Champions for Foster Kids Luncheon Raises More Than $1 Million in One Hour as Youth Share Stories of Triumph

By Trent Freeman, Treehouse Marketing and Communications

More than 1,200 people showed their support for youth in foster care Thursday, March 15, at the 17th annual Champions for Foster Kids Luncheon at the Seattle Sheraton Hotel. The event, which raised more than $1 million in one hour, celebrates the success and perseverance of Treehouse’s youth, volunteers, partners, donors and staff.

The true stars of Champions each year are the students themselves. Speaking publicly for the first time, three youth—Hunter, Ashley and Jordon—told their stories of struggle and ultimate triumph. Foster care isn’t a subject they typically discuss with friends.

“I knew Ashley from school. We share second period. But I didn’t know she was also in foster care,” Hunter said in his speech. “It wasn’t until we both agreed to speak here today that we realized we both use Treehouse. I never would have guessed she was like me in so many ways. Kids in foster care need people to believe in them. They need a place like Treehouse that helps you stay on track to graduation.”

Hunter plans to be a police officer or serve in the military after he graduates from high school.

He and Ashley work with the same Education Specialist at Treehouse, Hayley Sherman. Meetings typically take place weekly, but “we talk a lot more than that,” Ashley said. She plans to be a helicopter pilot in the Coast Guard and also enjoys acting.

“That’s one of the reasons I am here today. I need practice in front of an audience,” she joked.

Ashley stressed the importance of advocating for herself as a turning point in her life.

“I didn’t have a childhood that all kids should have—like making friends my age, playing sports or having that sense of community at school,” she said. “I changed the path that I was on because I wanted to give people a reason to believe in me. You have to want to change and speak your truth, but you can’t do it without people believing in you. You can get through the darkest situations, you just gotta look for a little crack of light. Hayley and Treehouse are that crack of light for me.”

In her speech, Jordan talked about how important it is for youth in foster care to have a “consistent, reliable person in their corner.”

“Merissa [Humes], my Treehouse Education Specialist, is that person to me,” Jordon said. “She does way more than help me with my education. She looks out for me whether I am in a car accident, need new clothes or am having trouble with a teacher.”

Jordon graduates this spring and will attend the University of Washington in Tacoma. After college, she plans to enroll in the police academy and pursue a career as a homicide detective.

Another youth, Connor, brought the house down with an a capella version of “Stand by Me.” The event’s organizer, Shaunessy Jones, Associate Director of Community Engagement at Treehouse, had some fun when Connor was leaving the stage and presented him with a miniature Oscar statuette.

Franky Price, who spoke at Champions five years ago, was back to talk about his experience writing and creating the song “Try So Hard” with four other youth and Mike McCready of Pearl Jam. A job shadow video captured the recording session and was shown earlier during the event. Franky also explained Treehouse’s new text to donate functionality, which streamlined donations this year.

Honoring Our Partners

Treehouse honored McKinstry with the Corporate Partner Award. CEO Dean Allen and his wife, Vicki, have been supporting Treehouse for 23 years.

Pearl Jam’s Vitalogy Foundation was awarded the Community Partner Award, which was accepted by Mike’s wife, Ashley O’Connor McCready. She introduced Treehouse to the foundation 10 years ago.

The Wendy Walters Truitt Volunteer of the Year Award went to Microsoft’s One Week Hackathon team, who are developing an app to provide accountability over goals and future aspirations for Treehouse youth.

New Goal for 2022

Angela Griffin, Chief Program Officer, kicked off the speeches. She thanked Treehouse CEO Janis Avery for her leadership and vision, and talked about some “really bad news” from seven years ago. At the time, graduation rates in King County were less than 40 percent for youth in foster care. Treehouse responded by setting an ambitious five-year goal for youth throughout King County to graduate at the same rate as their peers. That goal was met in 2017 as planned.

“The Class of 2013—our first group in the program—achieved a 77 percent extended or five-year graduation rate. Each year since, the rate has grown. We now have an 89-percent graduation rate,” Angela said.

Up next for Treehouse: Statewide expansion by 2022.

Treehouse’s Graduation Success Regional Managers, Tamarack Randall, Rodney Robinson and Ernest Henderson, detailed the many ways Treehouse is giving youth in foster care a childhood and a future throughout the state.

“Treehouse is growing because issues for youth in foster care do not end at the King County line. I can tell you that the community in Pierce County has fully embraced Treehouse,” Rodney said. “The outpouring of support has been phenomenal, and we’re just getting started.”

See more photos and video from the 2018 Champions for Foster Kids Luncheon on Treehouse’s Facebook.

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About the Author

Trent Freeman is the Associate Director of Marketing & Communications at Treehouse.

Comment (1)

justin nguyen

April 9, 2021

i would love to donate


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