This is part three of a weekly series of interviews with Starfishers. Starfishers are amazing people who are making a difference in a community or in the world. To read more about Starfishers and Operation Starfish, click here. The purpose of this is to inspire us to begin projects of our own. I believe that many of us have that “If only we had this, we could help/save that…” feeling but aren’t sure where to start. I thought a good way to inspire others would be to have those that have done it share their stories.

StandUp for Kids - end the cycle of youth homelessness

This week’s interview is the first on A Life Set Free on video. In it, I sit down with Chris Senesi of StandUp for Kids in Boulder, Colorado. Chris is a graduate student and in his spare time, is the National Director of the Don’t Run Away Program. Six years ago at the age of 17, he spearheaded the Cleveland, Ohio chapter and now volunteers with the Boulder chapter.

The mission of StandUp for Kids is to end the cycle of youth homelessness. We see homeless adults everywhere, but homeless kids are usually invisible, so it’s an issue that often goes unnoticed. These are some of the statistics of youth homelessness in the United States:

  • There are 1.3 – 2.8 million homeless and street kids, half of which are under the age 15
  • 1 out of every 7 children will run away between the ages of 10 and 18
  • One child runs away every minute of every day
  • In 75% of cases, runaways gone for two or more weeks become involved in theft, drugs, or pornography
  • 100,000 youths sleep on the streets for six months or more each year

StandUp for Kids carries out their mission through volunteers who go to the streets in order to find, stabilize and help homeless and street kids improve their lives. StandUp does this through programs like Don’t Run Away which prevents runaways, JustUs which reaches out to homeless kids, and Outreach that helps to locate and assist homeless and at-risk kids on the street.

Without further ado, here is the video. Chris is a natural on the camera, but this is my video debut, so please go easy on me! 😉

After watching the video, if you have any questions or comments about StandUp for Kids for Chris, please leave them in the comments below!

Don’t forget to leave questions or comments below!

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28 Responses

  1. Jenny @ exconsumer on 11 Apr 2011

    Hi Marianne & Chris! Stand up for Kids sounds like an amazing organization. I’ll have to see if we have this in Columbus. I know we have a children’s home nearby for kids in a similar situation, but I don’t know if there are any outreach organizations for those that are on the street.

    Thanks for the wonderful work you’re doing Chris!

    The video turned our great Marianne! It was fun to see and hear you. 😉

    • haha thanks Jenny! I hadn’t heard of StandUp until recently and had no idea the amount of kids that run away every day! this is a serious issue.

  2. Amy @ Nomadtopia on 11 Apr 2011

    Nice job on the video! This sounds like a great organization – that’s so cool that Chris called to find out more and ended up spearheading the local chapter! Just goes to show how far a little initiative can take you.

  3. Sha~Na~Na on 11 Apr 2011

    I’ve been working with StandUp for Kids (and Chris) for the past year and I have to say it’s the most rewarding experience of my life…so far! Working with Chris (and the kids) has been inspiring and I’m grateful that this organization exists. They truly make a difference!

    Great job Marianne!!

    • Sha~Na~Na on 11 Apr 2011

      Your comment…FYI for anyone interested StandUp for Kids founder Rick Koca is coming to Boulder to speak to the kids and community. We’re having an Open House at the Drop-In Center (Masonic Lodge, 2205 Broadway, NW corner of Pine & Broadway) on April 27th from 5:30p-7:30p. Rick is the heart and soul of StandUp and a truly inspiring speaker. You don’t want to miss it! 🙂

      • Thanks Shannon! I’m really glad you turned me onto this project. Like I said, I had no idea the impact of homelessness among children. Thank you for all you are doing to help!

  4. Gena on 11 Apr 2011

    Hi Marianney & Chris! Great job on the interview Marianney, I wouldn’t have guessed first timer if you hadn’t told us! What a fantastic organization! We see quite a few homeless families with young children living simply in a car and tent set up at local beaches, not most beaches, just a couple with facilities and a low key, out of the way atmosphere, probably because they are afraid they’ll be thrown out. Our hearts just break for the kids, most of them are enrolled in school we have found out, they just go home to the beach. Still we know there are probably less visible kids who have run away and fall through the cracks. I’ll have to check and see if they have anything like Stand Up for kids here. Thanks for sharing, love how one person, young or old can make a difference!

    • I agree Gena, it’s amazing how any one at any age can make such a profound difference in people’s lives.

  5. deb Life Beyond Stuff on 12 Apr 2011

    Wow, I had no idea there was such a big homeless children problem anywhere in the States, let alone somewhere like Boulder!. They’re so young, it’s really hard to imagine, I don’t even know what to say.

    You did well with the video too. I can make videos with my macbook and I’m considering having a go because I spend so much time reading and writing that its nice to watch and work in a different medium for a change.

    Good work

    • marianney on 12 Apr 2011

      Thanks Deb! I appreciate it. My fiance did the video, but it was my first time being ON camera and I am not a very good interviewer, ha! 😉

      It is disturbing how many homeless youth there are isn’t it?? Before I had heard of StandUp, I had no idea.

  6. jenny smythe on 12 Apr 2011

    The statistics are heart wrenching! There are lot of homeless here in Chicago but I don’t see what services there are for the children. I’m going to check if there is one based here in Chicago. Thanks for featuring them Marianne!

    • marianney on 28 Apr 2011

      it really is a shame isn’t it? i just love what they are doing!

  7. LoAnn Crane on 13 Apr 2011

    Hi Marianne! That was a great interview and very informative. I had the pleasure of meeting Rick Koca (Founder). He is very passionate about this organization. These statistics are very disturbing and my heart melts when I hear stories about homeless children. Thank you for exposing this organization and creating awareness. You are truly a special person!

    • marianney on 28 Apr 2011

      aw thanks LoAnn! I didn’t know you had met Rick, that’s very cool!

  8. William Tha Great on 15 Apr 2011

    Interesting Stuff!

    I remember twice in my life i have been homeless, and they were the points in my life where I have been at the lowest point. It was the hardest thing ever for me to get back on my feet and in control of my life. I was determined not to resort to an illegal way of making money, but instead stayed focused on my grind. Now I can look back i say that I made the right decision, because your life can change all in the blink of the eye.

    God bless,
    William Veasley

    • marianney on 28 Apr 2011

      Good for you William for not succumbing to an “easy” way out and working your way out instead. It takes hard work for anyone to get anything, so I’m proud of your accomplishments!

  9. Brian Haslip on 18 Apr 2011

    I ended up homeless on the streets of San Diego when I was 15 years old. Over the next six years on the streets, I became a drug addict, and attempted suicide dozens of times. Through it all Rick Koca and StandUp For Kids was there for me. I honestly believe that I would be dead today if it wasn’t for StandUp counselors being there so that I had someone to talk to, or a shoulder to cry on. To this day, I consider StandUp my family. After I got off the streets, my son was baptized in the StandUp For Kids Outreach Center in San Diego. This organization made a huge difference in my life, and continues to do so in the lives of other homeless and street youth.

    Thank you for the awesome article, and interview with Chris, who is an amazing young man.

    • marianney on 28 Apr 2011

      This is really an amazing story Brian, thank you so much for sharing it with us! It’s proof positive that people who care can make a difference in anyone’s life.

  10. Chris Senesi on 19 Apr 2011

    Thank you again Marianne, for featuring StandUp For Kids and putting this together. This is a great blog and I look forward to reading other stories.

    And thank you all for viewing the post and sharing your support for StandUp For Kids!!

    If you have any questions or comments for me, please continue to post here or contact me directly at!

    • marianney on 28 Apr 2011

      Thanks again Chris! I know I owe you the video, things got crazy, so I’ll send it to you asap!

  11. Marnie - The UnBlogger on 07 May 2011

    Those are some scary stats. As a high-school teacher I see the ramifications of kids living on the streets. It’s hard to take and I feel it’s part of my job to make them feel like a “somebody”. To make them feel like they still have a chance and choices. Thanks for an inspiring post.

  12. Michaela on 17 May 2011

    These stats are scary and upsetting. What does this say about the parents, do they lack guidance too?….

  13. Hey Marianney,

    I noticed it’s been a while since you had a new post up. Just checking in to see how you’re doing, and hoping to see you post again soon. Take care!


  14. Jaydra Hymer on 08 Jul 2011

    Your comment… Hi Marianne and Chris: I work with children and youth, and next week I am launching my website, . Part of the website is a highlight on people who are making a difference in the lives of kids. If it is okay, I would like to reference the article on Chris and the A Life Set Free website. You are both doing great things. My best wishes to both of you.

    • marianney on 16 Sep 2011

      of course Jaydra, thanks!

  15. mark on 16 Jan 2012

    Wow! It is good to hear that there are those that are really willing to give time and exert effort to help those homeless kids. I those kids are not given attention then they will end up into becoming at-risk youth and would become one of those criminals on the streets. I thank you for that because too wanted to help them but just couldn’t know where to start. Imagine a world where no kid is homeless, a safe street to roam around even at night, wouldn’t it be just great?

    • marianney on 23 Jan 2012

      That sure would be a nice world Mark. Thanks for reading and sharing your link!