When it comes to helping kids succeed, no one knows the ropes like Camila Alves. She’s a supermom to three kids and, as an ambassador of the just keep livin Foundation (jkl), a friend and mentor to hundreds more across the country.
Camila and her husband, actor Matthew McConaughey, founded the nonprofit as a means of empowering high school students through after-school fitness and wellness programs. Last year, jkl teamed up with Target as one of our first wellness partners, to bring kids more opportunities to increase their physical activity and eat healthy every day. Together, we’re working to expand jkl’s programming to more than 300 high school students from inner-city schools in Dallas, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., by the end of this school year.
We caught up with Camila at the Mack, Jack & McConaughey (MJ&M) annual fundraiser for youth charities (including jkl) in Austin, Texas, to hear more about her org’s work.
What inspired you and Matthew to create the just keep livin Foundation?
Back when Matthew was filming ‘Dazed and Confused,’ his father, ‘Pop,’ passed away. Matthew was really struggling, and those three words—‘just keep livin’—became a mantra that helped him get through the bad times and make the best of life.
Later, Matthew and I saw an opportunity to use that mantra to give back and make a difference. We realized we wanted to do something for high school kids, because that’s the time in life when it’s easy to make a wrong turn. The spirit of ‘just keep livin’ is about staying on the right path, so we built the foundation to give teens the tools they need to make healthy decisions.
What kinds of things does the foundation do to help students?
We set up our fitness and wellness programs in Title 1 public schools with the greatest needs, where students might not otherwise have those opportunities. Our programs encourage students to make positive life choices to improve their physical and mental health through exercise, teamwork, gratitude, nutrition and community service. It’s a safe place with wonderful teachers and coaches where our kids can learn real life skills and improve their overall mind, body and spirit.
How has the Target partnership helped jkl reach more students in need?
Having Target as a partner has allowed us to start six new jkl programs in three cities—Dallas, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.,—and reach more than 300 new students. We’ve already seen some incredible results; more than 96 percent of our students have improved their grades, attendance and behavior, and all of our participating seniors graduated high school last year! Best of all, 100 percent of participants reported building their self-confidence and self-esteem in our program.
What’s your favorite memory of working with the kids in the program?
At the after-school program, we do what we call ‘gratitude circle’—one of our own family traditions—where the kids come together and share one thing they’re thankful for at the end of each day. It’s been wonderful to hear their stories. Some are grateful for having enough food for their families, or that their dad came home last night. Others appreciate having opportunities to improve their health or get a college education. We’ve even had kids thank jkl for giving them the tools to lead a healthy life and not do drugs. I love watching the kids bond at gratitude circle and get to know each other better.
What do you hope jkl and Target can accomplish together in the future?
I’m excited to continue to work together to support the program, reaching more of these incredible kids and helping them grow both their confidence and their life skills.
JKL was one of several youth charities that benefitted from this year’s MJ&M event, along with CureDuchenne, Dell Children’s Medical Center, HeartGift, and The Rise School of Austin. The two days of festivities—including a fashion show, golf tournament and gala concert—are hosted by MJ&M’s founders: McConaughey, musician Jack Ingram and ESPN analyst Mack Brown. Target provided GiftCards to the just keep livin kids who participated in the fashion show so they could get some new Target duds to sport at the event.
Target has been a proud sponsor of the event the last three years and also hosted a special cocktail reception where our beloved mascot Bullseye made an appearance. Even Target’s new entertaining guru and blogger, Camille Styles, was on hand to celebrate!
See more from behind the scenes:
Learn more about Target’s work with our wellness partners.
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