Dream Cheerleaders

By Kate Atwood, Founder of Kate’s Club

There is a story behind Kate’s Club that isn’t told often. It is one of a young woman sitting across from her father telling him her dream. I remember that night so well. My dad Bill had come down to Atlanta from my hometown for a visit. We went out to eat at Anis, a nice French restaurant in the heart of Buckhead. At the time, I was 22 and working at a sports marketing agency, but my dad knew of my growing passion for working with kids who had lost a loved one, through my experience at a camp in Virginia.

As we ate our dinner, I began sharing about how I was trying to find something here in Atlanta that worked with kids who had lost a parent, similar to the camp. While I had found a couple of support groups, I had this bigger vision for a place that was more than just about the grief; it was about life. My dad, an artist at his core, began doodling on a napkin (always a sign that I got him thinking). After five minutes of my non-stop chatter, my father just looked up at me and said, “You should just build something here.”

He then pushed the little cocktail napkin he had been doodling on and presented me with “Kate’s Club”.

Kate and Dad

Kate and her dad

I looked at him very puzzled and uttered something along the lines of, “I can’t do that – start an organization and run a business.” My father disagreed plainly and said, “Yes you can.” It was right there at that dinner table that we came up with Kate’s Club, the core model of the social outings, and the key values being that it had to be fun and empowering. That moment was one of the most magical moments in my life. For that brief moment, the huge mountain that I was about to climb in launching Kate’s Club was nowhere in my sight. Perhaps some other person would have told me about that mountain and how hard it would be to climb and to do something as big as start a non-profit, but not my Dad. That moment was about my dad believing in his young daughter’s dream, and it was when I felt how powerful “dream cheerleaders” are in life.

I get to celebrate with my dad today, but I know so many children do not. However, it does bring me peace that they have Kate’s Club. One of the pieces about Kate’s Club that makes the whole experience work for our kids is our Buddies. It’s not written in a job description or part of our strategic plan, but it is one of the most critical roles our Buddies play: they are our dream cheerleaders. They believe in our kids so much that it can make all the difference in the world to a young person facing grief.

I want to dedicate this post to the Buddies: If anyone can step in to fill the role of dream cheerleader, it’s you. Thank you for being so dedicated to our kids and for your steadfast commitment as a champion of their dreams. Too often due to loss and grief, this champion is no longer is around.

And to my dad: if anyone wants to see just how impactful a cheerleader of dreams can be, just thank my dad. I sure do all the time.

Happy Father’s Day to my amazing dad.

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