Attendees at the Kaleidescape Kansas shopping expo held at the Dodge House in January helped raise a grand for Ford Count Kids Count, an organization that aids parents, teens and families in communication skills and decision-making.
"Every $1,000 counts," said Ford County Kids Count Director Tammie West. In 2009, the state cut $55,000 from the agency's teen pregnancy program. Ford County has the second highest rate of teen pregnancy in Kansas, she said.
Forty percent of sixth graders are sexually active, West said, and by the time they reach high school that number jumps to 60 percent. By their senior year, 95 percent of high school students are sexually active.
She said she is often surprised at the kinds of questions the pre-teen students ask her, or that they'd know enough to be able to ask the questions. That's what makes it so important to be open, providing an avenue for education.
Kids Count has managed to keep the program alive through community donations, but has had to reduce the scope.
Still, West speaks with freshman high school students and has started a program that connects with middle school students about sex, pregnancy and making good decisions about their future.
Kids Count also has programs on co-parenting, which teaches newly divorced parents how not to make enemies of each other in front of their children. "Shielding children from divorce abuse" is the goal of the program which teaches parents how to think critically about that they say and how kids can read deeply into flippant statements.
There are about 21 divorces a month in Ford County, according to statistics compiled by the agency, and about 15 of those involve custody battles.
Additionally, the agency offers parenting classes, courses in healthy family dynamics and mentoring programs for women leaving jail to help them stay out.
Kim Unruh, the organizer of Kaleidescape, and Jenny Nari, presented West with the check. Most of the money came from the silent auction and candy stand where candy pizza was the popular choice, with more coming from the shopping expo directly.
Among the items put up for auction were five bowling and pizza nights with D.C. Law football players and members of the Gunpowder Girls dance team, season tickets and the opportunity for one child to be the waterboy during the indoor football team's inaugural season.