Finalists counting on donations to win Holiday Cheer

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

One works to boost animal welfare and find them homes. Another serves seniors across Michigan. A third offers a range of health-based programs as well as education. Two others strive to enhance youth’s lives.

Detroit News Holiday Cheer for Charity is giving 5 charities a chance to win $20,000, but you need to vote with your dollars.

All five nonprofits are vying to win $20,000 through The Detroit News’ Holiday Cheer for Charity campaign presented along with Priority Health.

The organizations — Michigan Humane Society, Teen HYPE, Presbyterian Villages of Michigan, Sweet Dreamzzz and YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit — this month beat 10 other participating organizations to become finalists.

Donate: Help nonprofit get $20,000 in Holiday Cheer

For the final round, which began Dec. 19 and ends at 11:59 p.m. New Year’s Eve, the charities seek online donations from the public. Whichever earns the most contributions claims the grand prize. The groups can also keep what they raised through Crowdrise even if not declared the contest winner, coordinators said. For info on rules and donating, go to before the Dec. 31 deadline.

Finalists hope the clicks translate into a windfall they say would enhance their overall efforts to serve others.

Puppies wait for an exam at the Michigan Humane Society Mackey Center for Animal Care at the Dresner Foundation Animal Care Campus in Detroit.

“Winning the Holiday Cheer for Charity contest would help support our life-saving work in Detroit,” said Matthew Pepper, president and CEO of the Michigan Humane Society. “It will allow us to perform complex surgeries, rehabilitation and follow-up care that few others are equipped to handle, allowing us to transform animals from injured and homeless to healthy and loved.”

Students at Dixon Educational Learning Academy in Detroit received sleep kits from Sweet Dreamzzz in 2016 as part of a program aimed at helping at-risk children learn healthy sleep habits.

Earning more dollars would make a difference for Sweet Dreamzzz, an area nonprofit that aims to boost the health, well-being and academic performance of at-risk school-age children through providing sleep education and bedtime essentials.

The group has supported families for more than 18 years and served 55,000-plus with its sleep education programs, executive director Nancy Maxwell said.

“Unfortunately, there are thousands of children in our area alone that do not have the basic essentials for a good night’s sleep,” she said. “We have a large waiting list of students (over 9,000 in Detroit area alone) hoping to receive our programs. The first school on our list is Mary Bethune Elementary School. They have 415 K-5 students who receive free or reduced lunch. Winning this challenge would allow us to buy all new sleeping bags for every child along with Sweet Dreamzzz T-shirts, reading books, toothbrushes and toothpaste.”

Similar gains might emerge if the prize goes to Teen HYPE (Helping Youth by Providing Education), which is based in Detroit.

The group focuses on “leadership development, educational enrichment and the power of learning through service,” according to its website. “We use theater as a gateway to reach, educate and unlock the creative power of youth. Through high-quality programs and supportive allies, we aim to heal and develop a generation of healthy young people.”

YMCA swim instructor Anthony Johnson, right, 29, of Detroit, helps Marcus Garvey Academy student Clay McPherson float on his back.

The YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit, which has locations across the region, also offers programs and services that promote healthy living. Besides fitness, sports and recreation, family time and camps, the group has arts and humanities efforts including Kindermusik for young children, officials wrote on the website.

Presbyterian Villages of Michigan, which formed in 1945 and is described online as the state’s “premier senior living provider,” serves nearly 5,000 through its more than 30 locations or home/community-based services, administrators reported.

Jean Smith is a resident at Village of Westland, a Presbyterian Villages Michigan community that now has a new bus made possible by donations.

Among its sites is a development on Detroit’s west side that resulted from a collaboration with Hartford Memorial Baptist Church.

The group’s philanthropic arm, the Presbyterian Villages of Michigan Foundation, has been working to boost a benevolence endowment fund that is slated to support thousands of seniors who have exhausted their financial resources.

Meanwhile there are resident activities and help funds that can assist clients with securing necessary items or exploring more, said Paul Miller, the foundation’s president. Fundraising is key to furthering its mission of accommodating seniors, he added. “Growth has all been tied to some philanthropic kindness.”

Donations are significant when considering the state’s aging citizens, said Roger Myers, Presbyterian Villages of Michigan president and CEO. “The senior population is the fastest and largest-growing demographic. … As we work to plan for and meet the needs, philanthropic support is very critical. Next year the needs are going to be greater than they were in 2017. This support will help us serve more of those needs.”