The Young Men’s Service League Rancho Chapter, based in Los Altos and Cupertino, held its annual Ultimate Gift Event Nov. 16.
The event was inspired by the book of the same name by writer Jim Stovall, which tells the story of a young man who learns a lesson about the importance and joy of giving after his grandfather leaves him a hefty inheritance that must be earned through service to others. He finds that this is the true gift his grandfather meant for him to have.
This year, YMSL Rancho partnered with Child Advocates of Silicon Valley as its Ultimate Gift recipient to raise awareness about the needs of foster youth in Santa Clara County. Child Advocates provides stability and hope to children who have experienced abuse and neglect by serving as a voice on their behalf. The organization’s purpose is to recruit, train and support Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs), who are matched with foster children to provide emotional and educational support, ensuring each child’s needs are met and his or her voice heard while navigating the county’s Juvenile Dependency Court system.
The goal of the YMSL project was to raise awareness to recruit more CASAs. There are approximately 270 children on the waitlist, roughly a 30-month wait. YMSL’s Ultimate Gift Committee – Stefanie Singer, Bin Ochotta, Marjorie Trill, Tracy Vanoncini, Lenora Heuchert, Christy Ying and Stephanie Di Leo – spearheaded the project.
During the event, more than 70 mother-and-son pairs recorded 15- to 30-second videos in which the boys thanked their moms for something they had done in their lives. The videos were donated to Child Advocates to be used in social media campaigns and marketing outreach in 2020.
“Having a digital strategy makes the most sense in Silicon Valley if we’re going to go out and recruit Court Appointed Special Advocates, because people in our community look at things online,” said Frederick Ferrer, CEO of Child Advocates of Silicon Valley. “The authentic stories that we captured today with young men and their moms articulate what it feels like to have an advocate. These stories will help us to not only recruit CASAs, but also to enable even more people throughout the community to understand what a CASA does and how important it is.”
In addition, YMSL Rancho members donated gifts such as school supplies to Child Advocates, which will use the items to fill its foster youth “store,” where CASAs can choose gifts for their foster children. For the foster children, gifts of clothing and shoes give them a sense of normalcy and joy in their otherwise challenging day-to-day lives.
The boys packed the donated items and delivered them to the “store” in Milpitas.
Child Advocates accepts donations year-round of new items such as toys, clothes, shoes for boys and girls (any size), games (like Uno and Monopoly), arts and crafts, and personal hygiene products.
To donate, visit bemyadvocate.org/menus/other-ways-to-give.html.
For more information on the YMSL Rancho Chapter, visit ymslrancho.chapterweb.net.
Shalini Kwatra is a member of the YMSL Communications Committee.