Elizabeth Smart helps pack Meydenbauer Center with 1,000 people
It was a morning of courage and hope at the 2012 Youth Eastside Services (YES) Invest in Youth Breakfast. Keynote speaker, Elizabeth Smart, helped draw a crowd of approximately 1,000 guests who together donated more than $520K to help kids and their families on the Eastside.
“We are overwhelmed by the amazing community support,” said YES Executive Director Patti Skelton-McGougan. “To have a place where all kids and their families can come for help is a key to a healthy community,” she added. YES specializes in treating youth suffering with issues like substance abuse, depression, physical or sexual abuse, suicidal thinking and more. No one is turned away for inability to pay, thanks to the support of donors at the breakfast.
The breakfast featured Elizabeth Smart as the keynote speaker. An abduction survivor, Smart shared her story of overcoming adversity. “My mother gave me the best advice I could have received,” said Smart as she shared how she moved beyond her horrific kidnapping. “She told me that while I could not get back my nine months of captivity, I could choose not to give my captor another day.” With the help and love of her family, she recovered from her ordeal. Today Smart is a ABC News correspondent and founder of a charity that helps prevent predatory crimes against children. She was married less than a month ago.
Also featured was a young man named Gabe, a YES client, who told a story of courage and triumph that mesmerized the audience. Gabe was taken from his alcoholic mother at 2 years old due to neglect. He stayed briefly with his grandparents who also lost custody due to neglect and issues with anger. His father abused him and then returned him back to state custody when Gabe was five. Fortunately, his aunt came to his rescue and Gabe found love and support. He later found YES to help with the anger and abandonment issues that resulted from his tumultuous childhood. Like Smart, Gabe overcame his adversity, has graduated from high school and is starting an internship.
A group of young women from a local high school shared their stories of living with alcoholic and drug addicted parents. “Some of us have been abandoned by our parents because their addiction was more important. Some of us have lived in cars, garages and storage units because of our parent’s drug use. Some of us have been told over and over that we are not good enough. Some of us have taken our younger siblings to work because our parents didn’t return home for days at a time.” These were just a few of the examples a group of gave of the troubles they face on a daily basis.
The girls credit an “affected others” group, which YES runs at their school, for helping them overcome the obstacles parents and family members placed in their way. Groups like these are offered free of charge to the participants, thanks to the support of donors. All seniors today, the 11 girls in this group are graduating and many are off to college, in part due to the support they received through YES.
All money raised at the breakfast benefits the YES Lifeline Fund, which supports uncompensated care as well as underfunded prevention programs. YES saw a jump of 24.3% in the cost of uncompensated care in 2011. In the past five years, the agency has provided $1.2 million in uncompensated care. “Kids are coming to us with more severe problems and require more intensive therapy than we have seen in the past,” explained Skelton-McGougan. Donations are still being accepted at YouthEastsideServices.org.
YES is a nonprofit organization and a leading provider of youth counseling and substance abuse services in the region. Since 1968, YES has been a lifeline for kids and families, offering treatment, education and prevention services to help youth become healthy, confident and self-reliant and families to become strong, supportive and loving. While YES accepts insurance, Medicaid, and offers a sliding fee scale, no one is turned away for inability to pay.
Photo courtesy of Baker Rawlings, Depth of Field Photography