Danbury Youth Services honor supporters at annual breakfast

This year’s annual butterfly breakfast hosted by Danbury Youth Services (DYS) was a way to thank donors and share the impact of their generosity on youth and families in the community. At the breakfast, held June 28 at the Colonnade in the Amber Room, it was clear that DYS supporters are essential in helping the agency fulfill its mission to empower young people to build a positive and fulfilling life.

“DYS may be small, but our impact is big,” said Julie Schmitter, Executive Director of DYS. “Our supporters really make all the difference. For example, funding from the United Way of Western Connecticut provided 10 underinsured and uninsured youth with hundreds of hours of counseling services this year. Funding from the Union Savings Bank Foundation helped cover transportation costs for 23 TARGET youth to take them home after school, and funding from the City of Danbury enabled DYS to match 56 participants to the summer employment program for youth at community workplaces.

For nearly fifty years, the non-profit organization has provided programs and services to families and youth in the greater Danbury area. Many area employers were represented at the breakfast, including breakfast sponsors Nuvance Health, Linde, Newtown Savings Bank, Webster Bank, Diversified Printing Solutions, Reynolds + Rowella, Benay Enterprises, Ingersoll Auto and Nicholas/Tobin Insurance .

DYS continues to meet the changing and growing needs of its more than 300 customers. The agency remains committed to expanding high-quality mental health care, rich social experiences, and positive youth development.

“We are in a global health crisis,” said Elizabeth Cotter, clinical director at DYS. “Fifty percent of all lifetime mental illness begins at age 14. The World Health Organization recommends that we deepen the value and commitment to mental health through a systems approach. We need to increase the number of customers we serve and focus on where, how and to whom we serve.

Cotter then highlighted the mental health issues facing young people today, especially members of the LGBTQ community.

“Thirty-six percent of LGBTQ youth report physical threats and are four times more likely to attempt suicide,” Cotter said. “Therapy helps queer people feel safe and loved.”

Cotter, introduced the guest speaker, a youth who has directly benefited from the services of DYS. As part of the LGBTQ community, they shared what it was like to be bullied.

During the pandemic, over 80% of LGBTQ youth said COVID-10 had made their life situation more stressful. Forty-eight percent said they wanted advice but couldn’t get it.

The guest speaker shared these statistics and his experience in hopes of advocating for others and educating the public because being bullied is wrong. They are grateful for the counseling they received at DYS because the therapist made them feel accepted.

Richard F. Gandhi