“As a member of the board for nearly 22 years, I witnessed [the Jumpstart founders’] vision become a reality, changing the lives of children, college students, families, and entire communities within our United States.”
Throughout 2019, in honor of Jumpstart’s 25th Anniversary, we will be highlighting 25 Faces of Jumpstart. This campaign celebrates the wide variety of people who have played a major role in Jumpstart’s history — our founders, volunteers from Jumpstart’s past, Jumpstart children and their families, influential donors and supporters, and more. We cannot wait to share their stories with you — how they helped shape and grow Jumpstart into what it is today, the impact that Jumpstart has had on their own lives, and their vision for the next 25 years of Jumpstart.
A globally-recognized psychologist and author of seven books, including 2018’s co-authored The Kindness Advantage: Cultivating Compassionate and Connected Children, Dr. Dale Atkins is a fierce advocate for literacy and community action.
Dale also happens to be Jumpstart’s longest-standing contributor. Dale remembers vividly the day founders Jordan Meranus, Aaron Lieberman, and David Carmel came to her house in Westport, Connecticut asking for seed money to back a dream they had. She and her husband Rob, she says, “were happy to offer that, along with a few names of people who might be helpful. Indeed, the seeds were planted, and forests have grown.”
Dale was so inspired that she also became one of the organization’s earliest fundraisers even though, she says, “Asking for money was never easy for me.”
“I do recall, however, going to visit a colleague of my husband’s. I told him about the mission of Jumpstart and as I was in the third sentence of my ‘pitch,’ he took out his checkbook and wrote a check that was the biggest single donation I had ever solicited. I told him I was both thrilled and humbled by his gift. He said something I will never forget, which informed my ‘asking’ from that day forward: ‘Thank you for offering me the opportunity to be helpful. I always wanted to have a hand in changing the world.’”
“Twenty-five years later, I get goosebumps when I think about what it took for David, Rebecca, Aaron, and Jordan to envision that dream.”
Dale remembers the team’s very first “get acquainted” meeting in the sitting area of a New York City hotel room in 1993. The friends who came to hear about Jumpstart asked tough questions of founders Aaron Lieberman and David Carmel, one of which was, “How will this continue when you decide to do something else?” Aaron and David calmly talked about their vision and their plan so effectively that each of the people in that room—25 years ago—continue to support Jumpstart today.
A founding director, Dale also recalls Jumpstart’s first “board meeting,” held at Ramapo Anchorage Camp, a residential summer camp in upstate New York that serves children who are experiencing social, emotional, or learning challenges and where the founders first met and first imagined Jumpstart. Board members all slept in bunks and sat around the “mess hall” table to discuss the founders’ vision for educational equity. She says, “Twenty-five years later, I get goosebumps when I think about what it took for David, Rebecca, Aaron, and Jordan to envision that dream.”
As the years went by, Dale witnessed many organizational milestones. Among them: the organization’s first $10,000 gift, a 2011 visit to NBC’s Today Show, and a Scribbles gala featuring Jim Dale as Master of Ceremonies.
Among her many contributions to Jumpstart over the years, Dale facilitated “stress management” programs for both staff and volunteers. She remembers, “Hearing the Corps Members share their concerns about the children and how they could better serve them and their families.” This attitude consistently inspired Dale.
So did Jumpstart mothers. “Visiting the Hunts Point programs was one of the most moving experiences because the moms were the ones to take the lead in getting involved with safely accompanying children to their programs. It was community action at its best,” Dale says.
Personal highlights for Dale include Jumpstart’s invitation to be keynote speaker at the 2010 GYMBOREE annual international meeting in Chicago, where she spoke about raising children to be charitable in one of her earliest forerunner speeches to The Kindness Advantage, and receiving recognition at Jumpstart’s 20th anniversary celebration held at the Smithsonian Museum in 2014.
Dale remains as committed to Jumpstart today as she was in 1994. She serves as a member of the National Early Education Council; she continues to provide members and staff guidance in self-care; she was featured on the author’s panel at Jumpstart’s 5th Annual Fall Luncheon in New York City (2018); and she served as co-host of the Fall Luncheon in 2019, where she shared, “As a member of the board for nearly 22 years, I witnessed [the Jumpstart founders’] vision become a reality, changing the lives of children, college students, families, and entire communities within our United States.”
Some quotes have been edited and condensed for length and clarity.