Eagle River Youth Coalition’s Valley Tastings fundraiser drives appetites, awareness | VailDaily.com

Eagle River Youth Coalition’s Valley Tastings fundraiser drives appetites, awareness

GYPSUM — This year's Eagle River Youth Coalition Valley Tastings fundraiser fell toward the end of National Suicide Prevention Week. It's not irony; it's design.

The Eagle River Youth Coalition works with local youth-serving organizations to assess prevention needs, coordinate substance abuse reduction efforts and help kids plan their futures. It encourages youth to make sensible decisions while making them accountable for their own actions.

It doesn't stop with kids. Parenting classes teach parents of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds to improve their relationships with their children.

More than 375 people showed up for the 12th annual Valley Tastings at Gypsum's Lundgren Amphitheater on Saturday, Sept. 15, one of its biggest years, said Michelle Hartel Stecher, Eagle River Youth Coalition executive director.

"It was a really great balance to keep the kids happy, with their parents feeling like they still had a date night," Hartel Stecher sad.

Accolades, admonishments

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The Youth Coalition's leaders passed around the microphone for awards and accolades.

Saphira Klearman, 15, is a local student who helped launch Project We Care Colorado, kids working with kids to help one another with mental and emotional health issues.

"It's important to me because mental health has turned my life upside down. Now I want to do something about it," Klearman said. "We have so many kids out there contemplating suicide."

The Healthy Kids Colorado 2017 Survey found that nearly 1-in-4 Eagle County seventh- and eighth-graders seriously considered suicide. That number is approximately 2.5 times higher than in 2011.

"Even more shocking, 1-in-6 have made a suicide plan. These alarming numbers represent some of the highest in the state and illustrate that we have a serious problem that needs our attention," wrote Phil Qualman, assistant superintendent of Eagle County Schools, in a recent column in the Vail Daily.

The Eagle River Youth Coalition conducts the Healthy Kids Survey of local kids, which also found some positive trends:

• 65 percent of Eagle County high school students do not text or email while they're driving.

• 80 percent of Eagle County high school students did not use marijuana in the past 30 days.

Everything the Eagle River Youth Coalition does is driven by one common goal: making youth a community priority. Every dime raised at Valley Tastings goes to local youth programs, Hartel Stecher said.

Valley Tastings has been around for 12 years, and it's the largest fundraiser for the Eagle River Youth Coalition. The event gives you the opportunity to try samples from 15 local restaurants.

Because the community was so generous, last year's Valley Tastings allowed the Eagle River Youth Coalition to expand its outreach, Stecher said.

In 2017, the Eagle River Youth Coalition …

• Hosted 26 parenting classes with 561 participants.

• Distributed 4,500 resource directories.

• Engaged 33 Youth Leader Council participants.

• Worked with 659 youth and 273 hours of in-school prevention programs.

• Held 19 community events and trainings.

• Surveyed 3,001 middle and high school youth.

• Helped 35 coalition members receive $2 million annually in funding.

ERYC Awards

Legacy Builder Award: Claire Krueger, for her work with TedXYouth, Youth Leaders Council and Student Council.

Change Maker Award: Nicole Wilson, for her work with The Literacy Project Reading Buddies Program.

Positive Peer Group Award: No Place for Hate group from Eagle Valley Middle School.

Difference Maker: Robye Nothnagel, for her work in educating motorists about the critical danger of distracted driving.

Eagle County Commissioners Award: Lilly Reynolds, for her work raising the age to purchase tobacco in Avon to 21.