Speakers share success stories at Friends of Youth fundraiser

Speakers share success stories at Friends of Youth fundraiser

During the Celebration of Youth luncheon fundraiser for Kirkland-based Friends of Youth (FOY) on March 15, a common theme running through the various speeches was the idea of being there for all young people.

From a formerly homeless young woman who has received help in dealing with issues that arose from a troubled childhood, to a second-grader working with an in-school FOY therapist to process the trauma he experienced when he was really young, speakers shared their personal success stories or high points of the young people in their lives who have benefited from FOY’s services.

Dr. Anthony Smith, superintendent of the Riverview School District in Carnation and Duvall, shared a bit about his upbringing. He discussed the difficulties he and his brothers faced as his stepfather committed suicide and his mother turned to alcohol. Despite these hard times, Smith also touched upon the positive influences in his life such as a band teacher who helped him aspire to excellence.

Smith said while the challenges he faced growing up pale in comparison to some of the challenges young people face today, he understands the importance of having caring adults in young people’s lives. He added that he has seen what that has looked like as FOY provides counseling services in his school district.

Joanna Martin, whose 7-year-old son Adam goes to school in the Issaquah School District, has also seen how FOY’s counseling services have helped firsthand. During her emotional speech, she shared how she used to receive daily reports from the school about Adam, who she adopted out of foster care, acting out and threatening other students. And now that he has been working with an FOY counselor at school, he has made progress in dealing with his issues, Martin said. She added that the fact that the services are at Adam’s school and would not interrupt their schedules and are provided at no charge really helped as she is a single mother with a full-time job working to provide for her son.

“It really was the answer to my prayers,” Martin said.

Other services provided by FOY — which serves 18 cities throughout east King and south Snohomish counties, including Redmond and other Eastside communities — range from foster care and street outreach and drop-in services for homeless youth, to mental health counseling, substance abuse treatment, parenting education and support and more.

While they cannot guarantee that young people will never be in crisis again, Jim Theofelis said they can make sure that there are resources available to support those young people.

Theofelis is the executive director of A Way Home Washington, an organization whose goal is to preventing and ending youth homelessness in Washington. He discussed the importance of having a statewide network of organizations and agencies to ensure young people all over Washington can feel safe.

Theofelis also discussed the concept of “yes to yes,” meaning when a young person says “yes” to asking for help, organizations and agencies should be able to say “yes” to providing that help.

Washington state’s First Lady Trudy Inslee also spoke at the event, which was held at the Hyatt Regency Bellevue. Inslee praised FOY for the organization’s work as it is a truly great cause in making sure every young person they serve feels safe and succeeds.

FOY president and CEO Terry Pottmeyer thanked Inslee for her work in helping homeless youth.

“The minute I met her, I knew she was the real deal,” Pottmeyer said about the first lady, comparing her to the “Fearless Girl” statue that is now facing down the famous Wall Street bull in New York.

Pottmeyer described Inslee as an outreach worker extraordinaire, presenting her with a green FOY jacket that is worn by the organization’s street outreach staff.

And while adults may be the ones providing the help, a couple of the speakers also noted that their time with the young people of FOY has also affected them.

Tylor Harris of the Seattle Seahawks shared a story about visiting FOY’s Griffin Home and meeting a boy who he spoke to for only 10-20 minutes. The defensive end said through their conversation, he learned that the boy liked to rap and the two exchanged a couple verses.

“That really touched me,” Harris said about the experience.

Renee Sajous, who has been a foster parent with FOY for 14 years, said the kids she has taken care of over the years have taught her a lot as well — from perseverance and resilience, to what “real” macaroni and cheese is (“Only macaroni and cheese from the box is real macaroni and cheese,” she has been told).

“I owe them all the debt of gratitude that I can never repay,” Sajous said. “By helping them, we help themselves.”


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@kirklandreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.kirklandreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in Life

2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat AWD
Car review: 2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat AWD

By Larry Lark, contributor If you want something truly special, get in… Continue reading

2021 GR Supra 2.0
Car review: 2021 GR Supra 2.0

By Larry Lark, contributor Cars seem to be built for stages of… Continue reading

T
Car review: 2021 Chevrolet Silverado 1500

By Larry Lark, contributor The 2021 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Crew Cab Custom… Continue reading

2021 Subaru Crosstrek Sport
Car review: 2021 Subaru Crosstrek Sport

By Larry Lark, contributor Subaru has made a few tweaks to improve… Continue reading

2021 Lexus NX 300h
Car review: 2021 Lexus NX 300h

By Larry Lark, contributor The 2021 Lexus NX 300h luxury sports utility… Continue reading

2021 Chevrolet Tahoe High Country
Car review: 2021 Chevy Tahoe 4WD High Country

By Larry Lark, contributor Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) for short, in the… Continue reading

Mazda’s 2021 CX-5 compact sports utility vehicle. Courtesy photo
Car review: Mazda’s 2021 CX-5 compact sports utility vehicle

By Larry Lark, contributor Mazda’s 2021 CX-5 compact sports utility vehicle continues… Continue reading

2021 Hyundai Elantra SEL
Car review: 2021 Hyundai Elantra SEL

By Larry Lark, contributor Compact sedans are not in vogue now, but… Continue reading

2020 Honda Insight. Courtesy photo
Car review: 2020 Honda Insight

By Larry Lark, contributor Honda’s Civic and Accord have been bestsellers for… Continue reading

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime XSE. Courtesy photo
Car review: 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime XSE

By Larry Lark, contributor With each passing year Toyota continues to refine… Continue reading

2021 Toyota Corolla XSE. Courtesy photo
Car review: 2021 Toyota Corolla XSE

By Larry Lark, contributor Toyota’s venerable Corolla received a bumper-to-bumper, wheels-to-roof transformation… Continue reading

2021 Volkswagen Atlas. Courtesy photo
Car review: 2021 Volkswagen Atlas

By Larry Lark, contributor Volkswagen’s full-size Atlas SUV received a bold refresh… Continue reading