Quite often, youth are beleaguered with questions concerning their immediate and distant future. But youth who battle homelessness are less equipped to grapple with the complexities of transitioning into adulthood. No youth should be forced to consider options concerning their immediate survival, but unfortunately In King County alone, more than 5,000 young people find themselves homeless on any given night and thousands more are just a step away from being homeless. These youth are forced to think about where their next meal will come from and if they will have a safe place to sleep.
Organizations like United Way of King County exist to combat the growing epidemic of youth homelessness, and the issues that accompany it. Raising awareness and resources are central to the plan of ending youth homelessness. To do that, The United Way of King County hosts an annual softball game, in partnership with former Seattle Mariners Dan Wilson and Jay Buhner, known as the All Star Softball Classic for Youth. Every year since 2013, celebrities, homeless youth, and community partners have come together to play softball to raise awareness. Current and former homeless youth share their stories and experiences, while celebrities share why they support the movement to end youth homelessness. Attendees and players are encouraged to donate and post to social media in an effort to raise awareness.
A strong campaign to raise awareness around this issue was long overdue. I had the opportunity to ask Annie Wilson where she and Dan Wilson got the idea for a celebrity softball game to end youth homelessness came from. She responded by saying, “I was an inner city school teacher. I saw firsthand how difficult life can be for youth who don’t have a strong support system at home. Dan and I decided early on that if we had the opportunity we would do what we could to help those youth who were in need to get support and opportunities. Dan and I were fortunate to co-chair the United Way of King County’s annual campaign. We learned so much about the many needs in our community and the incredible way that people and organizations have stepped up to meet those needs. Having four teenagers and young adults of our own, we were inspired to do something to help youth in our community who didn’t have the support and means to get themselves to a stable position.“
The impact of the event this year was incredible. With 5,000 attendees and 40 community partners and sponsors, the All Star Classic raised a total of 1.4 million dollars that will go to supporting resources for homeless youth. 3,843,000 posts were also made to social media during the game using the hash tag #istandforyouth. That is a major step for raising awareness through social media. Young people should not have to worry about when they will eat, where they will sleep, their safety, or overall if they will be homeless. If they do find themselves homeless, then the money raised at this event will ensure that their homeless experience is rare, brief and one time.