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'It just breaks my heart': Two Colorado women set out to help Ukrainian orphans

Olga Funk with orphans in Ukraine
Posted at 7:28 PM, Jul 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-21 22:46:58-04

LITTLETON, Colo. — Given how close Yulia Boozer and Olga Funk are, and how much time they now spend together, it may be surprising to learn they were strangers to each other as of just six months ago.

“When the war started, we both started volunteering with one of the organizations in Denver, and that’s how we met,” said Boozer.

Both Boozer and Funk are Ukrainian born, and now live in Colorado. They’ve watched in horror as their home country has been attacked by Russian forces, and there's been a special group of fellow Ukrainians who have tugged at their hearts the entire time.

“We wanted to help the children who have lost their parents, because it started happening a lot more in Ukraine with the war,” Boozer said. “And there were no organizations here that we could find that would focus on the orphans.”

That’s how Nova Spark was born, a foundation Boozer and Funk started to help Ukrainian orphans. Even before Russia’s attack, there were an estimated 100,000 orphaned children in Ukraine, and the European Union has identified them as being particularly at risk amid the war.

Funk and Boozer have employed their many talents to raise dollar after dollar for this cause — hosting fitness boot camps, painting classes, wine walks and more, already. They say they’ve been able to help more than 100 children so far, with everything from new clothing and toys to home repairs.

All that hard work hit home for Funk when she traveled to Ukraine last month and met with a foster family in desperate need of help.

Apparent missile-fire damage to a bathroom in Ukrainian foster home
Apparent missile-fire damage to a bathroom in Ukrainian foster home

“The family has 12 [foster] kids,” Funk said. “They started showing me around their house, and unfortunately, the first thing that I noticed — like immediately — was the fact that the walls have bullet holes, and holes from missiles… it just breaks my heart to see these kids, who don’t know what their future is going to look like. That’s the most devastating part for me.”

Damage from gunfire in bedroom in Ukrainian foster home
Damage from apparent gunfire in bedroom in Ukrainian foster home

Through funds raised through Nova Spark, Funk was able to help repair the roof of the home, allowing the family to stay sheltered where they are.

Nova Spark is now working to raise more money to repair the home’s heating system, and to get new clothes for the children before winter hits. Key to this goal is a benefit concert planned in Denver for Saturday, July 23 at 7:00 p.m. For admission of $45, attendees will hear local R&B band The Tracers perform, alongside a silent auction of Ukrainian art.

Admission and auction proceeds will go towards Nova Spark’s mission: to now address the immediate needs of survival for Ukrainian orphans, and to help them far after the war is over — a war that both Funk and Boozer believe Ukraine will win.

“Our goal is to be there beyond the war, and help the children recover, and have the future that some of them might not think is possible,” Boozer said.