On the Red Carpet

Posted: 11th October 2014 by admin in Blog
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Last night, we convened the 7th annual Dare to Dream event, the major fundraiser for Youth Outlook. It was the first time in several years that there were no accidents or suicides among the youth served in this agency on which for us to reflect. Last night, we wanted to play.

As usual, I drafted some welcome comments for the program booklet and gave it a new twist, using quotes from Oscar nominated and Oscar winner movies to tie to our theme, A Night at the Y’Oscars. The creative geniuses that design the theme and decorations this year were at the top of their game, as always on this evening. The entrance to the event was taken over by red carpet and red velvet ropes along the Walk of Fame of all of the previous Dare to Dream honoree names imprinted on gold stars.

And as usual, I gave the “state of the agency” address, geared to the many newcomers this year and told them a bit about our evolution. Then I put on my best game show host attitude and challenged the “audience” to play along with me, naming the movies from which those quotes I’d found came.

To those of you who played along with me last night, a big thanks! For the folks who weren’t there with us, maybe I’ll see you next year! And now…without going to IMDB, how many of the quotes following can you place?

I have occasionally compared Youth Outlook’s growth to a scene in Jurassic Park. Do you remember that scene where Dr. Grant holds the baby velociraptor in his hands when everyone first tours the facility, and the tiny raptor looks at him and “meeps”? It’s adorable. An hour later, a grown up version of that same animal is on a quest to eat everyone in sight and it’s no longer adorable. She doesn’t even give the characters a fond, “Here’s looking at you, kid,” before biting into them. I joke with new volunteers that once upon a time, Youth Outlook was this cute little agency, looking around DuPage County innocently and meeping. And now, sixteen years later, although Jurassic Park did not make it to the Oscars, this agency is definitely on a quest!

Our quest just this year: to expand services to a growing number of trans* and gender variant youth through our Transcend programs; to develop a new service for the supportive parents of our youth; to develop and launch a network for professionals working with LGBT youth in Kane County; and to hire some assistance for the agency’s only full time staff person. (“I can’t think about that right now. If I do, I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about THAT tomorrow.”) I am convinced that at some point, one of the board members is going to announce with a catch in his voice, “I think we need a bigger boat.”

It is such a gift to be part of an agency working with LGBT youth at this time in history. It is such a gift to be part of growing toward new services that we identify are needed as trends change nationally. Some youth come to our programs from schools that have evolved from a culture of how dare you be here to “You’ll find there’s room for all of us here.”

And so we grow. We nurture youth who have come to find a place to call their own space. The trend we see of more supportive parents, which prompted our decision to launch our new parent group, to help with learning a new language, to help with breaking through old binary thinking, calls to mind the idea that “There will be generations because of what you did.”

In a world that tends dangerously toward an eye for an eye, we must consider the concept that “An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.” We all need hope. We all need a sense of safety and a sense of peace to grow. Personally, “I need to believe that something extraordinary is possible.” At Youth Outlook, I find that on a daily basis: the hope, the safety, the peace. Our youth mature and move on, then return and become volunteers. “There are no goodbyes for us, Charlie. Wherever you are, you will always be in my heart.”

Whatever our quest, whatever we are inspired by, I must not neglect to tell you about the element of humor that runs through everything we do. Dare to Dream is often a somber affair. Tonight, we shall play. Starting with this writing, I invite you to feel the humor and the warmth of the community, the excitement of the quest. Just please don’t ask the silent auction team about me standing over them as they worked to get ready for tonight, repeating, “It puts the lotion in the basket or it gets the hose again.” Yeah. We can just skip that part!

And now, because I MUST make this a public request…an open request to the Youth Outlook youth: “Please promise me you’ll survive. That you won’t give up, no matter what happens, no matter how hopeless. Promise me now…and never let go of that promise.”


As a final note, to the youth leader I spoke with after the game show ended, I meant what I said. Promise me. You are needed here, on the red carpet and everywhere else. Promise me now.


  1. susan francis says:

    Thank you Nancy. I enjoyed the read and getting caught up with the latest of all good things with Youth Outlook. Congrats.

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