Like any 10-year-old, Darian S. likes Hannah Montana, shopping and climbing trees. But unlike most 10-year-olds, she has dealt with and overcome many challenging obstacles in her short life.
The spunky youth, showing an impressive display of bravery and courage, shared her story with a packed room at this year’s Invest in Youth Breakfast put on by Youth Eastside Services.
At age six, Darian was diagnosed with cancer. She was placed in foster care when her mother, who suffered from bipolar disorder, was unable to give her the special attention and medical care she needed.
Over the next several years, Darian was able to recover from her illness, both emotionally and physically. She was recently adopted by her foster parents.
To help Darian work through some of her issues, YES connected her with a counselor.
“She helped me to control my temper and to sleep better,” Darian said, “She has lots of good ideas and I’m able to say things to her that I can’t talk about to anyone else.”
A smiling Darian is living proof of the impact YES can have on an individual child.
“Having cancer can be scary,” Darian explained, who is now in remission. “It’s better being in remission, since I’ve had cancer twice, so no more cancer and I have finally been adopted and I’m feeling pretty good about that.”
Attendees at the breakfast were urged to dig deep and give back to the children in the community who feel the effects of difficult issues such as mental health and sexual abuse, drug and alcohol abuse, youth violence, pregnant and parenting teens, and immigrant and refugee issues.
Heather, another young woman who sought out the services provided by YES, shared her story of a life touched by sexual abuse, drugs and violence. Now, at age 20, she lives in Bellevue, supports herself and her son, is in a healthy, stable relationship, and works for the state of Washington at the Department of Social and Health Services. She was recently selected as the worker of the quarter.
“Through YES I have been able to discuss my problems both past and present and given the tools to help me overcome my problems,” Heather explained. “I have been able to break the cycle of being in unhealthy relationships, have self confidence in what I do, and feel comfortable in my ability to raise my son.”
Heather told the audience that without programs like YES, she didn’t think there would be hope for people like her.
“To often they are classified as a lost cause or a troubled child,” Heather said. “People are to afraid to reach out and think maybe all this person needs is someone to talk to and a place to go where someone is not judgmental and offers support.”
For nearly 40 years, Youth Eastside Services has provided East King County kids and families with a safe place to heal. Now embarking on the next chapter, YES is aiming to help more than 43,000 children and teens from Bellevue, Redmond, Kirkland and Sammamish annually.
In order to offer access to support, counseling and educational skills on how to be safe, happy and productive, the organization is enlarging its main facility in Bellevue. In addition to the expanded central facility, which will double the number of group and individual counseling rooms and support services, YES also will launch new satellite services in North Kirkland, Sammamish and South Bellevue.
The new main facility officially will open its doors to the community in August.
In order to reach the thousands of kids who may otherwise be brushed aside, YES has turned to the community for help in raising the $10.7 million needed for the new facility and services, said Patti Skelton-McGougan, YES executive director. The added space will ensure no kid gets turned away despite their current physical, emotional or financial situation.
“The number of kids and families who needed our help was putting a strain on our ability to help,” Skelton-McGoughan said. “Wait times sometimes exceeded four weeks or more and for us that just killed us to put kids on the wait list when they needed help,” she said.
Lindsay Larin can be reached at email@example.com or 425-453-4602.