Vail Valley Scenery column: Eagle River Youth Coalition helps kids make good choices | VailDaily.com

Vail Valley Scenery column: Eagle River Youth Coalition helps kids make good choices

VAIL — Our youth is our greatest strength. Our youth is also our greatest responsibility.

The Eagle River Youth Coalition understands that. For the youth of our valley, it takes a county. This is where the nonprofit steps in, to collaborate with local organizations that support youth in coordinating programs to address substance abuse and work on programs and policies that face our youth.

Founded in 2001 in collaboration with Leadership Vail Valley, the Eagle CARES Survey team and Eagle County, the original purpose was to look at data to measure youth behavior and perception, with the end result to figure out what could be done to fill gaps. Collaboration is the keyword — collaboration among local organizations, schools and the community, as well as youth leaders.

On Thursday, Oct. 6, more than 200 supporters braved the fall chill at Donovan Pavilion in Vail to attend the Eagle River Youth Coalition's 10th annual Valley Tastings: Food for Youth. Volunteers from the Youth Leadership Council helped out.

The annual event not only raises money for the organization but also honors both youth and an adult who are making a difference. Alpine Bank's Michael Glass was on hand to present the Outstanding Youth Awards that were given to local high school students.

Lydia Ruotolo won the Legacy Builder Outstanding Youth award, which is presented to a student who is a voice for his or her peers and the next generation, works hard, believes his or her efforts will pave a path for future leaders, supports opportunities and ensures the youth voice is a part of policy and decision-making efforts. Ruotolo is a junior at Battle Mountain High School and is involved with Interact Club, National Honor Society, Link Crew, Eagle County Schools district accountability, Children's Global Alliance and Rustic Pathways.

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Martin Carrasco took the Summiteer Outstanding Youth award, designated for a youth who takes on leadership roles, offers new perspectives, is creative and innovative and a risk-taker, does not back down easily from challenges and whose contributions have resulted in positive change for the youth community. Carrasco is a junior at Eagle Valley High School and an Upward Bound participant and member of the EVHS Student Council, League of United Latin American Citizens and speech and debate.

Jake Dippy walked away with the Positive Peer Influencer Outstanding Youth award, presented to a positive role model for his or her peers, whose actions positively shape his or her peers' behaviors and is recognized as someone to go to for advice. Dippy is junior at Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy and is a member of Youth Leadership Council. Tess Johnson nominated Dippy for the award.

"Jake's a true leader, and I aspire to be as influential and kind-hearted as him. He's always the first to console a friend, offer his assistance and just help out whenever needed," Johnson said. "He is the example to follow when it comes to courage, character and compassion. I am honored to call him my friend."

Kaiser Permanente gave out the Difference Maker of the Year award to Cathy Strickler, of Eagle Valley High School's Devil's Against Destructive Decisions.

"Cathy has been advocating safe decision-making by students and providing leadership opportunities at Eagle Valley High School for almost two decades," said Gregory Doan, principal at EVHS. "She gives students a platform to have their voices heard and engage in experiences that highlight the best in our community."

She leads 45 members, organizing events to send positive messages, like a Seatbelt Challenge, an anti-drug night and an event during Red Ribbon Week.

Several restaurants served up their best to the guests, including Beano's Cabin, Game Creek Club, Fiestas, Splendido, Main Street Grill, Ristorante Ti Amo, Blue Moose Pizza, Batter Cupcakes and The Farm at Knapp Ranch. Several guests raved about Main Street Grill's St. Louis ribs, Ti Amo's pasta al forno, Beano's sausage and creamy polenta dish and Splendido's signature tiramasu ice cream sundaes. Local youth band The Martinellis rocked the room with classics and complemented the overall youth theme of the evening.

A three-night stay with two guest rooms at four-star Monarch Beach Resort, donated by KSL Resorts, led the bidding and helped make it the event's best silent auction results ever recorded. Sponsors included the town of Vail, the Vail Daily, Vail Resorts Epic Promise, Alpine Bank and Kaiser Permanente, East West Resorts, Central Rockies Mortgage, Alpine Party Rentals, KZYR and TV8.

For more information on the Eagle River Youth Coalition, contact Carol Johnson, community engagement coordinator, at 970-949-9250 or cjohnson@eagleyouth.org or visit http://www.eagleyouth.org.

Carolyn Pope has covered community service events and nonprofit activities since 2001 and co-authored "The Women of Vail." She can be reached at 970-390-9913.