Meet Ian Steele: Visionary Founder of KickStart for Kids

In a world where every child deserves an equal opportunity to thrive, Ian Steele, the visionary Founder of Kickstart for Kids (KSFK), embarked on a mission to address the harrowing reality faced by underprivileged primary school students.

Against a backdrop of personal experience and a keen sense of social responsibility, Ian delved into the dire circumstances that hindered these children’s cognitive development and behavioral well-being. One glaring issue stood out: attending school on an empty stomach. In this interview, we have the privilege of conversing with Ian, who shares the driving force behind KSFK and the profound impact it has had on the lives of underprivileged children in Adelaide.

What inspired you to start Kickstart for Kids and make a difference in the lives of children in Adelaide?

I was mentoring children in schools who were experiencing hardship and as a dad to three of my own young kids, I started noticing how these primary schoolers had impaired learning and poor behaviours. I wanted to know why so I did my own research and had discussions with local schools to learn that much of their cognitive delays were because they were going to school each day without a single bit of food in their lunchbox. I could never imagine sending my own children to school without a full lunchbox and I couldn’t begin to imagine how I myself would be able to concentrate without eating for the first part of the day. That’s what inspired KickStart. I reached out to local shops in the community and they were happy to donate food that I delivered to the school I was working at.

What is your vision for the future of KSK and the children it supports?

The KickStart vision is to be the conduit for South Australian businesses, communities, individuals and the government to provide the basic needs of food, mentors, clothing and access to healthcare in order for our kids to reach their full potential. Education is the key to power and opportunity and for children that go to school hungry, they are not being empowered to fully engage with their curriculum. We run regular school breakfast and lunch programs to prevent young students who are living in hardship and being educated on an empty stomach from impacting their adulthood.

How has the charity grown and evolved since its inception?

I was a tradie when I started KickStart so I tried to fit as many breakfast items as I could onto the back of my ute. We have expanded our services with our Future Pathways mentoring program to empower disadvantaged kids and our school holiday camps for the children that should look forward to their school breaks but don’t because they are living in hardship. In 2021, we started our KickStart For Kids Against Period Poverty initiative to help young girls have access to menstrual products and prevent them from missing school due to this lack of access. Today we deliver an incredible 60,000 breakfasts a week to 360 schools in South Australia and over 300 kids attend our school holiday programs. 

What impact have you seen KSK have on the children it serves? 

KickStart are able to help kids to concentrate better at school, create meaningful relationships and be happy. By going to school, lateness subsides. This helps kids to feel better about themselves and this all leads to them staying in school, keeping up their school attendance and engaging with the curriculum. This is all so important to end the poverty cycle.

What qualities and skills do you believe are essential for making a meaningful impact in the lives of others?

Give your time. The easiest thing you can give is money, the hardest thing is time. It is about being sympathetic and empathetic to the children’s needs. You need to have respect for others and want to create change to have a meaningful impact.

How has Adelaide embraced KSFK and its mission?

Adelaide and South Australia have embraced the KickStart mission unbelievably well. We are SA based and we don’t go national, so we are only concerned about what goes on in our own backyard. We are lucky to be embraced by great organisations like Thomas Foods International and National Pharmacies and all our incredible sponsors. These are good businesses that have supported us since we started. The SA public have also really embraced us and listened to what we are working towards and raising awareness for underprivileged kids. We are, at the end of the day, a community-based charity so it only makes sense that we get other people in the community to help. We often say, it takes a village to bring up a child and the South Australian community is our village.

What do you personally love most about Adelaide and the community it fosters?

I just love the community of Adelaide because there is no better way of putting it other than it is one big local community. As Adelaideans, we are always going out to those who are less fortunate in the community.

How has your perspective on life and purpose evolved since passing the milestone of 50 years old? 

At 50 I suppose things become clearer. You realise that the world is not really there. It is up to us, the ones who are over 50 who are experienced and more mature, to go out and help people. It is up to us to make the world a better place.

Can you share some of the most fulfilling experiences or achievements you’ve had in your life after turning 50? 

I’ve watched three of my children finish school and all of them pass year 12. We have one more son in year 10 to go! It’s been incredible to watch KickStart evolve while staying a sustainable not-for-profit charity organisation. It is rewarding to see so many KickStart kids who we first helped all those years ago finish school and become valuable members of the community, all through KickStart helping them early in life. I’m proud of the meaningful programs that KickStart has worked towards like Period Poverty and our school holiday programs.

Are there any new goals or aspirations you’ve set for yourself personally in this phase of your life?

In this phase of life I am really wanting to evolve more by opening more KickStart programs. For example, we are working towards setting up a basketball court and a tennis court for the school holiday programs. I am mainly aspiring to continue the growth of KickStart.  

How has your outlook on aging and the concept of “getting older” shifted over the years and how do you embrace this new phase of life with positivity and enthusiasm?

To be honest, I don’t view 50 as a new phase because I don’t feel older since reaching this milestone. I’ve maybe gotten a little wiser, I feel I can give out more wisdom. All in all, I am the same guy that gets up at 4.30am to start my day. That is exactly what I was doing at 40 years old.

What message would you like to share with those who may be interested in supporting or volunteering with KSK?

Reach out, it’s as simple as that. Reach out to volunteer. It does not matter what organisation, it is tremendously fulfilling to volunteer because it releases endorphins that make you feel good. So while you are making yourself feel good you are also supporting beautiful kids in the community that rely on KickStart.



kickstartforkids.com.au

@kickstartforkids

  • Staff Writer

    Made up of a small, tight knit team of writers and contributors who are passionate about all things FIFTY+ and the New Age. We love Adelaide and wider South Australia and sharing with you all of the l...

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