Since founding The CLF with her own funds in 1993, Ms. D’Angelo has led the nonprofit in serving more than 85,000 homeless and at-risk children and families through academic, social, and domestic support. The CLF has helped to transition 50 families from shelters into new homes, and distributed millions of dollars in brand new, in-kind goods and direct services to hundreds of additional families. Additionally, over 55 college scholarships have been awarded to at-risk teenagers across Los Angeles, some of whom were the first members of their families to attend college.
Ms. D’Angelo is the seventh recipient of the KidChamp Award. The Rite Aid Foundation created the KidChamp Award in 2017 to recognize individuals in communities served by Rite Aid. Those who are recognized have made a meaningful difference in the lives of youth by advocating for their health and wellbeing, championing education and academic growth, while creating safe environments for children and teens to live and grow.
“Maria is a true champion for underserved children and families in Los Angeles. She knows firsthand what it is like to overcome obstacles, so she has made it her mission in life to give people opportunities to truly change their own lives,” said Tracy Henderson, director of The Rite Aid Foundation and charitable giving initiatives. “Maria is a force of light, hope and compassion in the eyes of thousands of children and families. In fact, many have said they owe their lives to her love, guidance and friendship.”
Ms. D’Angelo was inspired to work with young people in need based on her experience as an immigrant child in America, years of teaching in New York and volunteer experience at a homeless shelter in central Los Angeles. At that shelter, she met an eight-year-old boy who had never set foot in a classroom because he had never had a physical exam. Upon realizing this boy was one of many dealing with such a dilemma, Ms. D’Angelo began meeting with doctors to arrange for free medical care for homeless children—and that is how The CLF was established.
As the months passed, Ms. D’Angelo knew she wanted to expand the scope of her support. Seeing the very dangerous and life-threatening environments these homeless children lived in on a day-to-day basis, she began organizing field trips to amusement parks and local attractions. But she didn’t stop there. Ms. D’Angelo was determined to do something immediate and life-changing to enhance and alter the course of these children’s lives.
With the help of a good friend, Ms. D’Angelo convinced the National Park Service to reopen an old Boy Scout called Circle X Ranch to offer these children a safe setting that would improve and enrich their lives with arts, sports and nature. In the summer of 1993, she launched The CLF summer camp enrichment program and invited the first group of seven children to attend camp at no cost. Since that time, more than 75,000 children have participated in the Camp for All program, which provides crucial academic and social experiences to homeless and at-risk youth from urban and shelter environments.
“I am extremely honored to receive the KidChamp award. I want to thank The Rite Aid Foundation and KidCents for its support of The CLF and for its unwavering commitment to ensuring the children in our communities, especially those who are most in need, have a chance for achieving better and brighter futures,” said Maria D’Angelo, founder and president of The CLF. “I am so proud of the tremendous impact The CLF has made in this community and in the lives of our most vulnerable children and families. I look forward to helping even more children overcome the obstacles they face and, ultimately, learn how to stand proudly on their own.”