other approved programs.
“Bridge the Gap provides resources to enhance the stability, growth and success of children in foster and adoptive care,” Hays said. “Our vision is to ‘give every child a childhood.'”
Before Bridge the Gap was founded, Hemminger hosted a Motorcycle Toy Run through her business, Vancouver Motorbike Rentals. This was done to help provide Christmas presents for foster children who came into the system after the cut-off date to give their names to local organizations that provide gifts.
“I wanted to ensure that all the children would have a Christmas,” she said. “I was shopping on Christmas Eve for a sibling group that came into care that day. I was so blessed to know that they too were going to have a Christmas like my son.”
Recently, another non-profit organization helped give Bridge the Gap a big boost: Cathy Anna Mayer Encouraging Others, or CAMEO, raised $29,000 from its “Girls Night Out,” event Sept. 30.
Each year, CAMEO hosts an event, with all proceeds going towards a pre-selected charity.
“We will see hundreds of smiles and sighs of relief, as these children will receive clothing, lessons and a few extras,” Hemminger said.
Locally, Bridge the Gap has helped fill 35 requests from the Camas, Washougal and Skamania areas. One of the recipients is Stevenson High School senior Jenay Walsh. She lives in a foster family of five girls, and received support to help pay for basketball and softball.
“(This) has allowed me to continue to play softball and basketball, both of which I play varsity,” she said.
For more information about Bridge the Gap or to donate, browse www.BTGCC.org or call 518-3022.