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Meet Kelcey Liverpool of Kids Rank in Englewood, Highland Park and Great Lakes

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kelcey Liverpool.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I was a military spouse for 17 years and what I realized is that my kids needed a place to belong. I have two, now teenaged girls and like many military families we have lived all over and they have had to continuously adjust to living in a new place, their dad being gone either on a ship or just working crazy long hours, not living near family and most recently our divorce (marriage can be such a difficult thing especially in this military lifestyle). When my girls were in kindergarten and 2nd grade, they ended up in 3 different schools as we transitioned from Japan to Illinois! I started Kids Rank as a way to give them a place they could connect with other kids who understood.

Kids Rank began with the recognition of the inspiring resilience that our daughters displayed with each challenge they faced. I very quickly saw that my children were not the only kids that made these same sacrifices and wanted a way to acknowledge others’ strength of character. Adaptation, bravery, determination, and independence are just a few of the characteristics that we saw in our own children and knew they were not alone.

I am passionate about being able to have a program for our military kids that supports and celebrates them. I want them to have somewhere they can thrive and that is just for them.

We have great partners and volunteers that do so much to keep us running and provide great experiences. In the last 6 years, we have grown from one group of 10 military children to 8 groups totaling nearly 80 children with our newest Pride located in the Englewood community of Chicago. I work hard because my big huge goal is to make this a national program to meet my Kids Rank children where ever they move — California, Hawaii, Virginia, Florida, Guam, Japan… anywhere they go, we want to be there.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
I do not come from the background of running this type of business and it has been a journey really hard at times, figuring out how to put it together, making mistakes, writing grants, overseeing projects, creating events and curriculum for the kids that you are always praying they enjoy and love. I didn’t work for 10 years while my girls were little because we kept moving and I was faced with working a job just to MAYBE cover the cost of childcare.

Some of the biggest challenges come with adopting a program that works with a constantly transitioning population. This program year we lost 85% of our participants due to normal military transfers. While we know this is one of the reasons we exist, being a consistent presence for children that experience so much transition, this year marked the biggest loss to date.

In response, we made a huge push to build awareness of the program within the community. We know that this will always be part of our challenge and hope that as we expand and become fixtures in these military communities the transition for the kids will be a smooth one.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
Kids Rank is a 501c(3) service-based organization developed specifically for military children. Through the formation of local clubs called, Prides, Kids Rank engages children in hands-on, skill building projects and volunteer opportunities designed to encourage resilience through our core pillars of CONNECT, LEAD and SERVE. Our military children serve their communities just as their parents serve (or have served) our country. The program is open to school-aged military children from all branches of service including active duty, reservists, retirees and Families of the Fallen.

Kids Rank, the only organization of its type for military children, was formed to address the lack of ongoing, continuous programming focused on the needs of military children and their families. By recognizing isolated workshops and episodic assistance does little to enhance a child’s social and emotional growth in light of the many transitions in military life, Kids Rank bridges the existing gap in services by dealing directly with children of military families in and around the installations and communities that military/veteran families call home. Providing consistent weekly programming designed just for the kids sets us apart and brings value to the families.

Prides typically made up of 10 children, give members an opportunity to connect with those who understand the culture and challenges military families face. In this group environment, they have a safe space to share their accomplishments, disappointments, anxieties, and excitement without fear of judgment. Participants are then able to take on leadership roles through team-building exercises and project planning. Meetings include both structured elements meant to mirror, in age-appropriate ways, the behaviors of military organizations along with activities intended to inspire creativity and learning. Prides meet weekly for 60-90 minutes spanning a 30-week period beginning in October.

I am proud that we are able to offer military children high-quality programs and events that provide them experiences they won’t forget. For example, the Kids Rank Ball is a military style ball for the entire family both military and civilian. We make it special from the formal traditions that are consistent with military culture to the dinner and dancing that make it fun for everyone.

What were you like growing up?
At heart, I have always been a diplomat. As a biracial child, I have had to navigate many different worlds. My mom said I always seemed to go into a situation and want to make things ok for everyone who was involved, I adjusted my temperament to the situation that I was facing. I understood early that others may approach a situation based on their personal and family perspective and that may be different than my own but not necessarily wrong, just different. I work to be mindful and respectful of others viewpoints.

I find that working with the military community this ability to be accepting of differences comes into play often. I work with families that come from all over the country and sometimes all over the world, this, of course, will mean that how they, and as a direct reflection their children, will approach life.

Out of my friends, I was the only one that wanted children, and a gang of children at that! However, I only had 2 of my own and now through Kids Rank have 80 who I call my kids. I like their honesty and ability live in the moment of whatever is going on. You know if they are having a bad day or like something or think its no good.

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Getting in touch: VoyageChicago is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

1 Comment

  1. Pam

    June 1, 2018 at 7:21 pm

    AWESOME! A wonderful program that deserve more support, this should be available to all military children in on every base. So glad you guys recognize and share a good program when you see one.

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