A local version of Make-A-Wish meets Big Brothers, Big Sisters.
After dealing with their challenges of loss and heartbreak, Chad Blake and his wife, Cheryl, decided to make it their mission to help others. They co-founded Experiences Foundation, and through the organization provide experiences that are open for all individuals and families who have suffered a tough break in life.
“We think of ourselves as a local mini-Make-a-Wish meets Big Brothers, Big Sisters,” Blake said. “We offer a wide variety of events and programs, helping those who are struggling in our own circle of friends and those recommended through other community nonprofits. We have been doing ‘experiences’ that include mission trips for over 15 years, but made the foundation an official nonprofit in 2018. We want to make dreams come true, while lending a helping hand to do so.”
Prior to the global pandemic shutdown, many experiences offered were sports-oriented. For example, they took special-needs clients and staff of Next Step Ministries in Woodstock to an Atlanta Braves game, which included lunch and snacks. “Everyone had such a wonderful time, and the staff was very appreciative of all [Experiences Foundation] did to make it run smoothly,” said Lori Baker, Next Step’s director.
Without sporting events, the foundation made adjustments and got creative in serving the community. On one recent project, Experiences supplied an outdoor classroom with recess bags and picnic tables to enhance the students’ recess at Avery Elementary.
Experiences also organized a drive-by parade to honor Aden Martinez, a young boy with a brain tumor. “I am at a loss for words,” his mother Sandy said after the event. “Thank you doesn’t sound like enough. Tonight was so, so special and something our family will never forget. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you to every single person who took time out of their evening to bring a smile to Aden’s face. He was amazed, and we were truly blown away by everyone’s kindness. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!”
The goal of the long parade with vehicles of all kinds, even boats (on trailers, of course), was to give Aden a joyful reprieve from his battle with cancer. The continuous flow of the parade inspired quite a flow of tears. For regular updates on Aden’s health, join Aden’s Army on Facebook.
Another family, the Beavers, lost everything in a house fire. Experiences Foundation stepped in to restore what was lost. “My mind was racing on how we were going to have Christmas,” Doris Beavers said. “[Experiences] showed me how God showed up and showed out. I am very thankful for the dresser, TV, and other household items. My life is not great, but it’s better thanks to [Experiences].”
The blessings Experiences Foundation has delivered to hurting members of the community are countless. To learn more about the foundation, visit www.experiencesfoundation.org, or call 678-386-4513. Save the date for Experiences’ golf tournament fundraiser Oct. 21. Early registration is $100 per player.
– Susan Schulz is a Bible teacher and mentor who lives and plays on the Etowah River in Canton. Connect with her on social media or at susanbrowningschulz.com.