When Brandon Halleck says he’s devoted half his life to Chances And Services for Youth, he’s not exaggerating.
“I have now worked here for 18 years,” he says. “I tell people that and they kind of look at me like, how old are you? But I started here when I was 18.”
During those 18 years Halleck has climbed the ranks of the organization, proposed and oversaw an agency merger, and created a fundraising event unlike any other.
Truly passionate about providing services to help children of the Wabash Valley, Halleck began his career while still a student at Indiana State University. With a background in volunteering as a high school student in Greencastle, he was referred to a position at Chances And Services for Youth (CASY) and hired full time right after graduation to continue the agency’s Teen Court program. Originally planning to become a history teacher, Halleck found himself in an unusual position just a few years later.
“My former boss, Kathy Hoffman, who was one of the first founding members of the organization, retired, and at 25, I took over as executive director,” he explains. “It was a young age, but the board members took a chance on me, and at this point in time, I still don’t know how I got the job at 25.”
Halleck makes jokes, but his colleagues say his success and dedication to the job are no joke. Karen Harding, chief executive officer of Chances And Services for Youth, explains it was Halleck who approached her about merging the then-Community Alliance and Services for Youth and CHANCES for Indiana Youth in April 2013. By combining resources, the two agencies were able to have an expanded outreach to youth in the Wabash Valley.
“Sometimes with young leaders, we look at them and think that is a crazy idea,” she says. “But it’s those crazy ideas that are making our world move forward.”
A merger wasn’t the only crazy idea Halleck has had over the years. In 2007, he suggested a fundraiser similar to the popular TV show, “Dancing With The Stars.”
“My goal was to have a fun fundraiser,” he says. “This fundraiser … in my wildest dreams did I ever think it was going to be this popular. My original goal, I said let’s raise $20,000. What if we raise that and have 200 people there. We ended up having 400 people and raised $33,000.”
The popular fundraiser has exceeded expectations every year since. In 2015, Dancing with the Terre Haute Stars raised $185,000 for the organization, and over the last nine years, the event has brought in over $1 million.
“It comes back to the fact that I just embrace this community so much,” Halleck says. “I couldn’t be prouder to be part of a community that gives back. When I work on the grants, our statistics are pathetic; the number of children living in poverty, free and reduced lunch, incomes thousands of dollars below the state average. If you see all those statistics, you would think our community couldn’t do it, and yet we have very generous people that continue to give. Not just their money but their time and talents.”
Halleck is one of those people who not only gives his time to the organization, but also his talent. A trained ballroom dancer since he was young, Halleck and his wife, Mallory, own and operate The Dance Studio in Terre Haute. Truly combining his two passions, Halleck and Mallory choreograph the performances for DWTS and dance along with the volunteers. For Halleck, doing double-duty at CASY and The Dance Studio means double the work, too.
“The amount of time, personal time, he puts in over and above his work here and over and above his work as a professional dancer to make that event a success, nobody understands I think other than the people that he works with here and his wife how many hours he actually devotes,” CEO Harding says. “I would not be surprised if it was 22 or 23 hours a day.”
He may be busy working to better the lives of the children in this community, but Halleck always has time for his number one, son Dylan. The 11-year-old shares his dad’s passion for dance, but also excels in athletics on the baseball field.
Dylan has grown up, literally watching his dad, whether it’s at The Dance Studio or spending time at CASY over the years. Halleck says he may be a father to just one child, but he advocates and works countless hours for every single child who walks through his door.
“It’s those kids that you can’t believe the lives that they live, especially having your own children,” Halleck explains. “This kid may not realize for years down the road that the positive way they were treated made a difference, but by encouraging that child, you are making such a huge difference. You might be that one person that is going to change that child’s life, and I think that, in itself, is what this is about, making that life-changing event for a child.”