As many of us adjust to the new norm of working and learning from home, Big Shoulders Fund and our network of 72 schools have quickly shifted how we educate our students in the most effective, challenging, and creative ways. View weekly highlights below.


Big Shoulders Fund Joins Chicago Initiative to Bridge the Digital Divide for Students in Need with Support from Citadel Partners

New $1 Million Commitment from Citadel CEO Ken Griffin and COO Gerald Beeson Expands Access to Free High-Speed Internet for Thousands of Catholic School Students

(CHICAGO) November 17, 2020 – Big Shoulders Fund, an independent charitable organization that serves more than 70 under-resourced Catholic schools in Chicago, today announced a contribution from Citadel Founder and CEO Ken Griffin and COO Gerald Beeson to fund participation in ‘Chicago Connected.’ Launched earlier this year by public, nonprofit and philanthropic leaders, ‘Chicago Connected’ is one of the largest and longest-term efforts in the nation focused on providing free, high-speed internet service to qualifying students in their households.

With today’s announcement, nearly 3,000 additional K-12 students are eligible to participate in the program developed to dramatically increase internet access for students in need. The four-year broadband access initiative aims to address the digital equity gap and help build a permanent public support system for families in Chicago. 

Ken Griffin, the lead convener and funder of ‘Chicago Connected,’ and Gerald Beeson, a board and executive committee member of Big Shoulders Fund, came together to provide the $1 million in funding required to extend the reach of the ‘Chicago Connected’ program. As a result of their commitment, qualifying families will receive access to high-speed internet at home enabling students to access online learning, submit college applications, build career skills, apply for jobs and stay up-to-date on current events.

“For more than three decades, Big Shoulders Fund has worked to ensure inner city students have access to quality education regardless of economic circumstance – and in today’s world, access to internet is integral to student success,” said Mr. Beeson. “Expanding the ‘Chicago Connected’ program will open opportunities for these students far beyond their studies.”

Josh Hale, President and CEO of Big Shoulders Fund, added, “While the digital divide has persisted for some time, the pandemic has brought it into sharp focus. We know that internet access improves the educational and economic outcomes for our students and I’m grateful that more of them will have the tools they need to succeed during the pandemic and beyond.”

The work of the Big Shoulders Fund to provide high-quality education to students has never been more important. Amid the pandemic, Big Shoulders Fund increased its efforts to support its nearly 20,000 students – nearly 80 percent of whom are Black and Latinx and 70 percent of whom are low-income – to ensure these students continue to have access to a high-quality academic experience. Its participation in the ‘Chicago Connected’ initiative represents the next step in providing students of all backgrounds equal access to high-quality education, regardless of socioeconomic circumstance.

According to a report released by education advocacy organization Kids First Chicago, an estimated 110,000 Chicago children under the age of 18 lack access to broadband. An estimated 3,000 of those students are served by Big Shoulders Fund.

Those students will now have access to this program, which will provide high-speed internet for households by directly paying for internet service for families that are most in need. The schools served by Big Shoulders Fund will use priority indicators including free and reduced lunch eligibility to identify qualifying students.

About Chicago Connected

Launched in June 2020 by Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot, along with Citadel Founder and CEO Ken Griffin and a variety of public, nonprofit and philanthropic leaders, Chicago Connected is a groundbreaking program that will provide free high-speed internet service to approximately 100,000 Chicago Public Schools (CPS) students. This first-of-its-kind program will be one of the largest and longest-term efforts by any city to provide free, high-speed internet over the course of four years to increase internet access for students. For more information, visit www.cps.edu/strategic-initiatives/chicago-connected.


Accessibility to food continues to be a challenge for families impacted by COVID-19. To help relieve this burden, Big Shoulders Fund will be distributing 10,000 meals to families in need in honor of Father’s Day, ensuring that families in these communities can share a hot meal together to celebrate the holiday. Meals will be provided by local restaurant and food service partners and distributed at thirteen locations in Northwest Indiana. Since the start of Big Shoulders Fund’s COVID-19 relief efforts, they have distributed more than 2,250 meals to families in need at Aquinas Catholic School in Northwest Indiana in collaboration with community restaurant partner Veteran’s Café.

Saturday’s meal distribution is made possible thanks to a generous donation from Bruce White, Founder and Chairman of Merrillville, Indiana-based White Lodging, and his wife Beth, who are both long-time supporters of Big Shoulders Fund. The Bruce and Beth White Family Foundation funded the expansion of Big Shoulders Fund’s programming to 20 schools in the Catholic Diocese of Gary in the fall of 2019.

WHEN:             Saturday, June 20, 2020 12 -2 pm


Holy Angels Cathedral School

640 Tyler St. (Gary)

  • Meal Distribution 12 – 2 pm
    • Restaurant/Food Service Partner: White Lodging School of Hospitality & Tourism Management at Purdue Northwest

Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Northwest Indiana

2700 W. 19th Ave. (Gary)

  • Meal Distribution 12 – 2 pm
  • Restaurant/Food Service Partner: White Lodging School of Hospitality & Tourism Management at Purdue Northwest

Community HealthNet + Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Northwest Indiana

6100 Broadway (Merrillville)

  • Meal Distribution 12 – 2 pm
  • Restaurant/Food Service Partner: Veteran’s Café and Grill (Merrillville, IN)

Additional Meal Distribution Sites serving 12 – 2 pm

  • St. John the Baptist School – 1844 Lincoln Avenue (Whiting)
  • Bishop Noll Institute – 1519 Hoffman St. (Hammond)
  • Purdue Northwest Campus – 2300 173rd (Hammond)
  • St. Casimir School – 4329 Cameron Ave. (Hammond)
  • St. John Bosco School – 1231 171st Pl. (Hammond)
  • Boys & Girls Club of NWI – 2009 138th St. (East Chicago)
  • Nativity of Our Savior School – 2929 Willowcreek Rd. (Portage)
  • Notre Dame School – 1000 Moore Rd. (Michigan City)
  • Queen of All Saints – 1715 E. Barker Ave. #5336 (Michigan City)

Big Shoulders Fund COVID-19 Emergency Fund

We are in uncharted territory. I have no insights to offer on the COVID-19 crisis, except that I know it is only by working together that we will make it through this. 

While the fear and impact associated with the crisis is everywhere, I am amazed as I watch the American spirit of helping our neighbors in need and a can-do attitude that has pulled us through many challenges shift into high gear. In turn, our team here at Big Shoulders Fund and the many supporters I have heard from have been undeterred and focused even more on our mission.

The number of calls and emails we have received at Big Shoulders Fund offering help with food, school materials, and emergency scholarships for those truly living on the margins is uplifting. Fear is not winning. Our core American value of helping those in need is alive and well.  It seems President Franklin Roosevelt’s call to action – the only thing we have to fear, is fear itself! – continues to move us today. 

And so, in response to what we are hearing from the communities we serve and from people who want to help, we have set up the COVID-19 Emergency Fund, with a goal of raising at least $3M. This Emergency Fund will enable us to do everything in our power to ensure our students continue to have food and opportunities to learn and thrive, and to help our schools operate in this new reality.  This Emergency Fund will assist with everything from food cards, launching and investing in e-learning programs, and scholarships for families losing their jobs.

Please help us #LeapIntoAction for the 75 schools and 20,000 students we serve by donating today to the Big Shoulders Fund COVID-19 Emergency Fund. You will not only fulfill a need of our school, students, and families, but most importantly, you will provide hope that we will get through this together!

My thoughts and prayers are with you and your loved ones and with our country as we pull together, even tighter, the many pieces of cloth that created the quilt of our great United States of America.  Thank you for your continued partnership and support for the 20,000 children we serve!

Written by: Big Shoulders Fund President and CEO Josh Hale


Investment Ensures 30 Big Shoulders Fund Schools Serving 5,600 Children Will Remain Open

Big Shoulders Fund is proud to announce a nearly $50 million ten-year philanthropic commitment to 30 of its highest need schools, enabling them to remain open and viable, and to continue enriching their local communities. For 33 years, Big Shoulders Fund has supported Chicago’s neighborhoods by providing financial, programmatic, and operational support to its network of schools and ensuring students of all backgrounds have access to these important community-based organizations.  

“We are honored to be able to provide this historic level of investment to help strengthen communities throughout the greater-Chicago area. Our own research has shown that alumni of our schools go on to vote, study, work, and volunteer at rates higher than their peers, becoming the citizens and neighbors that make our communities and Chicago a better place for all of us to live.  Additionally, research has shown that when our schools close, communities suffer,” said Founding Chairman and current Co-Chairman, James J. O’Connor.

As part of this ten-year commitment, Big Shoulders Fund will not only significantly increase its funding level to help operate the schools, but will also take on an expanded leadership role with principals in these schools to help them manage their schools toward specific goals in key operating areas of academics, enrollment, development, and finances. Big Shoulders Fund will invest additional resources to help leaders in these 30 schools to improve, measure progress, and achieve an ambitious vision for the children, schools, and communities they serve. As a result of this investment, and a more active involvement in helping principals manage their schools toward long term viability, Big Shoulders Fund will be able to make a more significant impact on schools and communities in need.

“In many ways, this is the natural next step for Big Shoulders Fund in our relationship with these schools and the way we work with them today and in the future. Over the last 15 years, we have strengthened our scholarship programs, while adding significant new capabilities to provide operational and academic assistance for schools – marketing, financial planning, professional development for educators, talent recruitment and development, etc. – and we look forward to working with our schools in this new and evolving capacity. We have grown from investing $12 million in 2011 to more than $26 million this past year, with 45 percent of that focused on our operational and academic support to schools,” said Josh Hale, President and CEO of Big Shoulders Fund.

Under the agreement, the 30 schools will remain part of the Archdiocese of Chicago and will continue to receive financial support from the Archdiocese.

Big Shoulders Fund will also continue to support its full network of schools and programs through significant annual investments, which exceeded $26 million during the 2018-19 school year, in addition to the organization’s expansion into Northwest Indiana, as announced in October 2019. The expansion into Northwest Indiana was made possible through a fully-funded restricted gift, independent from Big Shoulders Fund’s Chicago program funding. 

Big Shoulders Fund enjoys support from a committed philanthropic community that believes in the potential of these students and is eager to support these schools and their long legacy of serving as some of Chicago’s most effective doors to opportunity for communities in need. Preliminary investments pledged toward this initiative total $5 million, with a lead gift from John and Kathy Schreiber.

“Kathy and I are proud to make the initial investment in this extension of Big Shoulders Fund programming to take on a more operational role in their schools. This accomplishes one of the primary areas of our philanthropy – provide financially poor children who are rich in talent, passion and hard work a pathway toward a brighter future,” said Big Shoulders Fund Executive Committee Member John Schreiber. Big Shoulders Fund will be launching a campaign to raise additional funds.

Statements from Big Shoulders Fund Leadership

“This is in an investment in Chicago.  Our focus is and always has been the children and ensuring their access to a quality, values-based education in a safe and structured environment.  But this long-term and very significant investment will pay dividends for Chicago’s ability to keep families, who want what all parents want, rooted in Chicago.” 

– John A. Canning, Jr., Co-Chairman, Big Shoulders Fund

“Daniel Burnham encouraged Chicagoans to make no little plans.  Like the day Big Shoulders Fund was founded nearly 35 years ago, a new plan has been put in motion that will again ignite the passion and souls of Chicagoans to help deserving children of diverse racial, economic, and religious backgrounds. Big Shoulders Fund has and continues to be a force for good in Chicago.”

– Monsignor Ken Velo, Co-Chairman, Big Shoulders Fund

The schools included in this agreement, and the community area they serve, are: 
  1. Academy of St. Benedict the African (West Englewood)
  2. Augustus Tolton Academy (Park Manor)
  3. Children of Peace School (Near West Side)
  4. Epiphany Catholic School (South Lawndale)
  5. Holy Angels School (Grand Boulevard)
  6. Leo Catholic High School (Auburn Gresham)
  7. Maternity B.V.M. School (Humboldt Park)
  8. Most Blessed Trinity Academy (Waukegan)
  9. Our Lady of Grace School (Logan Square)
  10. Our Lady of Guadalupe School (South Chicago)
  11. Our Lady of Tepeyac Elementary School (South Lawndale)
  12. Our Lady of Tepeyac High School (South Lawndale)
  13. Pope John Paul II Catholic School (Brighton Park)
  14. Queen of the Universe School (West Lawn)
  15. St. Ailbe School (Calumet Heights)
  16. St. Angela School (Austin)
  17. St. Ann School (Lower West Side)
  18. St. Catherine of Siena/St. Lucy School (Austin / Oak Park)
  19. St. Ethelreda School (Auburn Gresham)
  20. St. Gall School (Gage Park)
  21. St. Genevieve School (Belmont Cragin)
  22. St. John de la Salle Catholic Academy (Roseland)
  23. St. Malachy School (Near West Side)
  24. St. Margaret of Scotland School (Washington Heights)
  25. St. Mary Star of The Sea School (West Lawn)
  26. St. Nicholas of Tolentine School (West Lawn)
  27. St. Philip Neri School (South Shore)
  28. St. Pius V School (Lower West Side)
  29. St. Sylvester School (Logan Square)
  30. Visitation Catholic School (Back of the Yards / Englewood)