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Centralia Junior High: You’re the Best!

At One Hope United, donations of school supplies are collected throughout the month of August in preparation for youth to go back to school. On Tuesday, August 19, a surprising new donation came from an unexpected place.

The Centralia Junior High School faculty and staff pulled up to the Centralia Residential site in a bus and asked to see one of our youth, who is a student at the school. They then all cheered as the youth came out of the Administration building to receive her gift: school supplies to start the new school year! They also chanted and shouted “YOU MATTER!”

The faculty and staff wanted to show students, parents and the community that they truly care about their students. We are so grateful that our youth was one of the four students the junior high staff chose to recognize and supply with the materials needed to start off the new school year successfully. Thank you, Centralia Junior High!

Camp Hope: An Experience to Remember

Summer camp provides children the chance to learn new skills, enjoy summer activities, make happy memories, and have fun.  The Centralia, Illinois campus is giving residential youth that opportunity with a new program modeled after summer camp.  Camp Hope, developed by local staff, gives youth a chance to explore their creativity and increase knowledge

During the morning, youth attend a Cooking, Arts, or Life Skills course with the goal that everyone gets to participate in all of the courses before the end of the summer.  Activities are designed to engage the campers in a variety of ways. During a recent Art class, for example, a magnified version of one youth’s fingerprint was placed behind art paper.  The youth then wrote down characteristics that make them unique, creating a visually striking pattern of text that followed the lines of the fingerprint.

Other youth participate in on-campus employment opportunities, giving them the chance to hone job skills while earning a little extra money for the school year.  The youth employees, who were required to apply for their jobs, help the “counselors” with the day’s camp activities, prepare lunch with the cook in the kitchen, or assist with other work around campus. 

After lunch and a short break, youth participate in a fun outdoor activity such as hiking, miniature golf, or swimming.  Camp Hope will culminate in early August with a group swim, an overnight camping experience at Camp Maranatha, and an end-of-season party.   

Thank you, Centralia staff, for taking that extra step to give the youth a great summer!

Functional Family Therapy Gives a Family the Skills they Need to Communicate

holding hands (with clipping path)Alisa* is 12 and she and her biological father were recently involved with our Functional Family Therapy (FFT) program in St. Louis.

Before FFT, Alisa had been arguing and fighting with many school peers and family members, which led to her getting kicked out of school. Her dad didn’t discipline her and instead often gave very long speeches about why she shouldn’t do what she did, causing Alisa to check out after just a sentence or two. He also often bought her extra things like electronics and jewelry after she would repeatedly ask him and give him “puppy-dog eyes.”

During FFT, the therapist pointed out the patterns that she saw and assessed the functions in the family, noting that dad wanted more connection time than the daughter did (hence the long speeches). Dad was able to see the role he was playing in Alisa’s choices because he was teaching her that she could manipulate people to get what she wanted and to not be satisfied with what she had. The therapist showed the family how they could use their strengths, like a strong family connection and Dad’s advice, in a way that encouraged positive behaviors and practiced small adjustments, like shorter speeches.

Soon, dad was parenting more consistently, keeping his “no means no” and using other things as rewards for good behavior. Alisa also saw how what she was doing brought out a side of herself that she didn’t want to be and changed the way she approached peers. In addition, the therapist practiced skills like anger management, decision-making and communication/listening skills to enhance their interactions and keep them on a positive path. The result was a family that didn’t argue as much and a daughter who was actually listening to her dad’s great advice.

*Name has been changed to protect the privacy of the family.

3rd Annual Open Water Fishing Derby

On Saturday, June 14, Volunteers from the Fox Valley Muskie Association hosted the 3rd Annual Open Water Fishing Derby for the boys at One Hope United. Twenty boys, staff, and fishermen boarded thirteen boats and headed out on Deep Lake in Lake Villa, Illinois.

The weather was perfect for this day of catch and release fishing. The day concluded with a picnic lunch, donated and served by volunteers. One of the boys, Jonathan, told a fisherman, “I’ve been looking forward to this day for ten months!” All shared some great fish stories and created lasting memories.

Thanks to all who came out to support this special group!

Chicago Bulls’ Joakim Noah GOES BLUE for OHU!

As many of you know, April is Child Abuse Prevention Month and One Hope United has created the GO BLUE campaign to raise awareness about the importance of stopping child abuse before it starts.  And we’re thrilled to have Joakim Noah lend his time and talents to help us spread the word!

Through their Noah’s Arc Foundation Joakim and his mother Cecilia Rodhe engage kids with art and sports so that every child can “be able to express their true self in order to fulfill their dreams.”  They have also developed a great relationship with the boys from One Hope United’s CARE Day Treatment Program, hosting the boys at Joakim’s home to shoot some hoops, gather around the campfire, and just relax and chat.  We’re so grateful for their support.

But you don’t have to be an NBA superstar to be a hero to child.  From local business owners to community leaders to our youngest volunteers, everyone is invited to show their support in the fight to end child abuse and GO BLUE this April!

Comfort Kits "Give a Little Love"

Comfort_Kits.3.19.14

The Second Annual “Give a Little Love” event on February 28, 2014 created sixty Comfort Kits for children being removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect.

Chrys Zastrow, founder of Sweet Zzzz Comfort Kits, organized this event along with Young Scholars Child Care Center in Island Lake, Illinois, and friends and family. Often when a child is removed from their home, it is an emergency situation. The child may arrive at the foster home without anything but the clothes on his or her back. A comfort kit is a duffel bag filled with basic comforts: blanket, a “lovie” blanket, stuffed animal, toothbrush and toothpaste, body wash, shampoo and conditioner, book or craft and a water bottle.

When Zastrow’s three daughters first arrived at her home, they had received comfort kits to bring with them. This simple act of kindness motivated her to give back to other children in need.

This year, Zastrow’s eldest daughter worked with her Girl Scout Daisy troop to make a blanket and assemble a comfort kit. This 5 year old shared her story with her fellow troop members, telling them how she came to live with her adoptive mom, Chrys Zastrow. Her younger twin sisters clearly remembered their own comfort kits – taking to bed with them that night the very blankets they had received a few years before when they first arrived at the Zastrow home.

“Give a Little Love” demonstrated how much one person can greatly impact the lives of children in need at a critical moment in their lives.

Fishing Derby at Lake Villa brings new experiences to youth

One Hope United’s Lake Villa campus hosted its second annual ice fishing derby on Saturday, Feb. 1, 2014. The event brings together world famous fishermen and boys in the CARE/Day School program for a day of fun and fishing on the campus lake!

This year, the derby was sponsored by the Fox River Valley Muskie Association and Cabella’s donated huts, heaters, hand warmers and bait for the volunteers and 18 boys in treatment.

Tony Boshold, a world champion ice fisherman attend and instructed the boys in the fundamentals of ice fishing. U.S. Champion Ice Fisherman Mike McNett also volunteered. One Hope United Board Member Cindy Lusignan and volunteer Nancy Miller donated lunch for all the participants. One Hope United Board Member Howard Schnitzer and his wife Chris donated coffee and donuts for the fisherman before they made their way out on the ice. Bonnie Lederman and Joyce Heneberry also volunteered their time at this event, in addition to many others.

Thanks to all who helped make this a memorable day for the boys receiving treatment. Many shared their thoughts about the experience:

Josh, a boy in the residential program, caught three fish. He said, “The best part was catching the most fish. I learned how to ice fish. There was no bad thing about the fishing derby.  It was fun.”

Shamar said, “The best part was catching the fish in a small hole. I learned how to ride a four-wheeler.” 

Kevin said the best part was “when we went on the snowmobile. I learned how to be patient.” 

Reggie said, “Hanging out with everyone on the water was fun. I learned how to catch fish on the ice. I loved it.”

Mason was glad that his confusion about which fisherman there was named Cabela was cleared up because he was so glad the company had donated so much.  He said, “I enjoyed riding a snowmobile for the first time.

Sunshine Coach arrives in Hudelson

Variety the Children’s Charity of St. Louis awarded another Sunshine Coach to One Hope United’s Hudelson Region. 

The van, valued at $31,323, will be used for clients served by the Collinsville office through Family Support Services and Transportation and Visitation. The vans were awarded at the Champions for Children Summit in St. Louis on November 12, and officially released to One Hope United on Friday, January 24.

Second Annual Comfort Kit Fundraiser

ZastrowTwo years ago, Chrys Zastrow became a foster mother for three young girls and hosted her first annual comfort kit fundraiser in Island Lake. In March, Chrys and her husband will finalize the adoption of their girls and host the second annual “Give a Little Extra Love Night” comfort kit fundraiser! 

Comfort kits are given to children and families who enter foster care. Often when a child arrives at a new home, it is an emergency situation. The child might arrive without anything but the clothes on his or her back. A comfort kit is a duffel bag filled with basic comforts: blanket, a “lovie” blanket, stuffed animal, toothbrush and toothpaste, body wash, shampoo and conditioner, book or craft and a water bottle.

When Chrys first became a foster parent to the three girls she will be adopting soon, they each arrived with a comfort kit on their first night. She realized how valuable the kits were and how much her girls treasured them. Chrys and the girls wanted to provide the same comfort to other foster children so decided to start a fundraiser!

This year’s event will be on Friday, February 28, at 6 p.m. at the Young Scholars Child Care Center in Island Lake, Ill. All are invited to donate to help purchase items, or come to the event and help make “lovie” blankets and assemble the kits! For more information please contact Chrys Zastrow atSweetzzzcomfortkits@yahoo.com

Donation information:

  • There will also be a donation jar on the front desk of Young Scholars Child Care Center for monetary donations.
  • If you would like to donate a blanket kit = $10
  • A complete comfort kit = $20

Please have donations dropped off by Thursday, February 20.

Donations can be mailed to:


Young Scholars Child Care Center
501 Kora Lane
Island Lake, IL 60042

Florida Staff Member Adoption Finalized

Melvin Guzman, Licensing Supervisor in Florida, was able to celebrate Thanksgiving with his son, Juan, 13, after Juan’s adoption was finalized on November 27.

Guzman_adoption_600 pixJuan, along with his siblings and cousins, entered Youth and Family Services, a child welfare agency, after he was removed from his family’s care three years ago.  At that time, Melvin was working with Youth and Family Services and met Juan shortly after he entered the program.  Juan was somewhat of a problematic child, and had gotten in trouble in school for being disruptive. Initially, Melvin thought of himself as a mentor for Juan and gave him advice about how to handle difficult situations. After working together and building their relationship, Melvin knew he wanted to adopt Juan and become a family.

“I knew he needed the help, the assistance and the nurturing,” Melvin said. “Once Juan knew I was interested in adopting him I told him what the rules and expectations were and he heard that.  His disruptions at school and his misbehaving completely stopped.”

For more information about becoming a foster parent or adopting please visit http://onehopeunited.wpengine.com/services/