The Playing Field breaks barriers in early child care

The PGA TOUR Champions American Family Insurance Championship raised a record $2.4 million in 2023. The Steve Stricker American Family Insurance Foundation continues to make an impact in our communities, distributing more than $17.2 million via grants to 847 charitable organizations since 2016. As we lead up to the 2024 event, we highlight one of the organizations and the important work they do.

Graduating from Stoughton High School, Ericka Kind is familiar with nearby Madison, Wisconsin – a place she’s called home for 10 years. From a smaller community like Stoughton to a larger city like Madison, Ericka’s desire to work with kids has remained the same.

Today, she serves as a paraprofessional aide/substitute in the McFarland School District, all while pursuing a degree in counseling and raising her two kids, Osiris and Lunah.

As a single mom, getting here was not easy.

After having her daughter Lunah, Ericka fell on hard times. “I lost my vehicle. I didn’t have a home. I didn’t have anything,” she says. She and Lunah temporarily moved into a Madison family shelter.

Researching childcare options for Lunah during that time was a lengthy process filled with multiple interviews and site visits. Just down the street from the shelter, Ericka says one childcare center stood out from the rest: The Playing Field.

“As soon as I met them, they were all smiles,” she says. “They became our home.”

A Steve Stricker American Family Insurance Foundation grant – powered by American Family Insurance Championship proceeds – helps The Playing Field support families like Ericka’s through scholarships and other funding.

Since 2016, AmFam Champ has provided more than $17 million to nonprofits like The Playing Field, as well as the American Family Children’s Hospital. The event supports charities, educational initiatives and organizations aimed at building strong families and healthy kids, empowering them to pursue and achieve their dreams.

A child care crisis

In an era where the need for child-care providers is growing and funds for child-care providers are shrinking in Wisconsin, Abbi Kruse founded The Playing Field.

“There are 2,500 children in the Madison area who need childcare,” she says. Even during high demand, she vows to be different, reserving space for children impacted by poverty or housing insecurity.

For the last nine years, The Playing Field has addressed the challenges lower-income families face when seeking high-quality child care. They don’t turn anyone away based on ability to pay, partnering with Early Head Start to provide transportation and address the high suspension rates preschool-age students often face.

Nationwide, preschool expulsion rates are four times higher than K-12 rates, with 250 preschoolers being suspended or expelled each day. Wisconsin preschoolers are five times as likely to be suspended than students in grades K-12, further harming marginalized communities.

Abbi saw many preschools ill-equipped to manage different behaviors associated with early adversity. She founded The Playing Field in 2015 to address this – and so more children could access quality, early care and education.

Closing the gap

Since then, the nonprofit has expanded. With one permanent and two temporary sites open in Madison, The Playing Field recently “broke ground” on a new location on Madison’s Far East Side at the beginning of April. The American Family Insurance Dreams Foundation joined with other organizations to support this project. After renovations are complete on the former Menards building, those two temporary sites will relocate to the new permanent location. This will allow The Playing Field to provide high-quality, early care for 160 children living in the Madison area – like Lunah.

Ericka is so appreciative that – at one of the lowest points in her life – she was connected to the nonprofit by chance. When she and Lunah walk into The Playing Field today, they’re greeted by the same smiles as day one.

“It’s the best feeling,” she says. “It makes me and Lunah not feel so alone out here.”

This summer, Ericka looks forward to helping The Playing Field’s transportation efforts, sitting with kids on the bus to and from school.

Seeing how children and parents are embraced by and offered support through her organization makes is all worthwhile for Abbi. “I really hope we can become a model for equity in early childcare,” she says. It’s a model Ericka says has made life better for her and Lunah.

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Media contact:
Janet Masters
[email protected]


About the American Family Insurance Championship
The American Family Insurance Championship was created in 2016 by American Family Insurance, PGA TOUR Champions and PGA TOUR player and Wisconsin native Steve Stricker. Since its inception, the championship and associated events have raised more than $17 million for the American Family Children’s Hospital and other charities. The 2024 championship will be held June 1-9, with tournament play June 7-9, at the University Ridge Golf Course in Madison, Wisconsin. For more information: Web:; Twitter: @AmFamChampionship; Facebook: American Family Insurance Championship; Instagram: amfamchampionship; TikTok: @AmFamChampionship. #AmFamChamp