The long-term youth development program is dedicated to nurturing the talents and dreams of students living in underserved areas of Atlanta.
Executive Director Kim Dennis has been around since the beginning. Back in 1994, she was hired to design and its run the summer program there.
“In many ways, CYD is very much the same as it was the first day we opened,” she said. “Our sole purpose is to care for our children and show them that we not only believe in their potential, but have a stake in their success.
“And many of the same faces are still here — just looking a little older.”
The initiative is set to mark its two decades of existence as part of its 2014 Honors Celebration. A benefit brunch will be held Sunday from 1 to 3 p.m. at Ansley Golf Club in Ansley Park.
The nonprofit acts as a cog in a child’s support system from age 8 to young adulthood. Its beneficiaries are given resources, opportunities and relationships that children living in poverty require to reach their potential.
“I have watched them grow over the years from a fledgling, tiny operation struggling to succeed into the outstanding organization it is today,” said Karen Wilbanks, executive director of Create Your Dreams patron The Robert and Polly Dunn Foundation.
“They’ve significantly increased the number of children they serve, expanded the services they provide, attracted much greater financial support and achieved a 100 percent success rate — a remarkable achievement for any nonprofit and the only one I know of that can claim that.”
Annie Neely, named the lone honoree of the celebration, is yet another figure credited with keeping the collective hope.
“Without Dr. Neely, CYD would look very different,” Dennis said. “When our founder stumbled upon Boyd Elementary — where Dr. Neely was a principal — and asked what she could do for the school, Dr. Neely told her the students needed long-term commitment.”
Had she not said that, program leaders likely would have focused exclusively on the programs it could offer students.
“Instead, we focused on what it would mean if we created a family of support,” Dennis said. “It was less important what we did in the afternoon and more important that we were there to pick our kids up from school consistently, week after week, year after year.”