YouthZone’s success shows that pigs can fly |

YouthZone’s success shows that pigs can fly

Recent local events have many people thinking about how best to help troubled youth from reaching the breaking point. One of the most effective ways to create respectful, responsible youth is through the award-winning program YouthZone.

In addition to direct service work, last year YouthZone staff was active on 11 committees and provided 331 hours of technical assistance to 1,205 adults and youth.

All this work leads to stronger communities and more empowered families.

In YouthZone’s past year (2003-04), the agency had a $350,000 budget deficit, largely because of federal and state funding cuts. This year, YouthZone is suffering a loss of at least $35,000 from federal and state funding sources.

YouthZone’s Kiss-n-Squeal fund-raiser is about the community joining together to help raise healthy, happy kids, and to have a bunch of fun in the process. The event started in 1991, and funding is used for direct services to youth and families. This year’s goal is to raise $89,000.

I was a Kiss-n-Squeal candidate in 2003. To get into the spirit of the competition and to bring attention to the fund-raiser while driving around the county, I painted my car pink, much to my husband’s chagrin. I also fabricated and attached a snout, ears and eyelashes, along with a tail that still remains on the car. I named the car Miss Piggy, and drove her in parades the summer of that year. The New Castle Town Council also proclaimed July 18, 2003, as Miss Piggy Day. This illustrates the lengths that Kiss-n-Squeal candidates go to in order to gather votes for that all-important goal, to kiss the pig.

Competition within the Kiss-n-Squeal competition includes “stealing” a special pig from locations around the county. Stealthy candidates desperately try to find it, steal it, and then place it in another strange habitat, hoping other candidates can’t find it.

This year’s Kiss-n-Squeal finale is from 6-8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 4, at Two Rivers Park. Bennett’s is providing a barbecue, and the Last Minute String Band will provide entertainment for all the participants. The votes will be tallied and the candidates will hear the surprisingly loud squealing and snorting of the pigs. Then the winner will be announced and the long-awaited honor will be carried out ” a moment the pig kisser and witnesses will remember for many years to come.

Ways to give to the cause include entering the raffle. Tickets are $10 each. The first prize is $1,000 and second prize is $500. More than 167 great silent auction items are also available. You can view the items at The auction closes at 8 a.m. on Aug. 1.

Four kids are on the ballot this year, an impressive show of kids working to help other kids and connecting to their community to make a difference.

YouthZone is trying to promote the phrase, “Help us Make Pigs Fly.” The idea is that pigs fly at YouthZone every day, when the agency helps kids reach their potential and see beyond what they imagine.

The following are two comments from kids who have been involved in YouthZone:

“YouthZone’s work with me taught me how it is to be a helpful member of society. I learned that I don’t want to drink and do drugs. I’d rather pride myself in being successful.”

“From working with YouthZone, I’ve learned time management, patience, communication and civic virtue. I also learned how to have fun!”

Kay Vasilakis’ “Nonprofit Spotlight” appears every other Wednesday. She is the media coordinator for the Garfield County Human Services Commission. To contact her, call 945-8515, ext. 513 or e-mail

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