Youth & Family Services YMCA Annual Reaching for the Stars

By Joanne A Calitri   |   May 14, 2024
Reaching for the Stars event committee (photo Joanne A Calitri)

The Youth and Family Services YMCA’s Reaching for the Stars Annual Fundraiser was held on Thursday, May 2, at the Santa Barbara Women’s Club. 

The sold-out event commenced on the patio with flamenco music by guitarist Chris Judd, libations, and hors d’oeuvres. Guests included District Attorney of Santa Barbara County (June 2022) John Savrnoch who served as the event’s Honorary Chair; the Youth and Family Services Board of Managers Chair John Nelson with his wife Peggy; and board members Avanti Alias, Mike Barnick, Juan Camarena, Dr. Yolanda Garcia, Dr. Yonie Harris, Susan Morris, Marsha Roberson and her husband Alan, Meghan Rourke-Carlson, Wendy Scott, Robert Sears, Carol Gemberling Stewart, Joseph Sullivan, Irene Wellons-Stamps, Lis Wiehl, Carolyn Williams and her husband Bob, and James Workman; guests and sponsors Bob and Patty Bryant, Gary Simpson and Jill Nida, Marilyn and Steven Gutsche, Lynn and Roger Karlson, Steve and Cindy Lyons, Wendy Scott, Morgan and Phileen Jones, Susan Morris, and Adrienne Schuele.

Serving up the elegance for the fundraiser were its esteemed long time Event Committee Co-Chairs Marsha Roberson and Carolyn Williams, and team of Dawn Bokman, Joaquin Gonzales, Victoria Lindstrom, Adrienne Schuele, Wendy Scott, Amber Stevens, and Amy Tovias.

The program began with the Youth and Family Services Operations Director Amy Tovias, who welcomed guests, thanked the event committee, her staff and the event sponsors. She stated the importance of working together in the community to fight against child abuse, child sex trafficking, and youth domestic violence. An applause went to Steve Lyons for his donation of the house that is being repurposed as a transitional home slated to open 2025 for orphans aged 18 and older.

Tovias was followed by Savrnoch, who spoke about his DA office and the ways it intersects with youth. They help youth who are facing difficult life situations that expose them to trauma as direct and indirect victims of crime, like being repeatedly sold for sexual abuse. He said the DA’s office filed 1,000 cases of domestic abuse in past year. The underlying problems include these youth thinking what they experience is normal. The DA’s team seeks to break the cycle of abuse with its victim advocates staff. He stated his intention to keep youth in school as a means of help, and for the guests to support the Youth and Family Services programs. 

John and Peggy Nelson with Joe Sullivan (photo Joanne A Calitri)
Steve Lyons, Amy Tobias, and John Savrnoch (photo Joanne A Calitri)

Speaking next was Jill D. Sharkey, PhD. She outlined her journey working with and researching youth welfare, starting with her undergrad through PhD degrees. She emphasized how critical the work of the Youth and Family Services is, especially its Noah’s Anchorage Youth Crisis Shelter.

The last presentation was by Vanessa Loza, the Residential Program Director for Noah’s Anchorage, who told the story of one of their teens that stayed at the center. The young girl’s story detailed physical and mental abuse from both parents, her leaving home at age 16 to get into foster care, the bouncing around she received from city social workers and finally getting into Noah’s Anchorage where she felt safe and heard. Staying there for three months, she finished high school early, was helped by the team to get a job, and placed in safe foster care. At 18, she is working and living with her sister.

From there,emcee Andrew Firestone led the live auction and the Ask, doing high kicks on stage in his basketball sneakers. He raised approximately $33,000.

Special recognitions by the Y’s team and guests for the food and libations went to chefs Josh Brown,Intermezzo Wine Cask; Owen Havanan,SB Yacht Club; Paul Osborne, Santa Barbara Fish Market & Restaurant, Goleta; Christine Rosell, Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage; and Colby Silva, Toma Restaurant; along with thanks to Brander Winery, Fess Parker Winery, Draughtsmen Aleworks, and Casita de Bravo Winery.

Key Sponsors included D.A. Davidson & Co., the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians Foundation, Montecito Bank & Trust, BB&H Benefit Designs, Brander Vineyards, Doyle-Morgan Structural Engineering Inc., Kielle Lindsey Foundation, Bryant & Sons LTD., West Coast Financial, Santa Barbara Fish Market, Fess Parker Winery, Casita de Bravo Winery, Noozhawk, and Stroll Hope Ranch.  



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