The room is a swirl of emerald.
Taffeta, silk, sequins, and lace fabrics flounce and spill over sofas and settees as Amanda Unter, Crystal Pepper, and Lindsey Murphy try on gowns for next month’s Barrington Youth and Family Services (BYFS) gala. Timed with the 80th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz, the April 13 BYFS event takes guests down the yellow brick road to the gates of Emerald City.
Held at the Barrington Hills Country Club, co-chairs say “The Wizard of Oz, an Emerald City Gala,” promises to include rainbows galore, hot air balloons, and at least a few pairs of ruby slippers.
“We chose The Wizard of Oz theme for the event because the story and characters tie in so well with people we have grown to love through Barrington Youth and Family Services (BYFS),” says Unter. “The courage many of the families we work with reminds us of the Lion. The big hearts of our counselors are worthy of the Tin Man, and there are so many different programs, therapists and community pieces that come together to make the organization successful—more than an Emerald City’s worth of collaboration.”
Last year’s benefit netted about $225,000, and BYFS hopes this year’s gala will exceed that amount, reaching the $250,000 mark. Monies raised through the benefit will go to fund many new advances, improvements, and expansion of services through the agencies’ counseling services, outreach programs, and prevention programming.
For example, on the counseling side, the agency recently added Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) equipment. Used to promote healing from symptoms of emotional distress, EMDR is a cutting edge therapeutic treatment. And looking ahead, the agency is working to add drop-in counseling for D220 students for the 2019-2020 school year.
“With this, students would be able to take advantage of free services in a supportive environment while talking informally with their counselors,” says Unter. “BYFS also hopes to expand stress breaks that are provided for high school students during finals.”
Both outreach opportunities provide youth with a nonthreatening stigma-free way to interact with a mental health organization. Also in the planning stages, BYFS is expanding prevention programming to reach new audiences by adding several new groups such as a Teen Talk Social Skills group, Understanding My Teen parenting group, and Raising a Mentally Healthy Athlete group.
Funding will also go to further BYFS’s plans to work collaboratively with the Boys & Girls Club of West Dundee’s Buddy Program.
“The Buddy Program is designed to ease students’ transition from Sunny Hill Elementary to both Prairie and Station middle schools,” Unter explains.
Outreach programs for preschoolers that are in the works include an empathy and kindness program with Soul Harbor Ranch Animal Therapy Group, “Say Whoa to Bullying.”
There is also news with the Latino services that are led by BYFS’s Spanish-speaking staff. In April, the agency launches a parent and child counseling group to promote family bonding relationships and healthy lifestyles. This is in addition to the Latino Parenting Group free sessions on topics such as “Cultural Differences,” “How to Encourage Your Child to be Social,” “Promoting Self-Esteem,” and “Intergenerational Differences.”
BYFS is also planning their third summer of the highly successful Hidden Talents (formally known as SET) program. For this, the agency places students with special needs in meaningful summer jobs at local businesses. Among them: The Garlands, Pepper Construction, Ambrosia, Big Iron Horse Barbeque, Good Shepherd Hospital, and Alden Estates. This summer, the number of students placed is projected to grow to more than 20.
“While the gala looks to fund so many new initiatives, it’s important to stress that BYFS remains committed to offsetting the cost of delivering critical counseling services to anyone in need in the Barrington area, regardless of their ability to pay,” says Unter. “That’s truly the bedrock of what we do.”
For tickets, go to barringtonbyfs.org/gala.