By Amalia Culpepper-Wehr
At 6:00 PM on July 30th, Anne’s Washington Inn admitted the first of over 200 attendees for the Youth2 15th Anniversary Gala. As the festivities grew, lines of eager Gala-goers snaked out the door and towards the lawn. Inside, the Inn swelled with excited people dining together, speaking together, and listening to music and speakers. A wide array of presenters, from SHYFT to Mayor Meg Kelly, captivated the audience throughout the night. The evening was a celebration of youth-led social action, philanthropy, and community service. By the time the doors closed, nearly $30,000 were raised to ensure Youth2’s continued, prospering existence.
Youth2, shorthand for Youth Helping Youth, is a Field of Interest Fund formed under the guidance of the Community Foundation for the Greater Capital Region. The participants of Youth2 serve on its Advisory Board, helping to fund, and guide social action projects that are proposed, approved and led by young people, as well as connecting youth to pre-existing community service programs.
Keeping in line with Youth2’s mission of spreading goodwill, generous donations helped create an electric atmosphere for the incredible evening. Heartfelt thanks are extended towards Lily & the Rose, Bread Basket Bakery, Saratoga Coffee Traders, Uncommon Grounds, Saratoga Springs Water Company, Ben & Jerry’s, Advantage Press and Anne’s Washington Inn on account of their catering, desserts, coffee, water, ice cream, program printing, and venue, respectively. Their support was invaluable in crafting the Gala from its incipient stages to its realization.
More thanks must be given to the night’s prominent speakers. Barbara Glaser, on behalf of the Nordlys Foundation, integral to Youth2’s founding, began the evening with a symbolic gift of $15,000 towards the organization’s funding. John Eberle, President and CEO of the Community Foundation for the Greater Capital Region (under which Youth2 is a Field of Interest Fund), acknowledged Youth2’s unique ability to harness and direct young people’s passion in “building their own stories” during his speech. Our Mayor Meg Kelly offered her support of Youth2 and talked about how youth are becoming more involved in our local city government by participating in internships and sitting on advisory groups. Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner also presented a proclamation citing Youth2’s value in providing young people with community service work and teaching them skills for success later in life.
Further performances were given by Annie & the Hedonists, an “acoustic blues, vintage jazz, and roots Americana” band comprising of Annie and Jonny Rosen as well as Peter Davis and Don Young. Jonathan Greene entertained audiences with the clarinet; later, Mira Van Patten and Elyssa King inspired the crowd with their duet of John Lennon’s “Imagine.”
The night’s two auctions nicely rounded out the affair. Seventy-four contributors helped make a reality of the Silent Auction and the live Social Action Mission Auction. Youth2 is wholly grateful for the donations of these businesses and services.
Serving as both a “friend raiser” and a fundraiser, the event also helped garner awareness for the organization. Thirty community members joined Youth2 as members of the Honorary Committee; eighteen further sponsorships continue to bolster the organization as it continues its charitable work. The twenty-two members of Youth2’s Advisory Board and Gala Committee helped plan the event. Derek Bruce, recent graduate of Youth2, created a fine Media Presentation and Program for the event. Sabrina Herlick joined Derek as MC’s for the night. Many youth who were past grant award recipients: Eryn Amodeo, Molly Atkinson, Cara Kowalski, Hallie Gibson McKinnon, Adam Roy, Sabrina Herlick; Community Service Incentive Award Winners- Alex Singer, Kathryn Hodge, Zakary King and Advisory Board members- Noah Astruc, Ryan Cherry, Hunter Choy, Sabrina Herlick, Nancy Holzman, Davey Kelly, Nancy Martinez, Gail Willner-Giwerc, Adam Roy, Ardie Russell, Max Rivet, spoke throughout the night’s program. Joe Bokan, and his son Joseph and family, offered the Gala its sublime venue of Anne’s Washington Inn, a most beautiful space to hold the event. All of the above contributions were irreplaceable.
The Youth2 15th Anniversary Gala was an unmitigated success. Under a darkening sky and in a room full of rising stars, the spotlight was turned to a shy and delicate focus: the full, honest goodness of people thinking to bestow kindness on others. The beauty of such an event was more than the location, the food, or the festivities, but the people who made it happen. As Barbara Mikulski once said, “Each of us can make a difference. Together, we make change.”