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C2i annual Kentucky Derby fundraiser is a party with a purpose

Funds raised benefit youth and young adults in foster care

By Harry Colbert, Jr. –

Connections 2 Independence helps teens and young adults such as these three who modeled Derby fashions during last year's annual fundraiser. All three models are now college students, they say, thanks to C2i.

Connections 2 Independence helps teens and young adults such as these three who modeled Derby fashions during last year’s annual fundraiser. All three models are now college students, they say, thanks to C2i. Photo credit: Harry Colbert, Jr.

For the third year in a row the space inside Warehouse Winery, 6415 Cambridge St., St. Louis Park, will have the look and feel of Louisville, Ky. during the “Run for the Roses,” complete with colorful dresses, audacious hats, seersucker suits, bow ties and mint juleps.

Some of the outfits on display during last year's Connections 2 Independence Kentucky Derby fundraiser. This year's event takes place May 7.

Some of the outfits on display during last year’s Connections 2 Independence Kentucky Derby fundraiser. This year’s event takes place May 7.

In addition, on Saturday, May 7 from 3 p.m. – 7 p.m., there will be casino gaming, food, contests for best hat for the women and best “swag” for the men, a mini fashion show, an outdoor cigar lounge and of course viewing of the Kentucky Derby. There will be music, a silent auction with prizes from the NFL Players’ Association, the Minnesota Twins, Lynx and more. The now annual Connections 2 Independence (C2i) Kentucky Derby “Run for the Roses” party has become one of the more anticipated events in the Twin Cities. And after the event everyone goes back to their daily lives … and that’s just the point.

For most in attendance, that means going back to their homes, their jobs … their families. For a few special guests in attendance it means returning back to the uncertainty of being in the foster care system. But C2i is working to eliminate that uncertainty and transition the youth it encounters into a positive and healthy adulthood. The money raised during its signature event helps C2i achieve its noble mission.

Connections 2 Independence executive director Jessica Rogers during last year's Kentucky Derby fundraiser at Warehouse Winery.

Connections 2 Independence executive director Jessica Rogers during last year’s Kentucky Derby fundraiser at Warehouse Winery.

For those in long-term foster care, the numbers are staggering. Nationally only 45 percent of fosters graduate from high school or attain a GED. Only 15 percent go on to pursue post-secondary education. Of that, only three percent will complete.

But in 2015 the youth nurtured through C2i had a 98 percent rate of achieving a high school degree or GED. Sixty percent have gone on to some form of post-secondary learning. C2i is making a measurable difference. It is also making a difference that is not so measureable.

“We look at the whole individual, not just a checklist approach,” said Jessica Rogers, executive director of C2i. “We do our work from a trauma informed perspective. If a person isn’t healthy on the inside they can’t reach their potential. We get kids from survivor mode to thriving mode.”

One of the many things that makes C2i successful in its mission is the fact that it works with fosters past the years the state kicks them off the rolls. C2i works with youth and young adults ages 15 – 24, applying a five-prong approach focusing on employment, housing, education, financial literacy and personal wellness.

“It goes beyond just basic skills,” said Rogers.

Rogers said the money raised during the annual fundraiser helps C2i to impact the daily lives of the youth who rely on C2i. Thanks to sponsorship from companies such as Dorsey & Whitney, LLP and others and funding from commercial realtors, Christianson & Co., 100 percent of every dollar raised during the May 7 party goes to provide services for the C2i youth and young adults, including a summer internship program. Tickets to the Kentucky Derby “Run for the Roses” fundraiser are $30 in advance and $40 at the door. Advance tickets are available at www.tinyurl.com/J2wo94j.

May is National Foster Care Month.

May 2, 2016
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