After accumulating years of experience working with foster children, The Woodlands residents Elizabeth Chappell and Audra Simpson founded The Champion Project in 2019 to bring attention and support to children living in residential treatment centers in Harris and Montgomery counties.

“In Harris County and the surrounding counties, there are 105 placements for these kids,” Simpson said. “Our goal is to partner with churches and community organizations to go into those homes, mentor those kids, and bring them some stability and consistency in the form of relationships.”

Information from The Champion Project stated there are around 3,500 youths in the foster care system living outside of traditional foster care in Harris and Montgomery counties with the largest percentage in Harris County.

The Champion Project was awarded a $16,800 grant from The Woodlands Junior League in May to start a book program to further help the children they are mentoring.

Building connections

Chappell said volunteers that help with The Champion Project provide group mentoring for children as providing one-on-one mentoring is difficult since a child could be moved without the organization’s knowledge.

“We just signed a memorandum of understanding where we will be able to follow these kids [when they move to another facility],” Chappell said. “Can you imagine going to three high schools in one year and having nobody for a connection?”

Prior to becoming The Champion Project in 2019, Chappell and Simpson operated a different nonprofit called We Will Speak with the aim of helping foster children who had aged out of the system.

“Through that process of talking with them and learning what goes on in these group homes and facilities, it was put on Audra’s heart that we should do a mentoring program for group homes,” Chappell said. “That is where we need to be. By bringing in mentors and the community and getting to know these kids, it is going to set them up for success.”

Chappell added the organization is always looking for mentor volunteers, who need to complete a background check with a one-year commitment. Volunteers then mentor the youths twice per month for an hour.

“As we launch the Book Bus, there are going to be a lot more opportunities,” she said, referring to a new project spearheaded by the organization.

The Book Bus

The Book Bus was funded through a grant from The Woodlands Junior League, which Chappell said is among the largest distributed from the organization.

The Book Bus officially launched Oct. 22, and it acts as a mobile opportunity for children in the foster system to receive donated books. Chappell said each child will get to pick two books to keep.

“We are really excited to get books for these kids,” Chappell said. “They are new and gently used, and we have an Amazon wishlist, so people can see what books we need.”

For the remainder of 2022, The Champion Project’s Book Bus will be used every other week as a soft launch before transitioning to weekly use in early 2023.

“Around 75% of kids in foster care are behind on school too, and if we can help provide them a way to love reading,” Simpson said. “This is a great way for people to be involved and get them the resources they need.”

The Champion Project

7 Switchbud Place, The Woodlands