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YES Invest in Youth Breakfast raises more than $610K; Carlile inspires 1,200 guests to raise record funds
It was an event marked by powerful stories, courageous youth and remarkable support. Youth clients, along with keynote speaker Brandi Carlile, drew a capacity crowd of 1,200 at the Hyatt Regency Bellevue on March 12. Together, this record-breaking crowd raised more money for Youth Eastside Services (YES) than ever before at its Invest in Youth Breakfast.
Former YES client and small business owner Alisa Clark took the stage to ask guests to join her in donating to YES.
“I have gone from client to advocate to speaker…Now I am giving financially to help ensure that the roots of this agency continue to run deep in our community and in the lives it serves and saves.” Her ask, along with the powerful stories shared by current clients motivated guests to donate more than $610,000 — with additional online donations continuing to come in.
“We are profoundly moved by the commitment of our community to support youth and families,” said YES Executive Director Patti Skelton-McGougan. “This level of support is unprecedented, but so is the growing number of families who need our services,” she added.
YES is a lifeline for kids and families coping with challenges such as emotional distress, substance abuse and violence.
Keynote speaker Brandi Carlile applauded the work of YES and discussed her experiences of growing up in Washington State and following her dream to become a musician. She emphasized the importance of supporting youth on a daily basis, and the crucial role of organizations like YES for those youth who may not have a safe space or adult in their life.
"What is your kid like? Not your actual child, if you’re lucky enough to have one, but the kid that is who you really are?” Carlile asked. “I’m constantly reminded of those formative years and how they shape us as adults,” she added.
The audience also heard from 10-year-old Ivon, a fifth-grader who sought counseling at YES after enduring bullying by a neighbor for nearly a year. With the help of her mentor, Melissa, Ivon shared how the support she found at YES helped her overcome the hurt and sadness she experienced. Three years after initially coming to YES, Ivon is now an ambassador at her school and shares her story with younger students to help them become more compassionate and end the cycle of bullying. Ivon’s mother also spoke and expressed the relief her family experienced when they realized free services were available through YES.
Emcee and local TV personality Meeghan Black facilitated a discussion with adolescent clients who have experienced suicidal thoughts, along with substance abuse and self-harm.
A young woman, Alexis, shared how her extreme anxiety and depression led to an emotional breakdown which required hospitalization. Through YES she received treatment, completed high school and has received a full scholarship to the University of Washington to study nursing.
Another client, Peter, received treatment at YES to overcome his issues with substance abuse. Peter now speaks to hundreds of young people every year about the perils of substance abuse, and where they can go for help. Every client noted that adults can make a difference by listening to young people and giving them their full attention — even when it seems those youth may not want it.
The increase in funds raised is matched by a rise in the need for the services YES provides.
“In all the years I’ve been doing this work I’ve never seen such an increase in suicide and self-harm among our young people,” Skelton-McGougon said. During 2013, YES provided services to more than 4,600 clients. Nearly 33,000 participants were reached through education and prevention programs.