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'Summer of Dreams' provides food, activities for needy children

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CENTRAL FLORIDA - Central Florida students will soon be on summer break, but for 9,000 homeless students that time off means they won't get a meal at school.

9 Family Connection reports on what's being done to make sure kids don't go hungry.

Ashley Castillo will be 14 in two weeks.

She's already become a voice for thousands of kids in central Florida who are homeless, hungry and feel alone.

"(During) the week I would go to school and have food, but on the weekend I couldn't find anything to really keep me full," Castillo said. "I felt kind of embarrassed."

Friday, she told a room of strangers about her deaf parents' health, about not eating in order to share food with her siblings and how the "Summer of Dreams" program through Fifth-Third Bank saved her.

"Every day, I had a safe place to go," Castillo said.

This is the third year up to 1,500 homeless children like Castillo in Orange, Seminole, and Osceola counties will get two meals a day and activities Monday through Friday for free over the summer.

Second Harvest steps up on the weekend by taking food from shelves and putting it into bags, enough to get the kids through two days.

The "Summer of Dreams" camp partners with programs like "Orlando After School All-Stars" and Boys and Girls Club of Central Florida to find kids like Castillo.

"That's our goal, really, is to take care of the most at-risk kids when they're most in need," said Tyler Chandler, executive director of After School All-Stars.

It costs $186 to sponsor all the meals for one child.

Castillo said the donations aren't just feeding her, they make her want to give others hope too.

"I want to be a child therapist and help mentor kids," Castillo said.

Find out about sponsoring a child for the summer at wftv.com/weblinks.