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Sac State's sponsorship role continues as new event is set to support Northern California's foster youth

The virtual event provides plenty of options for participants to help support the Stanford Sierra Youth & Families work on behalf of Northern California foster youth. (iStock image)

Every race bib for this year’s Stanford Sierra Youth & Families (SSYF) Forever Family Fun Run will be No. 9174. That is the number of Northern California youth who are living in foster care while waiting for a permanent home.

“The goal is that someday the bib number will be a zero,” said Jim Dragna, executive director of Sacramento State’s University Initiatives and Student Success, and a member of the SSYF board of directors.

race number
The number shown on every race bib for the Forever Families Fun Run corresponds with how many Northern California youth are in foster care awaiting a permanent home. (Sacramento State)

Sac State is title sponsor of the 2021 virtual fundraiser, which kicks off at 8 a.m. Saturday, April 17, with a four-hour podcast featuring stories of foster and adoptive families and interviews with special guests. It can be found on SSYF’s YouTube channel.

Although the event is called a fun run, donors are encouraged to get moving any way they choose on behalf of the children and families across 17 counties served by SSYF. Participants can hike, walk, cycle, swim, play a sport, jog, or even spend time working in the yard.

SSYF’s fundraising drive continues through Friday, April 30.

Event participants may register online. Use of the promotional code STINGERSUP takes $5 off the $29 registration fee.

“The partnership with Stanford Sierra Youth & Families is valuable because it provides the Hornet Family the opportunity to help youth and families to overcome challenges, together,” University President Robert S. Nelsen said.

“We need to help create safe, lifelong connections for all young people within our community, especially those in foster care, and we need to help kids and families stay together.”

One of the University’s most enduring on-campus programs is Guardian Scholars, which supports former foster youth who are Sac State students. They can benefit from academic and career advising, professional mentoring, priority registration, emergency funds, and internship opportunities.

“Both Sac State and SSYF have the same enormous return on investment. We offer tools and solutions to ensure that every child has a permanent family connection, and Sac State offers an accessible pathway to self-sufficiency and prosperity for its students."  

Fourteen Guardian Scholars will graduate from the University in May.

Sac State has strong ties to SSYF, created in July 2019 when Stanford Youth Solutions merged with Sierra Forever Families.

Alumni and current students make up nearly a quarter of the agency’s staff, providing counseling, support, and other services to clients.

This year’s event replaces the “Over the Edge” fundraiser in which participants – “edgers” – rappelled down the 16-story Residence Inn by Marriott, in downtown Sacramento. Sac State sponsored that event in 2018 and 2019.

herky over the edge
Herky, Sacramento State's mascot, was just one notable participant in the "Over The Edge" fundraiser that has been replaced this year by the Forever Families Fun Run. (Sacramento State/Jessica Vernone)

SSYF canceled its 2020 fundraiser because of COVID-19, and this year’s Forever Family Fun Run is virtual to keep everyone safe.

Jody Nelsen, wife of Sac State’s president, went over the edge in both 2018 and 2019, though she expected a much shorter three-story drop the first time.

“I was really nervous because I’m afraid of heights,” she said, “but a commitment is a commitment, so over the edge I went.” She returned in 2019 with the same strategy: Don’t look down.

Sac State “edgers” have included members of the President’s Cabinet and Associated Students Inc. (ASI). The University’s mascot, Herky the Hornet, was one of the first to ease off the hotel roof.

“Both Sac State and SSYF have the same enormous return on investment,” said Mac Clemmens, an SSYF board member. “We offer tools and solutions to ensure that every child has a permanent family connection, and Sac State offers an accessible pathway to self-sufficiency and prosperity for its students.  

“We’re delighted to partner once again in service of our community.”

Over the Edge in those two years raised $280,000 for SSYF’s programs, which serve nearly 1,800 youth annually. In addition, comprehensive services and support are offered to siblings and caregivers of those youth. In all, the agency helps about 4,500 young people and families throughout its 17-county service area.

Sac State, as the title sponsor, continues to support the agency and its mission.

 “At the center of that commitment is the president and Jody’s interest in being an integral part of the community, and their vision for Sac State, in its role as an Anchor University, being relevant to the needs of the community,” Dragna said.

“The theme of this fun run is that everyone deserves a forever family, and that fits in nicely with the idea of our Hornet Family extending beyond our campus and into the greater community.”

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About Dixie Reid

Dixie Reid has been a writer for Sac State since 2012 after decades as a newspaper reporter. A Texas native with the accent to prove it, Dixie is crazy about “dear friends, big dogs, good books, great food, day trips, baking cookies, California sunshine (and fog), and kind people.”

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