Ray Fellows | Making a positive difference in the lives of children
By Paul Collins
There are those rare moments in life when we cross paths with a person who restores our faith in humanity and who gives us pause to stop and think about what it is that’s really important in life.
Ray Fellows, a Milford resident and founder of the philanthropic organization, Children Across America, is that rare person who restores our faith in people. Each and every day, through his nonprofit organization, he extends a much-needed helping hand to kids for whom hope is in very short supply. Fellows is making a positive difference in the lives of our most precious assets ~ our children.
Fellows, who spent over a decade in the U.S. military, said he believes in taking tangible steps to improve the lives of children who need someone to reach out and help them get on the right track in life. For this Gulf War veteran, the work that he has chosen to do is his passion, and the sincerity and enthusiasm as he talks about Children Across America is palpable. It is indeed much more a labor of love than it is work, and one can’t help being touched by this man’s personal commitment to, and investment in, others.
Fellows flags literacy and education as the key building blocks on which his nonprofit organization rests. “Everything is about education, and we’re so busy because we’re needed.”
He is also quick to point out that Children Across America is not welfare. Rather, it’s about empowering kids by providing them the tools that will allow the skills to go out into the world. The organization offers education, health and community programs, aimed at helping children strengthen their literacy and live a healthy life, through physical activity and good nutrition.
“We treat every child the same here, and we never talk down to people. Instead, we help them. We have people who walk in here with no hope and leave with their heads held high,” Fellows said. “I hear people say, ‘You need to pull yourself up by your bootstraps,’ and I think, ‘What if you don’t have any bootstraps to pull up?’”
Children Across America is an all-volunteer organization. None of the staff members get paid for their time.
“There are no rich people here. We’re all regular working-class people, and in five years, I’ve never gotten paid one dime for doing this. None of us has,” Fellows said.
In the last five years, he’s become a champion of the downtrodden by putting a smile of the faces of children who really need a reason to laugh and to feel good about who they are. And the reason that he does this work is simple: “Children are the future of America, and we need to invest in our youth to keep America great.”
As is the case across all disciplines, there are some daunting challenges associated with keeping a nonprofit organization running smoothly and effectively, and what is always right at the top of the list is funding. Facing this challenge Fellows mused, “The reality is that our biggest problem is raising money, and without money… well, it’s just a good idea.”
So what puts a smile of the face of Ray Fellows? “Watching kids grow and improve,” he said. “When I’d see us dropping bombs on people [in the Gulf War], I’d think to myself, ‘We should be dropping schools on them, not bombs.’”
As to his hope for the future of Children Across America, Fellows is philosophical: “My goal is to one day not be needed.”
For more information about Children Across America, visit childrenacrossamerica.org.
Paul Collins is a freelance writer from Southborough.