sparks! began in 2015, when Great Rivers United Way applied for and received “Race to the Top” funding from the Wisconsin Department of Children & Families. DCF’s goal was to unite public and private sectors around the importance of early childhood in La Crosse County.
Great Rivers United Way assembled a team of early childhood experts, its funded partners, and other organizations with a known investment in early childhood. Representatives from these groups began meeting regularly; established a mission, vision, and goals; and with help from Vendi Advertising, branded themselves and their work as “sparks!”
In 2017, sparks! received the Franke Foundation Coulee Collaboration Grant, which has helped carry out the collaborative’s mission in several ways, including getting thousands of books in the hands of La Crosse County’s youngest residents.
The mission is to improve the quality of life for children by supporting policies and programs that recognize all children need safety, good health, connected families, and positive early experiences to be most successful in school or in life.