Champions Luncheon 2021: ‘Treehouse Celebrates Our Potential, Our Hopes and Ambitions’

By Trent Freeman, Marketing & Communications Director

More than 1,000 supporters from across the state came together virtually on March 17 for Treehouse’s annual Champions Luncheon fundraiser as youth impacted by foster care shared their success stories in partnership with the nonprofit organization.

“One of the best things about the Treehouse community is that they really see and listen to young people like me,” said Chris, a Treehouse participant who recorded a video in his dorm room to share during the event. “Treehouse celebrates our potential, our hopes and ambitions. Right at this moment, I am achieving my dream—to become a professional actor.”

Chris revealed that he is a first-year student at the American Musical Dramatic Academy in New York. He thanked his Treehouse Education Specialist, Mary, and his aunt for their support through the years.

“When I was first getting started with Treehouse, I was really nervous about the future. I didn’t think that I would ever end up making it to college, let alone get the most prestigious scholarship at my school. And yet here I am,” Chris said. “This was only possible because I had barriers removed along the way—with me leading my own journey the whole time.”

The Power of Partnership

Treehouse CEO Dr. Lisa Chin—speaking live from the Treehouse Store at her first Champions since joining the organization last spring—started her speech on a somber note, referencing the hate crimes perpetrated against mostly Asian women in Atlanta.

“As an Asian American CEO, leader of a multicultural organization with anti-racism at the core of what we do, I come to you today to remind you that we are all partners in the work to heal our community, and as such, it is our duty to stand against hate in all its forms against any group of people,” Lisa said.

Throughout her speech, Lisa talked about the power of partnership, especially during the pandemic.

“I had long admired Treehouse and the work done by the incomparable Janis Avery to build this organization. It’s been an honor to be part of driving what comes next during a very difficult time for all of us—and especially for our youth,” Lisa said. “Treehouse is more than any one of us. It’s a community, and it’s going to require all of us to address this crisis and continue moving forward in service to our youth.

“I’m absolutely confident that through partnership with you—and our youth—we’re going to change the world,” she added. “Not just for them, but with them, as we incorporate their voices into changing systems designed to nourish them and their aspirations, as opposed to care-take them.”

Lisa highlighted the Store going virtual and statewide for our Graduation Success and Launch Success participants during the pandemic.

Hosts Liz Klein and Elaine Eugenio, both members of the Treehouse Ambassador Board, joined Lisa at the Store and kept the one-hour program rolling.

“I feel like all of these clothes are amazing. There’s clothes for babies to adults, toys, books. Everything is new or like new,” Liz said. “It’s just one of my favorite parts about Treehouse.”

Elaine added, “I love the focus on confidence building. New clothes or an outfit that fits you well can make you feel great. And youth in foster care deserve that feeling, so that they too have the confidence to excel socially and in the classroom.”

Debut of 2 Impact Videos

In addition to the live content, the one-hour program featured the debut of two new Treehouse impact videos. One story showcases a caregiver, Karla, and her family. Karla has partnered with Treehouse throughout most of the organization’s more than 30 years. Along the way she has fostered numerous children, eventually adopting eight of them.

“A lot of kids who come into foster care haven’t had the chance to just be kids,” Karla said. “They just need a space where they can learn to not be afraid, that they can learn to start to trust the world again.”

All of the youth she has fostered and adopted are Native American, and she thanked Treehouse for the organization’s support.

“To be able to do this for all of the kids, would be hard [without Treehouse],” Karla said. “They’d never had swimming lessons. Treehouse helped with swimming lessons. They all wanted gymnastics, so they took gymnastics lessons.”

Another impact story highlights the very special relationship of three sisters—Bethany, Ari and Winter—and their Treehouse Education Specialist, Sherry Edwards. The sisters are all in our Graduation Success program and working toward high school completion with lofty plans for the future. They each meet weekly with Sherry.

“I dropped out of school really, really young in seventh or eighth grade,” said Bethany, now 21 and nearing high school completion. “[Sherry] was not judgmental in any way about my past education. I think it’s really important that there’s people like Sherry to be there for us because there’s not a lot of people that are, and I look up to Sherry and I think that’s really inspired me to do a similar job. I think I would want to maybe major in psychology, social work—really just making a goal of something that can make a difference.”

If you missed the live Champions broadcast, the full show is available on our YouTube channel. While we still have matching funds from our Challenge Pool, your gift can be matched. Any gift of $300 or more will be doubled, and any gift of $1,000 or more will be tripled. Monthly gifts of $30 or more will be doubled, and monthly gifts of $100 or more will be tripled. Give now at treehouseforkids.org/donatenow.

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About the Author

Trent Freeman is the Director of Marketing & Communications at Treehouse. He is passionate about storytelling as a tool to drive positive change for youth impacted by foster care.

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