Chambana Mom to Know: Sam King

Sam King is a California girl who has grown substantial Midwestern roots after spending the past 11 years in Michigan and Illinois. By day she works as the Self-Help Center Coordinator for Family Service of Champaign County providing education, training, and outreach to the more than 220 support groups in Champaign-Urbana. In her not-so-spare time, this mom of two boys is also the President of the Junior League of Champaign-Urbana, which will put on the 17th annual Festival of Trees event this weekend. She writes: “My most memorable quality is my blatant and profound coffee addiction which is a direct result of too many interesting things to do and not enough sleep with which to do them.” Sam and her husband of nearly 15 years (whose name is also Sam) live in Urbana with their two boys Eli (almost 7) and Nate (5) and their boxer-dog Super Dog Bob the Builder, otherwise known as Bob.

 See why Sam King is a Chambana Mom to Know. 

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Sam King and her sons (photo provided)

Q: Festival of Trees is coming up. Why should families attend this holiday tradition this year?

This is the 17th annual Festival of Trees and this year we have refocused the event and made it all about families! Friday night we have the sold-out Daddy Daughter Dance with a Fairy Garden Party theme! Santa and Mrs. Claus will be on hand on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. There will be performances from community groups throughout the weekend and a holiday gift gallery from area vendors. On Sunday we will offer Family Portraits by Melissa Waller Photography from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. We have a fantastic selection of trees, wreaths, and raffle items including themes such as: Angry Birds, Skylander, Disney Tangled, Disney Princesses, Illini Tree, Dr. Seuss, American Girl Doll, and a Cadillac Escalade ride-on toy! The public hours for Festival of Trees are Friday 1 to 6 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday 10 am to 3 p.m.!

Q: Junior League will soon turn 80, and I heard that you are planning a celebration . What is significant about this milestone and how will you celebrate?

JLCU has been making an impact in this community for 80 years! During the past 80 years JLCU has helped shape Champaign-Urbana through the development of many long running social service agencies and programs including: The Food for Families program with the Eastern Illinois Food bank, the Krannert Center’s Docents Program, Crisis Nursery, Community Day Care, and the Champaign County Rehabilitation Center which became the Developmental Services Center. We are thrilled to celebrate our 80 years of service to C-U with an 80th Anniversary Gala on February 16, 2013! Tickets will go on sale on November 30.

Q: Junior League does a lot of wonderful things in the community, especially for education and children. What are you most proud of and why?

Junior League is a volunteer organization comprised of women from all different backgrounds and circumstances. Yet, these women are drawn together because they are committed to improving the lives of children and families in C-U. I am enormously proud of the organizational changes we have accomplished in the past five years with the goal of creating greater long-term impact in our community. We have created an organizational structure that allows us to focus all of the work we do on a single impact area: Meeting basic needs so that all students are ready to learn when the get to school. Our projects, advocacy efforts, and community outreach have all been strengthened by these developments and we move forward into our 80th year with a focus on expanding our impact into a new project, creating new community collaborations, and continuing to serve the needs of the most vulnerable in Champaign-Urbana.

Q: You are a transplant to Champaign. What has motivated you to embrace this community as your own, through your professional work and volunteer work?

Ha! This path all started about five years ago after we had lived in Urbana for about a year! I was a stay-at-home mom with a 20-month-old and a 4-month-old and out of desperation I jumped at the chance to join JLCU and get out of the house one night a month for meetings and volunteer in the community! Junior League gave me the opportunity to really learn about this community and the amazing work being done to support those in need. It also provided me with an astounding amount of social service training and experience. In 2011, after working in the area of early childhood educational research for two years I realized that I wanted to make a jump and pursue community outreach and education as a career. The work I do for Family Service of Champaign County and with JLCU have made me feel entirely invested in this community, and made this community my home.

Q: We just celebrated Thanksgiving – what are you thankful for this year?

After a pretty challenging/intense year I am hyper-aware of the fact that my family is my center and I am so very thankful for my family. I am thankful for every minute spent with my boys (all three of them)! I am also seriously thankful for the coffee that allows me to keep up those boys!

Q: What is your biggest parenting challenge right now – and how are you addressing it?

Without a doubt my biggest parenting challenge is finding balance with my boys. My youngest son has been battling chronic health issues for the past 15 months that have involved lots of missed school, doctors appointments, and time away from big brother. It is a constant balancing act to spend meaningful time with both boys in ways that let them know they are both so loved. This means lots of fun built into the doctors appointments for little brother and lots of all-day mom and son dates with big brother. It also means deliberately setting aside family time regardless of what is going on. Dinners, bed-times, and weekends have become sacred around here.

Sam King was nominated to be a Chambana Mom to Know. Send us your nominations today – email editor(at)

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