Dream Up supports local child care providers

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Tinley, Ashlynn and Benjamin use a Circle Cycle Merry Go ‘Round purchased with funds awarded through the Dream Up Grant. (Steve Van Kooten/Courier Press)

Family, group day care programs supported through grant; additional money available through Round 2.

By Steve Van Kooten


In Mindi Gokey’s backyard, three children, Ashlynn, Tinley and Benjamin, run around a tree and each sit down on a bike seat. They start to peddle, which pushes the wheels beneath them forward on a track, going from zero to 100 in a few blinks. It’s the only speed four-year-olds seem to know.

The toy is called a Circle Cycle Merry Go ‘Round. Gokey bought it with money she received from the Dream Up grant, a program that provides assistance for new and existing childcare professionals and is administered by First Children’s Finance.

Gokey chose to buy the Circle Cycle because it is a safe way for the children to build up the strength, stamina and gross motor skills needed for peddling and steering.

“They need to learn how to peddle, so this will work. It’s in the backyard, and I just want them to learn how to ride a bike,” she said.

Last year, Gokey received information for the Dream Up Grant from the UW-Extension of Crawford County’s Human Development and Relationship Educator Amanda Griswold.

“I got an e-mail from Amanda; she sent it out to the daycares to tell us about it and sent out the forms to apply for it.” After completing an application in which Gokey had to outline her purchase, why she needed it and how it would benefit the children in her care, the program gave her the funds to purchase the cycle.

Providers were awarded up to $5,000 through the program.

Gokey has been in the childcare profession for more than 20 years, and she opened an in-home daycare in March of 2023. The Circle Cycle is one of several purchases supported through Dream Up. Other grant recipients included four other family daycare programs and five group programs, including the Prairie Catholic School.

Michelle Kapfhamer, a teacher and school administrator for Prairie Catholic, wrote, “The grant allowed us to get an updated computer and interactive whiteboard to enjoy interactive learning activities and brain breaks for our kids.”

Rhonda Stubbe, an in-home childcare provider, had cabinets built for her business.

“Having supplies easily accessible and organized makes for easy lesson planning, especially when you know right where things are,” wrote Stubbe. She added that the cabinets provide spaces to keep art supplies, canned goods and other necessities.

Crawford County received $75,000 from Dream Up, $30,195 of which was distributed among the ten providers. The rest went to a feasibility study ($31,150), administration ($7,500) and promoting child care in the area ($6,155). The county’s Child Care Task Force received an additional $5,000 to give to businesses that submitted business improvement plans.

For promotion, the Crawford County Child Care Task Force worked with FOX 47 to create a 30-second commercial, which, according to documentation provided by Griswold, reached more than 12,000 people. The Task Force also produced a seminar called “Pathways to the Childcare Profession” and two brochures, “What Questions Should I Ask When Interviewing Someone to Care for My Child” and “Steps to Safe Child Care,” to inform the public.

The Task Force announced Crawford County received a second round of grant money from the Dream Up Grant. The second round of grant allocations, totaling $10,714.28, will be available to providers through an application process. Eligible programs will either be new businesses or existing providers in Crawford County. Funds can be used to enhance childcare programs through employee bonuses, purchasing safety equipment and adding technology resources, such as computers, printers and tablets.

“We are immensely grateful for the opportunity to receive the Dream Up Grant 2,” said Griswold. “This funding will play a crucial role in our mission to provide children with safe, nurturing and enriching environments that support their growth and development.”

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