On June 14, numerous Cincinnatians donned bright yellow T-shirts and lined up outside of Elder High School with boxes of toys to give away to children in need. That day, 400 children received free toys from The BDK (Brighter Days 4 Kids) Fund, a nonprofit launched in March 2018 by longtime west side residents Brian Bessler, John DiTullio, and Nick Keyes.
All three founders had previously been active members of multiple local nonprofits, before realizing they wanted to lead their own mission. Driven by the morals and values that each of their high schools (St. Xavier High School for Bessler, Lasalle High School for DiTullio, and Elder High School for Keyes) instilled in them, the trio created The BDK Fund as a way to “generate money in the form of donations to provide kids that may or may not have the ability to achieve what they’re capable of and passionate about,” Keyes says.
In addition to monetary donations, the nonprofit strives to enrich the Cincinnati community at a deeper level through its BDK Scholars program, which provides four-year high school scholarships to local students. Since its start, the BDK Scholars program has provided tuition assistance to five students, the oldest of whom is an incoming junior, and aims to grow that number to 12 by 2023.
The program also aims to help teenagers acclimate to new professional and social settings before they graduate high school. “We want [them] to think about college or trade school or whatever it is [they] want to do, and we want to identify the things they are really good at,” Keyes says. “The BDK Fund helps them develop the idea that they are capable of dreaming big because those dreams are not that far off.”
Students involved in The BDK Scholars program also receive additional mentorship through networking events and opportunities and learn the importance of being involved in their communities. “One of the things that we really are focusing on is teaching them about community service and giving back, so hopefully they become future leaders and philanthropists,” DiTullio says.
The BDK Fund achieves this through its Brighter Days program, which hosts community-focused events that BDK Scholars attend as volunteers. In addition to the toy giveaway at Elder High School on June 14, participants of the Brighter Days program have also donated toys to St. Joe’s orphanage, donated to local food banks and clothing drives, and even installed a swing set in a local family’s back yard. The program’s leaders also plan on providing more than 150 books to the incoming first-grade class at Delshire Elementary School and donating more than $2,000 worth of food supplies to TRAM Food Bank in Addyston, Ohio, to support the Cleves, Ohio, community.
DiTullio says Brighter Days strives to host an event at least once a month and estimates that nearly 700 local children have been impacted by the program thus far. “I believe that we could absolutely change the potential for some of these kids that don’t have the means to be able to shoot for the stars because they’re a little bit locked into the situation that is in front of them,” Keyes says. “Our goal is not to generate money or revenue or profits; we’re here to take the dollars from people who don’t know where to give it to … and connect the dots to find where the real [need] is in the community.”
While The BDK Fund is currently focused on helping families who live on the west side of Cincinnati, the ultimate goal is to expand beyond the three founders’ neighborhoods.
Those interested in supporting or getting involved with The BDK Fund can donate online and connect with the nonprofit on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook to stay up to date with upcoming events and volunteer opportunities.