It does take a Village by League Chair Paige Kilborn-Otero

It has been my real pleasure to serve as Chair of such an incredible group of people doing incredible things for the children at Ryther and I am happy to be able to serve again this next year.  A big thanks to the Mardi Unit on Whidbey Island, who raised close to $30,000 at their event last October, to the Blue Ridge Unit that raised $38,000 at their Oktoberfest event, with the welcome help of Moonlighting, to Sou’Wester for their incredible sales of Poinsettias during the holidays, to the Noel Unit for raising close to $40,000 at their Holiday Luncheon, to the Forest Drive Unit for their hard work in the Receiving Room putting together Holiday items (from left overs) for the thrift store, Thank you! To all of you that contributed to the Kids Holiday Store, put together Easter Baskets, baked cookies, brought in birthday cakes, provided haircuts to the kids, to those of you who work in the Receiving Room and the thrift store, thank you!

 For the generosity of members at our luncheons for filling the need for shoes, clothing and kitchen supplies, you are helping children feel valued and cared for.  It takes a Village for sure! We are actually doing more with less League members, which means that we are all stepping up.

Paige, along with Newman, also a Ryther volunteer as a canine companion to kids in the Cottage Program

Paige, along with Newman, who is also a volunteer as a canine companion to kids in the Cottage Program

The mission of the League is to support Ryther in its endeavors on behalf of children, youth and their families through fundraising and direct service activities. League members find meaningful community within their Unit, while raising awareness and educating the public about Ryther’s role in creating healthy children and stronger families. The League welcomes new members and new thrift store volunteers. Please contact the Liaison at 206.517.0215.


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Ryther Asks for Your Help

I am asking for your help all this week to email and call your legislators to support legislation that is pending that could help Ryther and other providers maintain services that are desperately needed by the highest needs children in our state’s child welfare system.

LeeWe are asking you to tell your legislators to support Senate Bill (SB) 5852 and House Bill (HB) 2095 from now until Feb. 27th. To find your legislator, visit this website and enter your address. Tell them that our highest needs children depend on the passage of SB 5852 and HB 2095. More information about this advocacy campaign can be found here.

As many who follow Ryther closely probably already know, we have been forced to close our Adolescent Boy’s Chemical Dependence Cottage because the deficits we incurred due to public sector reimbursement rates have remained unchanged for fifteen years.

You may also know that we have faced the possibility of closing one of our three cottages for children ages six to fourteen for similar reasons. About 85% of our clients in our Sub-Acute Residential Treatment Program are referred to us by the State of Washington’s Children’s Administration. Reimbursement from this branch of the Department of Health and Social Services for the kind of kids we serve is administered by a component called Behavioral Rehabilitation Services (BRS). The rate of reimbursement Ryther receives today is the same as it was in 2004. This has resulted in the loss of almost 100 BRS beds across the state since that time. SB 5852 and HB 2095 would fix this.

We have been trying to work with the State for the past three years to get some relief from this situation. When we started serious discussions with the government, we indicated that our strategy of developing private fee for service or insurance business would help, but that it wouldn’t be enough.

You may want to know that the children come to Ryther with an average of nine failed State foster placements after they were removed from their homes because of abuse or neglect. What this means is that these children were traumatized eight more times after the original crisis. I think that is abundant evidence that if they could be cared for elsewhere the State would surely find that option. Without SB 5852 and HB 2095, this trend will continue.

My belief is that you wouldn’t be reading this now if you did not have compassion for kids who have had more bad breaks in a precious few years than most of us can imagine. These children need a lot of intensive care and treatment so that they can avoid what Dr. Anda (ACES study) terms the cascading intergenerational cycle of trauma. We have pretty good data on what is likely to happen to these kids if nothing is done.

Please Help. Thank you.
Lee Grogg, Ryther CEO

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The Maleficent Mile

On July 12-13, six Ryther employees and four community supporters will be participating in the Ride for Ryther, a 202 mile bike ride from Seattle to Portland to raise awareness and funds for Ryther. The team members have been training for months now but, with just one more month to go, have kicked their training into high gear. However, training doesn’t always go as smoothly as one would hope. Read about a recent ride that taught the riders how a little setback doesn’t mean it’s time to give up but can serve as motivation to succeed on the second attempt.

Group training shot

Our plan to do a 100+ mile ride to Bellingham this past weekend was an ambitious one. With the 202-mile Seattle-to-Portland (STP) only five short weeks away, it was time to kick training into high gear. A group of four of us were planning on leaving from Seattle at 9am, bike to Bellingham getting in around 5 or 6pm, then have time for a bite before taking the train back to Seattle. “Bellingham or Bust!” became the motto for the weekend.

Turns out, “Bust” was correct. Between the four of us, we had six popped inner tubes leading to six flat tires, four of which happened in a one-mile stretch. We were incredulous when each time we started to ride, a new member of the team pulled over and told us that they too had a flat. However, we felt lucky to be among a group of good-natured, flexible, optimistic people, willing to roll with the punches. (Or in this case, stop rolling.)

clay's popped tire

But the high points of the ride stick with us the most. We rode just shy of 50 miles before we had the “magnificent,” ahem, “maleficent mile,” and completed that in just over three hours. We thankfully have supporters willing to drop what they are doing on a Sunday afternoon to come help some stranded friends. Upon returning home and consulting the map, we found we had done 90% of the elevation gain that we were supposed to do in that first 50 miles, so the rest would have been smooth sailing through the Skagit Valley and alongside Bellingham Bay. Amtrak allowed us to cancel our tickets, even though it was only three hours before departure. So, that led us to one conclusion: we will revisit our plan on June 21st. Stay tuned for the sequel “Bellingham or Bust 2: More Tubes!”

Visit our Crowdrise page to learn about all of the riders and support their efforts.

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A letter to Santa

Dear Santa, the source of magical hope, kindness and joy in our lives regardless of our age:
Please help all the children at Ryther to find peace, solace, and comfort
Please erase the nightmares, anxiety and fear from their lives forever
Please help us provide the children with a childhood they deserve; ones with happiness, small
crises, moments of accomplishments and triumph to balance the small defeats.
Please help the children acquire and keep the capacity to love and be loved.
Please give the children the gift of curiosity and joy of learning.
Finally, Santa, help the children to hope and believe in themselves. Help them know that if they keep trying things can be different and better for them.
Your friend, Lee Grogg

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The Night Before Christmas

The children at Ryther are anxiously awaiting tomorrow morning this afternoon. For some, it takes a lot of extra effort to contain the many feelings and emotions during a time when there is so much excitement in the air. For others, it takes a mix of concentration and distraction to avoid focusing on the fact that they are not having a Norman Rockwell holiday. I hope everyone will think of the children at Ryther and wish extra hard for them to have peace, comfort, and even joy. Please also send thoughts of love and tenderness their way. We can use all the help we can get in that department.

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Why I Ride for Ryther: John’s Story

johnJohn Gonzales is the Cottage C Supervisor and team captain of Ride for Ryther. This is his second year riding in the Seattle to Portland Classic to raise funds and awareness for Ryther.

A couple of weekends ago I was going on a training ride for the upcoming Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic, a one day 202 mile bike ride that I will be dedicating to benefit Ryther. I was heading out to Mercer Island for a training ride when on my way I unexpectedly hit a pothole and was thrown from my bike. At first I was rattled and confused. I gathered myself as quickly as I could and rode a short ways to safety. I took a couple of deep breaths and asked myself,

“Do I keep riding?”

The answer was easy, “of course!”

Why was the answer so easy? It was because I knew what I was riding for: Ryther, an organization that has served families and children for more than 125 years in the Pacific Northwest.

Serving Children

Ryther provides a variety of services that are all focused on providing children and families the opportunity for a healthier tomorrow. In the Sub-Acute Residential Treatment Program, where I work, children are provided with a highly therapeutic environment that is instrumental in helping them regain their lost childhood. In this environment, children are able to achieve therapeutic goals, reach developmental milestones, and gain valuable ground in their academics. Not only are most of the children afforded these opportunities, but, for some, Ryther represents their first safe home. These children show tremendous resiliency, which combined with the efforts of the Ryther staff, leads to remarkable growth.

Dedicated Staff

It is the dedicated work the residential counselors do that provides these opportunities for children to heal and grow. The breadth and depth of their training and experience allows them to work with each child on an individual level, regardless of his or her trauma history. Their tireless efforts are seen in countless ways; whether it’s the first time children are able to comfortably express their feelings, go to bed without fear because they know they are safe, or maybe even learn how to ride a bike without training wheels. While the work that the children do is extraordinary, even more extraordinary are the staff alongside them guiding them every step of the way.

Placing Children First

Ryther has made every sacrifice possible to keep children first and to continue to serve the neediest children in the northwest. Every day I am reminded of the thousands of children we have been able to give a childhood. I am reminded of a young man, who in our care, discovered his own passion for bikes. He had lost everything including his family and was understandably angry. He would threaten staff, want to hurt himself, and often wanted to give up, but the Ryther community never gave up on him. The staff and the agency figured out ways to channel his passions and teach him to redirect his anger. A staff member donated a bike and tools. Pretty soon he was waking up early to ride laps, spending his allowance on the newest and coolest bike bell, and even volunteering to help repair other children’s bikes. By the time this boy left, he had his smile back. He was proud of the person he had become, and the staff was happy to say goodbye to him and count him as one of the many children who had regained their childhood.

This is why I keep riding. I have never been more inspired by a group of hard working individuals, children and staff. Dedicating this ride is what I can do to say thank you for all I have gained in my 8 years at Ryther.

Oh, and the training ride went well. After I collected myself I was able to move on and finish my ride feeling strong and prepared. Fortunately, I got away with my health and am able to keep riding for Ryther.

Click here to make your contribution to Ride for Ryther. If you know John, you can specify his name in the dedication section.

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Across the Board Cuts

Cutting a budget whether you are a family, a business or a government is never easy. I know because I have had to do it on two of these categories. Some think making a flat percentage cut across the board some how makes not making decisions both easy, fair and right. It may be easy but it is neither fair or right. It assumes you have no values driven principles or priorities. It suggests that you don’t want to do the work or take responsibility for the results.

Presently the Washington legislature is considering a budget with a 20% across the board to DSHS’ Children’s Administration service called Behavioral Rehabilitation Services (BRS). This pays for care of the State’s most damaged and vulnerable children, like the children at Ryther. Not serving these children will not mean they magically get better or that they won’t be just as costly immediately as a result. However, they do represent a small percentage of the total number of children in care so I suppose one could suggest that no one will notice or care. These children do not scare people on street corners, they don’t vote and they have very few people who will speak for them.

Any government that suggests that the needs of these children are somehow less important than the needs of others is abrogating its responsibility. BRS has been severely cut and reduced over the years. A 20% will gut the program and abandon a lot of children and it will not save money in the either the near term or long term.

Please help us at Ryther speak up for these kids. Let your legislators and the Governor know that seldom is the easy way the best way by calling, emailing or writing a letter. Find your legislators here:

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