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updated: 4/7/2014 9:27 AM

Human Race: Runner serves as Project HELP parent mentor

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  • Neil Samuels will run in the 2014 Human Race representing Project HELP.

    Neil Samuels will run in the 2014 Human Race representing Project HELP.
    Courtesy of Neil Samuels

  • Neil Samuels will run in the 2014 Human Race representing Project HELP.

    Neil Samuels will run in the 2014 Human Race representing Project HELP.
    Courtesy of Neil Samuels


Project HELP aims to strengthen families one at a time.

The Naperville organization pairs parents feeling stressed or looking for ways to guide their children with mentors. The partners meet weekly for at least a year, talking over situations and strategies -- all with the goal of building stronger relationships between the generations.

Neil Samuels is currently serving as a HELP mentor to his fourth family. A runner, he'll join the Human Race this month to raise money for the organization.

Neil Samuels

Project HELP's mission is to empower parents to create a nurturing environment for children to reach their full potential. What could be more important than that?

My first exposure to the organization came four years ago while searching for a local volunteer opportunity and I came across an announcement for HELP's open house. There I met Vicki Coletta, the board president, and the parent whom she was mentoring. When this young single mom with six kids finished telling her story, I was hooked.

Over the year she had spent with Vicki, this woman had transformed her life and the lives of her children; pretty amazing for an hour a week. What struck me most was the commitment from the parent and the mentor to spend an hour a week together for up to a year. As an executive coach in my professional life, I know the importance of that time together.

The other aspect of Project Help's approach that appealed to me was its focus on strengths. Families have so much to build on and we all too often neglect those aspects.

I have served as a parent mentor for the past three years and am currently supporting my fourth family. The situations have ranged from a young professional couple with two boys to a single grandmother in her 60s raising her grandson. In every case, the parents are so appreciative of having someone to talk with about the problems they are having and the emotions they are feeling, and of getting ideas for different ways to parent.

Coupled with the parent education classes Project HELP offers, we equip families with effective ways to create the nurturing environment critical to raising responsible, healthy children. (Not to mention reducing the stress levels for the parents!)

We are a very small organization with wonderful support from the Exchange Club of Naperville. By running the Human Race and raising money for Project HELP, I can support our vision of growth so we can extend our service to even more families in need. I set my fundraising goal at $1,000 and am well over halfway. Readers can donate at

I ran last year to start my training for the Naperville Marathon and enjoyed being part of a race in which everyone was clearly supporting a cause that mattered to them. There were many first time runners because this is such a supportive environment. People are out for their causes, not for their times, so please encourage everyone to come join us.

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