March 2022 Returning as an in-person event, the annual Carmel Gala “Design Bright Futures,” benefiting Carmel Youth Assistance Program (CYAP), will take place on Saturday, April 30, at Ritz Charles in Carmel. Once again, Carmel Monthly is proud to be a sponsor of this remarkable fundraising event and a longtime supporter of CYAP. This year’s gala will feature Carmel resident, former NBA player and TV personality and local broker associate at West Clay Realty Scot Pollard as this year’s emcee and Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard will again serve as honorary chair of the gala. Design Bright Futures for Carmel Youth CYAP was formed in fall 2015 to help strengthen youth and families through community involvement. CYAP works in collaboration with the Carmel Clay School District, City of Carmel and the Hamilton County Superior Court. CYAP connects families and youth to various resource, including mentoring, tutoring, mental health supports, food and clothing assistance, financial assistance and much more! CYAP early intervention advocate Maggie Figge shared that the pandemic has increased the need for services offered by CYAP as well as the need for mentors and volunteers. Figge and the CYAP board are also anticipating the need for services and the number of their summer meals program recipients to be as high or higher this year as a result of the ripple effect of the pandemic and rising costs of food and transportation. “CYAP runs the summer meals program with the help of lots of community partners that contribute to that in many ways,” Figge stated. “The initial impact was food insecurity—that was huge. We saw that in 2020 and even through 2021. In 2019, we had 250 kids who were signed up for the summer meals program, and in 2020, we had 550. We had about 400 in 2021.” In addition to food insecurity, Figge explained that there is a growing trend of anxiety, depression and truancy issues among the community’s at-risk youth. “We partner with the local food pantries, and we have some amazing ones in Carmel and throughout Hamilton County,” Figge said. “But people aren’t going to donate as much when their own grocery bills are skyrocketing. So, that means our families are feeling that too, and food stamps won’t stretch as far when you go to the grocery store. I think our summer meals numbers are going to be up again. Additionally, transportation has always been a barrier for our families for many different reasons. So, our kids don’t have a routine because their lives are a bit more chaotic, and they live day-to-day type lives.” Ways for Local Residents and Businesses to Help CYAP In addition to buying tables/tickets to this year’s Carmel Gala, residents and businesses have a myriad of ways that they can give back and assist CYAP. “We need volunteers, and we need mentors,” Figge expressed. “There’s a lot of unique and traditional ways that we can use volunteers. There is training for our mentors, and the commitment for a mentor is one hour a week for at least a year. Many of our mentors often go above and beyond that . Our goal is to recruit 15 new mentors by the end of 2022.” CYAP mentor Diane Braun is a retired school nurse from Carmel Elementary School who has been paired with her mentee, Belle, since last October. “I picked the elementary age because of my experience with that age group,” Braun shared. “I had some extra time on my hands and felt like I wanted to help and become a friend to the next generation. That’s what’s been really fun for both of us. I am not parenting at all, and I am not disciplining. I am just being a friend. I think that’s such a wonderful blessing on both sides. I would say to anyone thinking about becoming a mentor, don’t wait too much longer! Don’t talk yourself out of it, and don’t think that you’re not qualified because it’s just human nature—it’s the art of kindness. You don’t need any special skills. You just need to be able to provide some quality time with a child.” There are countless ways that local businesses can get involved with CYAP as well. Some businesses choose to sponsor or donate, and some volunteer with a variety of events and tasks, such as packing summer lunches, wrapping holiday gifts and sponsoring families during the holidays—and there are many more creative and purposeful ways of giving back. Carmel residents and businesses owners Scot and Dawn Pollard with West Clay Realty have stepped up to answer the call for assistance and the advocacy of CYAP. “As a local business and residents of Carmel, we pride ourselves on supporting local,” Scot said. “We want to service our neighbors, our community, our village. Once a need is identified, then somebody in the ‘village’ has the ability or knows someone with the ability to fill that gap. It’s about notification, so that’s why these events are so important, so that you can let people know what the needs are and how to address those needs.” Dawn added, “West Clay Realty likes to give back whenever we can. Like Scot said, we will do anything that we can do to help raise awareness. It’s always inspiring to see him get excited about these events because he’s so passionate about giving back. He was an at-risk youth himself, so this is important to him.” It’s Time to Come Together Again in Community and in person! Check out what’s new at the Carmel Gala this year! “We are looking forward to being back in person after being virtual last year,” Melanie Brewer, event chair and ex-officio CYAP board member said. “This year, we’ve got the Brothers Footman band, a lively and fun bunch of guys who performed at PorchFest and on the Midtown stage during the IMCL conference. They’re pop, country and soul—just a little bit of everything. We’re going to have a 360 cam, so think ‘Grammys.’ It’s this cool 360-degree camera, and attendees will be able to pose and share the video on social media.” Brewer also shared that the gala will feature a “Boozy Ring Toss” carnival-like game along with the traditional favorites: Bubbles & Bling raffle, Dessert Dash, dinner, dancing and a silent auction that is loaded with exquisite and exciting items donated by an extensive list of local businesses. Brewer could not express enough appreciation for all the businesses and individuals who have donated to this year’s gala and contributed to the auction and raffles. Brewer concluded, “The businesses in Carmel have stepped up, and they do it like no other! This event would not be what it is without them and without their partnerships.” For more information on how to get involved with CYAP, visit youthassistance.org/carmel. Get your tickets and/or tables for this year’s Carmel Gala at carmelgala.org!