“How did PFO get started?”

It’s a question we hear a lot. Jen Band, our Executive Director, gave a TEDx Talk that we think sums it up pretty well…check it out below!

PFO Timeline

Sept 10th, 2006 First meeting at Freedom Park to share the idea of PFO
2007-2008 PFO partners with the Down Syndrome Association of Charlotte and begins the Buddy Program, where teens are partnered with a child with a disability to develop a deep relationship, breaking down barriers and stereotypes
2008-2009 PFO gains 501c3 status and partners with Easter Seals/United Cerebral Palsy. At the end of the year, a Music Experience joins Theatre as a part of the annual Arts Festival.
2009-2010 PFO hires Jen Band as Executive Director and partners up with Mitey Riders, a horse therapy farm in Waxhaw. At the end of the year, the teens donate a brand new horse and trailer. Teens are now also serving on teen-led committees to learn the business side of the non-profit world and we’ve added a Visual Arts Experience!
2010-2011 PFO partners with the Metro School and donates a virtual music program and interactive sound garden that the teens have created. A children’s book, created by a committee, is also published for the first time.
2011-2012 PFO partners with HOPE (Helping Outcomes of Parents with Exceptional children) and adds a Dance Experience to Arts Festival. PFO now has three fully rounded out programs in Leadership training, our “Buddy Program” or working with children with disabilities and Arts Experiences.
2012-2013 Because of the reputation PFO has established over the years, we decide to no longer partner with one organization and rather, open our doors to all families of children with disabilities AND their siblings. The response is amazing! We hire our first Buddy Program Coordinator, Brandy Winn, produce our first children’s CD, add a Dance Experience, and institute the Present Program. Through the program, teens become engaged in how PFO gives of our treasure by pitching nonprofit organizations to group of their peers. The teens vote, and the 12 organizations selected receive a financial gift from PFO.
2013-2014 PFO continues to increase its presence in the community by including a Community Service Day as part of the Buddy Program. Teens and buddies work side by side to give back to 25 different non-profits in the Charlotte area by making items that help the non-profits implement their mission and vision. In addition, we premiere our first ever slam poetry committee which creates pieces in honor of our 12 non-profit honorees for the year, and our cookbook committee which creates, “Cooking for Others”. We also added the “Night of Gratitude” event in January, a 24 hour whirlwind from original inception, to creation, to rehearsal, to performance of a multi-media storytelling event.
2014-2015 PFO hosts our first annual Connecting Charlotte event, bringing together 53 local non-profits to celebrate the Charlotte non-profit community and help build a culture of mutual support among non-profit organizations. We also create a collection of stories honoring people the teens are grateful for in a book titled, “The Gratitude Connection.” 14 of these stories are brought to life during our “Night of Gratitude”. The HeARTbeat program now honors 12 non-profits through Visual Art, Photography, Dance, Music, and Slam Poetry.
2015-2016 Taking a huge leap, Night of Gratitude moves to the McGlohon Theatre and honors 10 changemakers in Charlotte. In the summer months, we launch the Golden Giving Circle, engaging our teens in sharing their stories and making direct donor asks, ultimately raising $50,000 for the Scholarship Fund so that PFO can remain need-blind. Opening up the opportunity for more teens to learn how to become Development officers takes the Leadership Training piece of PFO to a whole new level.
Through conversations with Alumni parents, it becomes clear that many families want to celebrate their teens’ experiences in PFO and support future PFOers. The Whitehead family establishes the first-ever alumni Legacy Gift in honor of Leah. More families have joined the ranks, and we have a vibrant Legacy Fund that honors our alumni and keeps PFO moving forward.
2016-2017 We kick off our 10th Anniversary celebrations by creating “One More Good Thing”, a book of inspiring stories from the world of PFO. Stories come from alumni teens, parents, board members, advisors, past staff members and many more.
We make several additions for the Buddy Program: Friend Dates are added, so that teens and buddies can spend time outside of scheduled PFO events; a Pen Pal program is created for teens and their buddies; and buddies perform onstage, alongside of PFO teens, during the Red Carpet event for a remount of our production of, “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown”.
And a lifelong dreams comes true as James Kennedy writes PFO’s first original musical, “Ready. Set. Go”
2017-2018 A brand new intiative, the Zip Code Project, launches and expands PFO’s reach in the community. Teen photographers capture unique views of 6 Charlotte zip codes and research what makes each area distinct, as well as historical context for each. Their photo collection is shared with community members, who vote on favorite photos to be printed on tote bags.
Teen Color War is going strong, and planning begins for our next major expansion: a public Color War tournament fundraiser for August 2018!