Danny Mendoza started Together We Rise to create a sense of hope and community for young people living in the foster care system. What started with the desire to help one kid—his nine year old cousin—has grown into a national organization attracting aid from corporate sponsors and, more importantly, from former foster youth themselves.
“To hear the people that went through the system reach out to us was really the most powerful thing ever.”
Danny Mendoza is a voice for foster children across the nation. He’s raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for foster programs, events, and causes, partnered with the likes of Pepsi, Chase, and Toshiba, and he’s done all this before the age of 25.
When Danny was in college, he encountered a situation which pushed him towards his future work: he discovered that his 9-year old cousin Roger was living in a car. Danny eventually was able to improve Roger’s situation, but not without jumping through heaps of bureaucratic hoops and ﬁnding a discouraging lack of resources both for kids like Roger who needed help, and for individuals like Danny who wanted to lend a hand.
At 19, Danny sold his car to start Together We Rise, a not-for-proﬁt organization that seeks to improve the morale, access to resources, and quality of life for foster youth around the United States. The organization has identiﬁed the “aging out” process as their target for intervention, helping kids released from the system at the age of 18, often without a place to live. Together We Rise raises money and hosts events that help return a sense of normalcy to the lives of children in the foster system and gives them conﬁdence in a hopeful future. Many of their volunteers have been in the system themselves. “We started to get random emails from foster kids around the country telling us that they wanted to help, or they were really inspired about what we were doing,” Danny recalls. “To hear the people that went through the system reach out to us was really the most powerful thing ever.”
Danny and his almost entirely college-age team are forging ahead with dedication. With a growing pack of volunteers, Together We Rise has sponsored Sports Days for local foster communities, delivered and built bikes with foster youth across the nation, and granted wishes to kids struggling to grasp a sense of security and hope. The organization has been awarded grants by CHASE, State Farm, Pepsi, Toshiba, and most recently was named a Do Something Award Finalist. “There have been plenty of times when I have almost given up,” says Danny. “Most of my friends have purchased houses, cars, and unfortunately, I am not at that level yet because of the costs of starting up a new organization. However, I always remember why I started the organization and it keeps me going.”