Checking in with HALO Founder Rebecca Welsh

If you’ve followed us here for a while, you’re probably familiar with HALO and its founder, Rebecca Welsh. We first met Rebecca through our Inspired by Women campaign and have been honored to follow and support her work with at-risk youth in the years since. Read on to find out what’s new and what’s next for HALO. 

HALO Founder Rebecca Welsh

Hi again! For those unacquainted, tell us about the HALO Foundation and how it got started. 

HALO provides housing, healing and education to 3,000 homeless and at-risk children around the world. We believe every child should have the foundation of a family.

HALO started almost 20 years ago after I took a mission trip to Honduras. I met a 6-year-old girl named Daisy who was alone and begging for water on the street. In that moment, I knew my calling was to help kids like her have a home and a family. HALO started with a small group of volunteers that grew into a mighty force that empowers kids to become contributing members of their communities. Our mission is to help one more child spend one less day alone.

What are some recent or upcoming projects you’re particularly proud of or excited about?

We recently released our second short documentary episode that is a part of a series to amplify young voices of homelessness. The episode is called “Ziere”. Check it out here. Ziere’s story of resilience reminds us what this life is about. It reminds us that no matter what is going on in our lives, our outlook is a choice. HALO is a place where kids like Ziere can plant roots, and with a little water, sunshine, and guidance they grow into who they were meant to become.

ClubHALO recently launched and was created for kids who want to learn and help other kids in need. Youth meet every other month via Zoom and learn about kids HALO supports and how to give back. We just announced our first ClubHALO Ambassador Sophie Grace. She is the 2021 Emmy Award Winner for her role as Kristy Thomas on “The Baby-Sitters Club.” Interested parents can sign up here.

HALO held our Virtual Art Auction fundraiser on Fri., Feb. 25, 2022, showcasing stories of HALO youth “Defying the Odds.” This was an action-packed night featuring entertainment, the HALO Documentary Short Film Premiere “Ziere”, and a live and silent auction. Special guest appearances were by Oprah Winfrey, Salma Hayek, Bryce Dallas Howard, Gillian Flynn, Nigel Barker and Jack Barker, Riley Smith, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Salvador ​​Pérez, Sophie Grace, Tamara Day, Veronica Beard, and Walker Hayes. Special musical performances include Sister Sledge ft. Sledgendary (Grammy nominated “We Are Family”), the multi-talented Blessing Offor, a soul-stirring singer/songwriter, and Tigirlily a chart-topping country music sister duo. Academy of Country Music Award Winner Tenille Townes visited HALO youth in Kansas City recently giving an encore HALO event performance. You can watch so many incredible videos from the Art Auction, including this special surprise for Ziere with a message from Oprah Winfrey and Target! All videos can be seen on HALO’s Youtube Channel @HALOEmpowersYouth.

We started HALO Heat in 2021, an AAU basketball program designed to give kids a chance to grow, learn, and succeed. Excited to continue to grow this program to allow kids to play on a team.

We are breaking ground soon for our new HALO Campus in Kansas City, Mo. The Campus will include three structures; two residential homes, one for up to 20 teen girls, another for up to 20 teen boys, and a HALO Learning Center, which will be built to include a large family room and kitchen for youth to learn cooking, cleaning, and life skills and develop the foundation of a family. In addition, the HALO Learning Center will continue to provide programs for over 700 youth, currently served annually, to our partner agencies. HALO’s primary objective for the project is to help homeless youth between the ages of 16 to under 22 to obtain shelter, complete an education, and establish sustainable living and wellbeing for themselves and, if applicable, their dependent child(ren).

HALO is expanding its outreach efforts. Our work in a new community begins by linking arms with existing agencies and organizations providing for youth in the greatest need. HALO aims to bridge the gaps of homeless and at-risk youth services by providing basic needs, creative art and life-skill resources, and collaborative opportunities to like-minded organizations. We are encouraging organizations/agencies that could use additional resources for the youth in their care to reach out here.

Can you share one of your favorite HALO success stories or memorable moments?

The surprise for HALO Youth Ziere was pretty special at the HALO Art Auction. We had a message to Ziere from Oprah Winfrey and Target. Check it out here.

How has the pandemic impacted your organization and operations?

At HALO, our team believes that limitations are opportunities to serve in a different way. During the pandemic, we’ve had to stay the course. Our cause that’s at the heart of everything we do – providing housing, healing and education – became even more critical. We recognize that these past couple of years have been a difficult one for all of us, but nobody has felt it like homeless children in need. In response to the pandemic and school districts changing to remote learning, HALO launched HALO Haven, a daytime and evening program for kids to safely engage in their online classes, have a meal, wifi access, access to essential school and hygiene supplies, and receive individual help and resources.

You’ve seen a 62% increase in need this year. What’s driving that need and how can people help?

At HALO, the number of kids who knock on our doors keeps growing. The pandemic is a major cause for that. Many of these kids were on the brink of homelessness or just had a very tough time dealing with the extra challenges. Our goal at HALO has always been to say yes to one more child, to help one more 6-year-old, or 18-year-old who could need us. We are responding to the growing homeless crisis daily and working hard to adapt quickly and provide immediate support.

There are so many needs we have at HALO each day. Our HALO Homes are just like yours, we have to buy small things like toilet paper and sheets, to bigger things like dental bills and hot water heaters. We also need people to help our kids stay on track with their homework—volunteers and staff, to make sure they feel safe at night, and to help them move into apartments with all they need when it is time. So, any donation of any amount makes a huge impact. Here are a few other ways to make an impact:

• Become a HALO Tribe Member. Make a recurring donation monthly, quarterly or annually. For the month of March, for every new $50 monthly donor, HALO will receive a $1,000 match by an anonymous supporter. This is an incredible impact for our organization.

• Join ClubHALO for kids.

• Sign up to volunteer.

What are other challenges you face as an organization?

With so many kids out there in need, our challenge is always to raise more support to help them. This means HALO needs volunteers, funding, and incredible staff members. Our constant challenge is to grow the HALO Family because the bigger our family is, the more children we can help.

What does long-term success look like for HALO?

At HALO, we work to help our kids defy the odds that have been stacked against them.

• 88% of the kids we support in our residential programs graduate into a safe environment, and 90% are employed.

• 87% of youth who move out, come back to HALO to join us for Family Nights to further their life skill education, they join us to celebrate holidays, and they call HALO to share exciting news like starting college or new jobs.

• Our greatest success stories come from kids who become part of the solution, who come back to HALO once they are young adults to share their knowledge with current HALO kids. When this happens it shows that the cycle is not only broken, but an organic cycle of growth has begun. This type of change will ripple through a community. Nothing is stronger than the success stories of our Alumni being passed down to the next HALO generation.