Volunteers join forces to help Athletes for Kids

September 11, 2012

By Lillian O'Rorke

Skyline High School mentors in the Athletes for Kids program lend a hand at the Issaquah Rotary Challenge Race in July. By Janet Gadallah

What do a Pilates studio and a dozen area artists have in common?

They’re raising money for the local nonprofit organization Athletes for Kids.

For two days, Howling Dog Studio and the Creative Minds art collective are hosting an open house, art sale and raffle to help benefit the Sammamish-based organization that pairs high school athletes with younger children who have disabilities.

“I have a client whose child is active in Athletes for Kids and we just decided they were who we wanted to support,” said Nancy Brose, owner of Howling Dog Studio. She and Janet Gadallah, a Sammamish artist, are neighbors and wanted to hold an event to support an area organization. “I have just seen how much this client of mine, her daughter, has benefited.”

Brose added she is intrigued by the idea that high school athletes, who are already very busy, would actually choose to reach out and mentor a child who isn’t as lucky as they are.

“The concept behind it, I think, is great,” Gadallah said. “To give a child who has disabilities — whether they be learning disabilities or physical disabilities — to actually pair them with an able-bodied student that other kids look up to, the end result of that is less bullying in schools. It enriches both of the kids.”

Brose is throwing open the doors to Howling Dog Studio to showcase art exhibits from more than 12 area artists. Inside, as well as outside beneath the cover of tents, local glass workers, painters and more will have their creations on display and for sale.

Each artist is also contributing one piece of work to a large basket that will be raffled at the end of the weekend. Raffle tickets cost $5 each or six for $20 with all proceeds going to Athletes for Kids. People who can’t attend the event can also buy raffle tickets online at www.innerstrengthpilates.biz, and will be contacted if they win the drawing.

“Our primary costs for us are our staff,” said Athletes for Kids’ Executive Director Teresa Bretl. “Why is it important that we have paid staff? Because we are matching up high school mentors with kids with disabilities and we take that very seriously.”

The nonprofit has four part-time paid employees who all work from home. While it does not have the added cost of maintaining an office, Bretl explained that Athletes for Kids has other overhead costs like insurance, screening of prospective mentors and ongoing training.

Annually, the organization sets up and maintains about 100 mentorships, with nearly half of those children, explained Bretl, who live in Sammamish.

“Ultimately, we’d like to grow,” she said. The program got its start at Skyline High School in 2002 and has now expanded to six other high schools, including Eastlake, Eastside Catholic, Liberty and Issaquah. Bretl said she’d like to expand even further to places like Bellevue, Kirkland and Mount Si.

Athletes for Kids has already been planning a benefit of its own, a fundraising breakfast at Bellevue’s Red Lion Hotel 7:30 a.m. Oct. 17. But when Brose and Gadallah approached the organization with their idea, Bretl said she was thrilled.

“It shows that the word is getting out about us and that there are groups out there that are willing to find a way to support us,” she said. “It’s a symbiotic relationship — we’ll invite people who are involved with us and that will give them a little bit more support as well.”

Along with the raffle and the chance to peruse various artworks, Brose will offer free 15-minute sessions using her Pilates equipment.

“A lot of people are familiar with the Pilates mat but not as many people understand the equipment,” she said. “It’s an opportunity to shop for art and an opportunity for them to support a great cause.”

For the first 100 attendees, no purchase is necessary to go home with a piece of art. Gadallah, a porcelain tile maker, and the other artists have worked together to make 100 3-inch square mixed-media pieces to give away to the first people that come through the door. Each artist brought different components of their work so that the final products incorporate everything from bits of glass and wood to tile leaves and cut up fragments of watercolor paintings.

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