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Mary Ann Bobosky: A Lifelong Career Helping KidsMatter

April 18, 2012 — Source: Naperville Patch — Author: Mary Ann Lopez

Children have been an important part of Mary Ann Bobosky’s life. In fact, the lifelong Naperville resident made helping children her career. She will be honored Thursday night for the impact she has made in children’s lives during KidsMatter’s Ignite the Nite benefit.

Bobosky’s work began as a teacher in Urbana and Sterling. She started teaching at Naperville School District 203 in the 1970s, first working at Beebe Elementary School. She worked at the district in a variety of roles from teacher to counselor to community relations director.

All of her work at District 203 was vital to the future of Naperville kids. But, in 1995, Bobosky, who is the mother of four children and grandmother of 10, helped found an organization that would become a critical support for area kids. Along with Marianne Boyajian, Bobosky helped launch KidsMatter, which at the time was known as the Naperville Youth Development Coalition.

“The bottom line was at that time Edward Hospital did a survey along with the United Way on the challenges our young people were having,” Bobosky said. “We had agencies that took kids as clients, but no agency that gave kids things to do.”

Bobosky’s doctorate research was on the benefits of community partnerships and she was aware that building a center where kids could go would not address the needs of many children, she said.

“Our vision was we wanted to reach thousands of kids and how can we empower kids and make them believe in themselves,” she said.

Helping empower kids would require parent and community involvement, she said.

“Parents had more to offer than participating at bake sales,” she said.

One of the first programs the group implemented was Parent University, Bobosky said. Parent University had the goal of educating parents about the challenges children face and also providing tools for parents to work with their kids. In the last few years, Parent University has been held as a partnership between District 203 and Indian Prairie School District 204.

The first year Parent University was offered it was a great success, Bobosky said.

KidsMatter started other initiatives that would involve youths, including allowing high school student ambassadors on school boards and creating partnerships with other civic organizations, such as Naperville Century Walk. The partnerships have allowed students the opportunity to share their artistic abilities with the community through the creation of public art, such as with Century Walk, where Bobosky’s husband, W. Brand Bobosky is on the Board of Directors.

Today, the organization is well known for offering job and volunteer fairs for teens, along with other programs including the annual Skaters Picnic.

Bobosky said much of the credit for the success of KidsMatter should go to the many board members who have helped keep it going over the years; to its Executive Director IdaLynn Wenhold who has been instrumental to the nonprofit’s success; to Mayor George Pradel who has always supported its mission; and to former city councilor Dick Furstenau who was deeply involved and dedicated to helping kids.

“So many people were there for kids,” she said. “That is why I am so happy KidsMatter is what it is today.”

She said the persistence of all involved paid off for the nonprofit, and she is excited to attend KidsMatter’s biggest fundraiser to date Thursday night at Wentz Concert Hall. When she learned she would be honored for her service, she was very surprised.

“I was shocked and I was humbled because there were so many other people involved in it too,” Bobosky said. “I guess we never gave up. We knew something had to be done.”

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