A Third Grader Hopes to Help the Homeless Through Kid Labs

DAILY HERALD by Karissa Neely | DECEMBER 24, 2017 | Link

It?s not every day a third-grader reaches out to a newspaper through a LinkedIn message, but that?s just how Chase Hansen, 8-year-old Kid Labs founder, rolls.

From his first, ?Hi there. Nice to meet you, I?m Chase,? LinkedIn message, it?s easy to see Chase is the impetus behind the vision of Kid Labs ? to empower kids to reach out to their community. Chase, a third-grader at Draper Elementary, partners with his father, John Hansen.

?I?m the talker, he?s the ?I do stuff,?? Chase said, joking about his dad.

John readily agrees.

?Chase would come up with the ideas, and my job is to make it happen. I put the pieces together to make it work,? John said.

They both are speaking of a project that started years ago during Chase?s toddler years. When Chase was 4, John thought it would be great to make a superhero lab. They started out in a garage, but their idea bloomed, so they renovated an industrial warehouse in Salt Lake City, and christened it Kid Labs in 2013.

In that location, kids and families came together to create, connect and contribute to their community. The space focused on science, technology, engineering and arts exploration. The walls were not one color, but many ? a fantastic splash of color and movement created by area graffiti artists.

John calls that location a ?living social experiment,? all with the focus on fulfilling kids? dreams of being true superheroes inspired by, but not necessarily exactly like the ones they see in the movies ? more geared towards empowering them to be effective heroes in society. The lab offered yoga, robotics, art and GoPro classes, in addition to holding family dance parties and kid-and-dad sleepovers.

Unfortunately, Kid Labs had to close less than a year after it opened. John Hansen said a volunteer ran off with the organization?s money, resulting in the loss of Kid Labs? location. This broke Chase?s heart.

Since then, John and Chase have been working in ?stealth mode? to resurrect the vision behind Kid Labs. A physical location will be part of that vision, but John Hansen also has more in the works, as well.

Through some of his own struggles in recent years, John Hansen wants to bring empathetic and empowering programs to homeless and at-risk youth. Chase shares that same hope. Honestly, he has probably seen and interacted with more at-risk and homeless children than most 8-year-olds.

?It?s just sitting down and hearing someone?s story, if you?re not homeless. But hearing their story as homeless,? Chase said.

Chase and his father are working on securing a Kid Labs location in Midvale and targeting these communities there. To do this, John Hansen has been partnering with local nonprofit organizations, and gaining mentorship from their leaders.

Janae Moss is the chair-elect for the United Way of Utah County Board of Directors and founder of the Parent Advocacy Council. She saw the original Kid Labs and its benefit to the community, how it brought together different people through play. Because of the powerful ?dad voice? Hansen was for the area, he has been a part of her council for a few years. Moss hopes Hansen?s vision of child-focused innovation education will succeed.

The Hansens are still looking for more partnerships, especially with local technology businesses to ?fund unique social experiments and Kid Lab projects,? Hansen said.

By reaching the kids where they are, Hansen hopes to help businesses tap into a future workforce, while raising these children from the poverty levels they were born into. He sees Kid Labs as a unique co-working space that allows local companies hands-on opportunities for philanthropy while teaching children how to be entrepreneurs, to code, and the importance of health and well-being.

It?s a big vision, and one he can?t accomplish without business partnerships.

Of course, Chase, keeps things rooted in reality.

?We?ll need a room for robotics and games, and a hero room. And a big room with room for an epic Nerf battle. I love Nerf wars,? he said.