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Winston Armani, Deseret News
United Way of Salt Lake CEO Deborah Bayle speaks Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012, at the Marriott City Center in Salt Lake City as the nonprofit organization celebrates exceeding its fundraising goal of $12 million in 12 months for the Changing the Odds campaign.

SALT LAKE CITY — United Way of Salt Lake chose a unique date to celebrate reaching a major fundraising goal for a program to help Utah children.

On Wednesday — 12/12/12 — the nonprofit organization announced it has exceeded its goal to raise $12 million in 12 months for its Changing the Odds campaign. United Way of Salt Lake has raised $14.3 million since launching the program in January.

The Changing the Odds campaign is a collaboration of business leaders, government agencies and philanthropic groups with the goal to raise money for education-related programs and facilities in the state.

"We are working to change the odds so that kids, no matter what circumstances their born into, have the same chance to succeed in school and in life as any other kid," said Deborah Bayle, president and CEO of United Way of Salt Lake.

The organization has set up 22 neighborhood centers, located in schools or other convenient locations, where low-income families and their kids can meet with volunteers for after-school programs, tutoring and mentoring programs.

"I would encourage anybody to go to the community learning centers and see what's happening," said Allen Alexander, CEO of Savage, a Salt Lake City-based supply chain solutions company.

Alexander and his employees volunteer at the centers often, and he contributed $1 million to the Changing the Odds campaign.

"This isn't just a Band-Aid," he said. "This is a way to get long-term change and to focus on things that will make a difference."

Granite Park Junior High Principal Taran Chun and several Granite School District students thanked the donors today, saying the program is already working.

"We have been able to create opportunities and design programs that serve not just the students, but their families and entire communities," Chun said.

Since 1904, United Way of Salt Lake has collected donations and distributed the money to various organizations. But in 2001, it decided it wanted to expand its reach and become a community problem solver. The group says it wants to give all children the same opportunities at life.

"And what this will allow us to do is go from cradle to career," Bayle said. "And we want to give those kids and their families tools and the resources that they need so they can be self-reliant … and break the cycles that they're in."

Changing the Odds has a five-year plan to invest the money that has been raised. Most of the work currently takes place in elementary schools, but that will be expanded to middle, junior high and high schools in the future.

E-mail: kmccord@ksl.com