Kirkland based Youth Eastside Services raises $610,000 at annual breakfast fundraiser

Musician Brandi Carlile was the keynote speaker at the annual YES luncheon earlier this month. - Contributed photo
Musician Brandi Carlile was the keynote speaker at the annual YES luncheon earlier this month.
— image credit: Contributed photo

Youth Eastside Services set a fundraising record March 12, raising more than $610,000 at it's annual Invest in Youth breakfast. Donations continue to come in online, according to a press release from the organization.

The breakfast was held at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Bellevue. Singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile delivered the keynote speech.

YES’s resources were more needed than ever in the face of rising incidences of homelessness and abuse of drugs such as alcohol, methamphetamine and heroin, Director Patti Skelton-McGougan said in her opening statements. More adults between the ages of 18 and 21 were seeking treatment for substance abuse, she said.

But the emphasis of the morning was on supporting targets of abuse and bullying, and recognizing signs of suicidal tendencies before it’s too late.

Ivon, a grade school YES client invited to speak alongside her mentor, Melissa, was viciously bullied in the third grade. At YES, she was taught skills for coping with the emotional fallout of the abuse, and skills to stand up for herself in the future.

“I could actually have somebody who understood me,” Ivon said.

Today, she’s able to be a source of support for clients going through a similar situation.

“Her counseling was the best thing that could happen to us,” Ivon’s mother, Julia, said, speaking through a translator. “She got stronger, she got better and more emotionally resilient. We’re all very happy because Ivon has become stronger and has overcome this event and is moving forward with her life.”

Suicide and suicidal thoughts also have become increasingly serious concerns for YES, Skelton-McGougan said.

“I have to say in all the years I’ve done this work, I have never seen such an increase in self harm and suicide amongst our young people,” she said. “It’s heartbreaking and Eastside kids are taking their lives at an alarming rate.”

In the past year, YES has incorporated dialectical behavior therapy, a form of psychotherapy developed for the treatment of bipolar disorder and chronic suicidal thoughts by professor Marsha M. Linehan of the University of Washington. The method combines cognitive behavioral therapy with Buddhist concepts of acceptance and mindfulness.

Clients Alexis and Peter, who spoke to the audience, both successfully underwent dialectical behavior therapy for self harming behaviors.

Alexis was 11 when her home life began suffering after her parents’ divorce. After a period of depression and bullying, she went to Seattle Children’s Hospital, where she was introduced to dialectical behavior therapy.

Peter was already dealing with depression when he came out as gay at the age of 15. A friend referred him to BGLAD, a drop-in support group for queer youth.

In her closing keynote speech, Carlile urged the audience to be mindful of “the kid right there, below the surface of your skin.”

“The kid sees injustice long before we do, but we’ve learned to keep them pretty quiet,” Carlile said. “... You don’t need to have had a rough childhood to join the club and I’ll tell you why. Life changing and defining moments are the all day, every day reality of adolescent life.”

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