“A super celebratory birthday plan is underway that promises to change lives and spread some big cheesy smiles across all of our faces. Wanna be part of it?”
I sent my littles off to school this morning, bundled in their coziest fleeces after a cup of warm cocoa and a little dollop of whipped cream. Summer vacation has come to its annual screeching halt and the bold foreshadows of autumn surround us. Our cherished cider mill swung open its barn doors last week to share their famous apple cider and homemade donuts; the mama deer and her babies frequent our backyard at dusk every night to gather up their final bounty before the winter freeze; and this weekend Jim Harbaugh will throw on his khakis to coach his second win in The Big House, home to 110,000 fans—Go Blue! Anticipation of something new is in the air!
Do you want to know what else is on the horizon? Dawn Stueckle is turning FIFTY and I’m hosting a party to help celebrate her “one wild and precious life!” in a grand way.
Some of us call Dawn "friend;" one of us calls her "lover;" and dozens and dozens of us, especially those with whom she has dedicated her life, call her "Momma Dawn," or "Gramma." For all of us, my guess is that at some point in our lives, Dawn has been our place of homecoming. The soft landing place that we've found ourselves wrapped in during both our joys and our greatest sorrows.
About a year ago, my 12-year old son and I had the gift of spending a few days at Ron and Dawn's house. While I had called her friend for more than 20 years by then, it was during this short visit that my understanding of whom she had become and how starting Sunset Youth Services in the early 1990's had shaped her. I witnessed countless youth find their place of belonging in her smile and open arms. We met kids every afternoon that came to the Center to introduce their friends to "Momma." Others who called, late into the evening, to ask for presence in their suffering: someone to hold their fears, to come with them to Court, to help them process their brother's overdose. Young girls raising young children who sought the steadfast trust of “Gramma Dawn” whom they counted on in the wake of their own parent's abandonment and the absence of any home apart from SYS. It became clear to both Thacher and I that while the Center might go unnoticed by those who had a place to call home in a more traditional sense, these kids saw the Center as a mansion of extravagant grace and rescue. And Dawn is their homebase. As comfortable sitting in the dark rooms of the night as she is in the bright light of day, Dawn has become the historian of their childhoods; the keeper of their stories; the one present beside them in birth rooms, funeral parlors, and wedding celebrations.
In honor of Dawn’s transformative work among kids and her remarkable (half-century old!) life, we are throwing a $50,000 party between now and the end of October. But we need you to help make it happen! Together, on Crowdrise, we’re asking all of Dawn’s friends to make a birthday gift to Sunset Youth Services. For every dollar received, the children, youth and families at SYS will have a better chance of building a life worth living. Led by Dawn’s extraordinary heart and mind, the Center offers hundreds of youth every year the chance to build skills, grow relationships, and experience success in ways they might not ever experience otherwise. Your gift to Dawn is a gift to these same kids who are dying, many quite literally, for someone to believe in them. All of the money received by SYS will go directly towards services for youth whom, without Dawn’s presence and those that call SYS home, might not ever experience what it is to belong. To be loved. To be picked up when they’ve fallen. Children, who when they close their eyes and imagine homecoming, imagine Dawn.
The party ends on October 31st! We hope you’ll make your gift now. All gifts are tax deductible.
Happy Birthday, Dawn Stueckle! Our lives are more extraordinary because you were born.
Friend of Dawn and long-time supporter of Sunset Youth Services