Kissing Pigs is only half the fun of Kiss-n-Squeal
Post Independent Intern
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – As YouthZone’s 20th annual Kiss-n-Squeal fundraiser begins, be prepared for some pig-kissing insanity as this year’s candidates set out to raise $200,000 for YouthZone – a non-profit dedicated to helping community youth. Kiss-n-Squeal is run as a campaign in which local volunteers form teams competing to raise the most money. Each dollar collected during the campaign – starting today and running through Aug. 11 – counts as one vote. At the finale on Aug. 12, the winning candidates will kiss a pig.
So far, six teams have signed up for Kiss-n-Squeal. The teams are sponsored by Alpine Bank, the Grand River Hospital and Medical Center, Glenwood Springs Noon Rotary and the Property Shop, and there are teams from Carbondale and Aspen, too.
During the month-long campaign, YouthZone organizes several fundraisers, including an online auction and a raffle with cash prizes. The majority of the fundraisers, however, are organized by the candidates in an effort to win a kiss from Hamlet, this year’s lucky pig. Previous fundraisers have ranged from hot dog stands to garage sales to backyard barbecues, and the candidates’ creativity grows each year.
The kick-off ceremony will be held today at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park from 6:30 to 8 p.m., where this year’s candidates will meet with the YouthZone board and staff, as well as previous pig-kissers. Although the kick-off is by invitation only, Glenwood Caverns is hosting a YouthZone Day all day today, during which a portion of their proceeds will go towards Kiss-n-Squeal.
This year, YouthZone’s goal is to raise $200,000 to celebrate 20 years of kissing pigs. According to Mary Jean Carnevale, YouthZone’s event coordinator, “In 2008, the event raised $192,815 – only $7,185 short of this year’s goal – so we know we can reach our goal if we get everyone in the community giving their support. I have seen pigs fly before and I won’t underestimate our community. They can meet any goal they set out to reach.”
In its 33 years of service, YouthZone has aided more than 18,000 youth and families in the Roaring Fork Valley. Kiss-n-Squeal is YouthZone’s primary fundraiser and all money raised goes directly towards programs for helping children and families locally. In Carnevale’s words, the money “helps supplement grants and other income so YouthZone can continue the programming” of offering low-cost assistance to community members, including scholarships, support groups and restorative justice programs, among other things.
Prior to Kiss-n-Squeal, YouthZone experimented with a variety of animal-related fundraisers, debuting with Catch-a-Calf in 1989 and encoring with the Cow Patty Catch the following year. In 1991, YouthZone ventured away from cows, organizing the first pig-kissing contest.
“The event started off very small scale,” Carnevale said.
“It was meant to be a onetime fundraiser. After the first year, community members asked to have the event continue.” And so, for the past 20 years, Kiss-n-Squeal has continued to grow as one of the Roaring Fork Valley’s biggest community events.
In addition to impacting the community, Kiss-n-Squeal has lasting effects on its participants. “Kiss-n-Squeal was an incredible experience … it made me more outgoing, put me more in touch with our community, made me appreciate all the work that YouthZone puts in year-round, and it deepened my love for community service,” said Abril Loya, a 2009 Kiss-n-Squeal candidate.
YouthZone’s passion for pigs has spilled over into the community, soon to be filled with pink signs, painted windows and pigs galore. To jumpstart the action, YouthZone has already turned their office into a self-proclaimed “pig pen.” 632 different pigs – ranging from stuffed animals to postcards to wooden toys – now fill the offices, walls and hallways of the YouthZone building.
“Kiss-n-Squeal to me is one of the best ways to bring out the kid in each of us,” said Carnevale, whose own office houses a large portion of the pig paraphernalia. “In the end it has nothing to do with kissing a pig. It’s all about helping kids.”
To make a donation or contact a candidate, stop by YouthZone’s office at 803 School Street in Glenwood Springs, or visit http://www.youthzone.com to check out the online auction.
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