To Benefit You Gotta Believe! The Older Child Adoption and Permanency Agency, Inc.
Saturday, April 1, 2017
North Shore High School| 450 Glen Cove Avenue |Glen Head, New York
Glen Head, N.Y. – Last year, North Shore High School student, Ryan O’Day, brought to light an important and previously unnoticed conversation in his community—the urgent need for families for teens and young adults in the foster care system. With his inaugural charity event, “Teens Gotta Believe Basketball Tournament,” O’Day raised $8,000 for You Gotta Believe, a non-profit whose mission is to assist older youths in foster care find permanent, adoptive families before they age out. On April 1st, he hopes to beat that number!
O’Day first became an advocate for teens in care after reading “Etched in Sand,” by New Suffolk attorney and author Regina Calcaterra. The New York Times bestseller depicting her childhood of abuse, homelessness and foster care on Long Island. Calcaterra, North Shore High administrators, and You Gotta Believe staff and board worked with O’Day to put the event together. The same team is behind this year’s fundraiser.
Not only is this endeavor an effective fundraiser, “Teens Gotta Believe” has served as a public service announcement for what’s at stake when young people in foster care age out of the system at age18 or 21. One of last year’s tournament attendees, “Linda,” was inspired to become a foster parent to a teenager after hearing You Gotta Believe youth advocates speak at last year’s event. Linda recently completed the licensing requirements to become an adoptive parent and looks forward to being connected to a teen who is awaiting a family.
For O’Day, hosting another fundraiser this year was a given. “I decided that I had to make this event annual once I met the peer advocates and the youth in foster care who came to support and play last year. Seeing and talking to young people who are in or who have lived through the system and are very similar to me made me believe in this cause even more than I already did. It's something I can really get behind and be proud to help.” said O’Day.
This year’s tournament is scheduled for April 1, from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m., at North Shore High School in Glen Head. 3 on 3 basketball teams will pay $20 per person, and the funds raised will be donated to You Gotta Believe. Those who don’t plan to play but wish to support the fundraiser can do so at bit.ly/TeensGottaBelieve17. (More information is available at teensgottabelieve.org.) The day will include speeches as well as a book signing by Calcaterra.
“I couldn't be prouder of Ryan,” said his mother, Jillian O’Day. “Last year, the response was huge, and so much of that came from the youth of the North Shore community which was beautiful to see as a parent. It was a very moving experience for me since Ryan was and is so passionate about it, and brought the subject to the forefront.”
Calcaterra is a former member of the board of You Gotta Believe (yougottabelieve.org), the only non-profit organization in the NY Metro area that works to find permanent, adoptive families for youths in foster care. The organization began work in 1995, and works against the backdrop of a region with about 1,000 children who “age out” of the foster care system each year without having a permanent family.
Without a permanent family, foster youth aging out today face what many of their peers have and continue to face, homelessness.
“Ryan is a dynamo,” Calcaterra said. “His enthusiasm and commitment to raise awareness of the plight of older foster children and the efforts he has put forth to raise money to assist them find permanent homes is an inspiration. Last year’s event already did so much good for other kids who just want something that many of their peers have - a permanent family. I can’t wait to see what the second annual event inspires!” Calcaterra said.
O’Day isn’t the only one to be inspired by Calcaterra’s story. Retired Locust Valley school teacher, Carol Emery, remembers reading “Etched in Sand” over her holiday break two years ago. “It was as if this electric bolt hit me,” Emery recalls, “ I had never thought about adoption before but then found myself saying, ‘you can do this. You have to do it.’ I was planning on retiring from teaching and I knew I could really give a 14 or 15-year-old a home.” And she has! Just two weeks ago, after completing the parent training through You Gotta Believe, Emery welcomed her 15-year-old son into her home and heart. Emery and her son will be at the tournament on April 1st, cheering from the sidelines.
“We are thrilled at this incredible ripple effect that Ryan has created. We strongly believe it is the voice of youth that will ultimately change the system for future kids. Not only does this event work to reduce the stigmas faced by youth in care, but we learned last year that it can inspire someone to become family to a young person who might otherwise age out of foster care without the lifetime families they need to thrive,” said Susan Grundberg, executive director of You Gotta Believe. “Events such as Teens Gotta Believe help us to raise funding that we can put to use immediately to serve youth and families which is critical, and knowing that last year’s event inspired even one person to become one of our parents, is more than we could have hoped for.”
Please visit www.yougottabelieve.org to find out more about becoming a permanent parent to a young person waiting in foster care. You Gotta Believe holds parent orientations in Bayshore, Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Bronx. To sign up or learn more about an upcoming orientation, please call (718)372-3003.
(Ryan O'Day explaining the back story to Teens Gotta Believe on a radio interview this past Sunday... http://adoptingteensandtweens.com/2017/03/19/teens-gotta-believe-with-ryan-oday/)