CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — Being kindergarten ready has become a struggle families often face in our area, 40% of kids to be exact. But that percentage is expected to decline with organizations like the United Way of Champaign County championing for our community members. Now, they’re recruiting a big name to assist.

On the Morning Show on Wednesday, we had the joy and privilege of speaking with DJ Pryor, a comedian based in Tennessee. Pryor recently discovered his fame in 2019, when he and his son Kingston held a long but precious conversation on the couch. Kingston’s reactions to Pryor talking to him captivated the nation.

Now, he’s bringing his comedic, artistic and positive talents to Champaign this June, thanks to United Way. The local organization is hosting “Step Up! for the Future, a PhilanthroParty event at the City Center. In all, the purpose of this is to educate and outreach to the community by offering resources to ensure all kids in our schools are prepared by kindergarten. That means having socio-emotional, language, and math skills.

That’s why the non-profit has invited Pryor to be their event guest but he’s also been tasked to entertain attendees by showcasing his gifts. But also to connect with others, especially since he’s a spokesperson for mental health and overcoming childhood trauma. Something he overcame as a kid but also tries to ensure his own three children never face.

“Comedy, what I do now, was my outlet as a child. Some people would look at me like oh, he’s misbehaving. I had a teacher who saw through that. She saw this was my way of expressing myself to kind of cope with the things that happened to me as a child. Sometimes you don’t know what’s going on behind closed doors. So I always promised myself when I got in a position to have a platform to shine light on issues that were much deeper than a bad child, that I would.”

United Way of Champaign County is using this PhilanthroParty to spread more awareness about their Early Grade Level Success Initiative. It aims to tackle the lack of access that leads to area kids missing out on future opportunities from missing kindergarten. Something Pryor is proud to stand behind and bring more light to.

To support and get event tickets, you can click here or email Paula@UnitedWayChampaign.org

For more on the event, United Way and another clip of DJ and Kingston, click here.