Horton’s Kids was founded in 1989 by Karin Walser, then a Capitol Hill staffer. Late one night, Karin stopped at a gas station on New York Avenue, where several children who lived in a nearby homeless shelter offered to pump her gas for spare change. Instead of just handing them money, she offered to take them to the zoo the next weekend. In the ensuing years, Karin enlisted friends to join her in taking the children out on Sunday activities. Horton’s Kids followed the children when their families were moved from the homeless shelter to Wellington Park, a subsidized housing apartment complex in Anacostia. More than two decades later, Horton’s Kids continues to serve this community.
Horton’s Kids was entirely volunteer-run until 1999 and to this day, volunteers remain the organization’s driving force, making programs possible and serving as positive role models for children. Karin maintains a strong presence in the Horton’s Kids family and volunteers at tutoring with her three children.
Over the years, Horton’s Kids has leveraged its Capitol Hill roots to build strong partnerships with federal agencies that provide spaces for programs free of charge and help recruit volunteers. Horton’s Kids has held tutoring sessions in Rayburn House Office Building since 2001. In 2004, the United States Department of Education invited Horton’s Kids to add a third day of tutoring at the their headquarters. Ten years later, Horton’s Kids grew to partner with the Department of Transportation to provide an evening of tutoring specifically for older youth.
While programs and services have expanded, Horton’s Kids core belief remains the same: circumstance should not dictate a child’s future, and every child should graduate from high school ready to succeed in college, career, and life.