Gainesville-Haymarket (G-H) and Warrenton Rotary clubs have partnered to launch their signature Help Kids Now program, a multi-year, multiple-partner community effort focused on mental health crisis prevention, early detection and treatment for local children in need.
In March, the two clubs kicked off their inaugural program fundraiser, a pickleball tournament held at Warrenton-based Chestnut Forks Tennis and Fitness. The event drew more than 150 participants, more than 13 local corporate sponsors and raised more than $57,000.
“An initiative like this is overdue,” said Chris Robinson, program founder and lead from G-H Rotary Club. “As we’ve engaged with our friends, families and neighbors in our local community this past year, it has become all too clear that our nation’s youth mental health crisis has hit home.”
Dawn Arruda, Warrenton Rotary’s program lead added, “We all know someone who has been impacted, and we are grateful to the community for joining us to support the kids”.
Robinson said the numbers are cause enough for alarm. “The Community Foundation for Northern Virginia reports that in February 2022 alone, 37% of the region’s public high school students experienced a recent mental health need, and 25% lost interest or pleasure in things that once provided joy and/or reported feeling down, depressed or hopeless – the clinical marker for depression. Children as young as six are dying from suicide,” he said. “If we do not address this crisis, we risk not only the well-being of our youth in the near term, but the lifeblood of a healthy and vibrant community in the long-term.”
More than $20,000 raised from the Rotary’s event came from Sponsor a Child funds being used to quickly get local children in need into therapy or life coaching.
“We are exceedingly pleased to be able to assist Rotary in improving mental health for children in our community,” said Eric Graybill, CEO of Acadian Health Center in Haymarket. “The partnership with Rotary and growing collaborations with other vested organizations have allowed us to serve those who might otherwise not have access to lifesaving mental health services.”
Graybill cited an example of a high school student referred through Prince William County public schools. “He had no ability to pay for therapy and was in desperate need of help,” Graybill said. “This student has been seen weekly by a therapist for five weeks now and continues to heal.”
Graybill said their practice is “blessed to already have many additional success stories,” knowing area children will continue to thrive the more the program grows.
In tandem with Help Kids Now, the Rotary clubs are developing a signature Help Partners Now program. “We have engaged with leaders of over a dozen of our area’s local non-profits such as CASA CIS who advocated for volunteers for foster children at the event,” Robinson said. “Together, we are already finding a multitude of quick wins to support each other to meet the surge in demand of unmet needs in the community and make the most of our existing resources.”
Robinson said the long-term goal is to establish a local facility where community members, non-profits and health practitioners can meet to improve mental health among young people.
“We absolutely could not do this without the generosity of our sponsors and commitment from the non-profit community,” said Robinson. “We are grateful for their support as we meet the critical needs of our children.”
To sponsor a child, make a donation to support Help Kids Now or become part of the non-profit Help Partners Now collaborative effort, contact Robinson at email@example.com.
About Gainesville-Haymarket and Warrenton Rotary Clubs
Gainesville-Haymarket Rotary Club has been serving the Gainesville, Haymarket and Western Prince William County community since 2002, and the Rotary Club of Warrenton has been serving the greater Warrenton and Fauquier County community since 1926. Made up of business and professional leaders united within the community to provide humanitarian service, members encourage high ethical standards in all vocations and aim to build goodwill and peace in the world. For more information, visit ghrotary.org or warrentonrotary.com