The Centurions’ 51st signature themed bash — Rock of 80s: Big Hair Affair — has been postponed until Oct. 16, pending final approval from Pima County. In the meantime, the service group is spearheading an alternative spring fundraiser — the inaugural Centurion’s Cash Raffle.
The drawing seeks to raise funds for three local nonprofits — Parent Aid, Youth On Their Own and Literacy Connects — that were intended beneficiaries of the Centurion’s 2020 charity gala.
“Unfortunately, with the COVID-19 pandemic, we were unable to do any fundraiser at all last year, so we weren’t able to help out our beneficiaries. We were in contact with them and tried to do in-kind donations, whether those were books for Literacy Connects or gift cards for Youth On Their Own. We also encouraged our members to make donations if they were able, but our annual event is the way our organization raises funds,” said Chris Hanson, executive director for the Centurions.
Since 1971, the Centurions have become synonymous with grand benefits designed to transport guests to exotic destinations or bygone eras. With concepts ranging from movies and music to politics and sports, the gala events have raised almost $9 million for equipment, facilities and a wide range of programs and outreach for St. Mary’s and St. Joseph’s hospitals, Holy Cross Hospital in Nogales and most recently, Tucson Medical Center.
In 2014, the organization expanded its giving efforts to include local nonprofits such as Tu Nidito, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Youth On Their Own and more.
“Our focus is on education, mentoring and health care for the most underserved members of the community, particularly children. That is what we look for in the organizations that we support,” said Hanson.
Parent Aid, a nonprofit that has been on a mission to prevent child abuse by strengthening families and the community for the past three decades, was one such organization chosen during the Centurions 2019 charity selection process, according to Hanson.
“Parent Aid is one of the three fantastic organizations chosen that is very effective at what they do. All of the nonprofits have excellent leadership on their staffs and on their boards of directors and do a great job of serving their constituents,” Hanson said.
The Centurions are aligned with Parent Aid in the belief that proactive prevention of child abuse through education is more effective than intervention, according to Allan Stockellburg, executive director of Parent Aid.
“Everyone says they view parent education as a form of prevention for child abuse, but most organizations wait until something goes wrong to engage parents, so that is really intervention. That is one of the reasons we are so needed in the community: We are really trying to prevent child abuse,” said Stockellburg.
Stockellburg said Parent Aid takes the stance that any child can be vulnerable to abuse.
“We believe that all children are at risk to experience child abuse. We feel that all parents deserve the right to parent education, and we don’t want to turn anyone down because they don’t have the right qualifications. We are one of few agencies that does that, and without us there would be a big hole in how parents can engage,” Stockellburg said.
To that end, Parent Aid offers several free programs including SafeCare, which provides a year of home visitations with a family support specialist designed to build family skills and improve parent-child interactions for families with children age 5 and younger. Another program, Active Parenting, offers low-cost community-based education and curriculums for children from newborn through age 5, ages 5 through 12, and ages 13 and older.
Additionally, Parent Aid offers free support groups for parents with children of any age with no registration necessary; the groups meet daily on weekdays, and there are English-language and Spanish-language groups as well as a group just for dads. The schedule is available online at parentaid.org/calendar/.
“We want to remove as many barriers as we can for parents to engage in services with us,” said Stockellburg.
Ultimately, the programs seek to increase understanding of child development, enhance family communication, assist with problem-solving and promote development of self-sufficiency and support systems.
“We are one of the only agencies in town that supports children through the entire course of their lives up to age 18. That is unique to us,” said Stockellburg.
COVID-19 has proven challenging to these efforts, but the organization began providing virtual education and support through Google Meets in March 2020. Approximately 100 families monthly utilize the digital services, and Parent Aid plans to continue the virtual component after in-person services resume in three to six months.
“We have found that many of our families like the virtual component. They don’t need to arrange child care or drive to the office to show up for class; they can just have the kids in the next room, so it is convenient. We even have parents who get off work and participate in the virtual class on their bus ride home,” he said.
Facilitating outreach and connection with services is also a priority for Youth On Their Own, another beneficiary of the raffle.
The nonprofit, which is dedicated to helping homeless youth graduate from high school, has served about 800 students during the 2020-2021 school year. The numbers have been in flux due to the fact that many schools were closed to in-person learning, according to Bethany Neumann, director of development for the group.
“There are lots of students who are missing; this is something we have seen throughout the pandemic. Schools have lower enrollment, and many homeless and near-homeless students have fallen off the radar. There is a huge issue with finding them. If you are a homeless student, you don’t have a fixed address,” said Neumann.
Neumann is optimistic the re-opening of schools will help bring Youth On Their Own services to youth in need and that those efforts will be augmented by the awareness promoted through fundraisers such as the raffle.
“The money they donate is amazing, and it is more than a gift: They are asking people to get involved and bringing awareness to the issues surrounding the organizations they support, which is where it all starts. Tucson is a cool community, and folks who live here like to engage philanthropically. This raffle gives people the opportunity to engage with Centurions and with YOTO and other organizations and learn a little more about how they can get involved. Also, people love a raffle! With this one, the more tickets they sell, the more you get if you win,” said Neumann.
Contact freelance writer Loni Nannini at email@example.com