For five years, youth outreach group New Events and Opportunities has offered alternatives to drugs and alcohol for teens and Nevada County youth.
NEO will be celebrating its anniversary Friday with NEO fest, which will take place from noon to 10 p.m. at 49er Fun Park as a way to unite the community in an entertaining platform.
The event includes two stages with nine live bands, acoustic performers, hip-hop artists and dancers.
Also included are a bounce house and ball pit, finger painting, murals, giant bubbles, go-cart races, crafts and water games to beat the heat.
“It’s going to be a really fun, energetic, creative event,” said Lynn Skrukrud, who founded NEO with Halli Ellis at the age of 19 with support from Coalition for a Drug Free Nevada County.
“It’s really for all ages — little kids, teenagers, parents or adults without kids. We want everyone to feel the joy of being a kid again.”
The event has the double purpose of celebrating NEO’s five-year existence and the community for its support, as well as a kick-start to the fundraising effort for a youth center, projected to open in January 2014.
“This event is going to be a fundraiser based on the saying ‘It takes a village to raise a child,’” Skrukrud said. “We are asking the community to come together and support us, whether it’s through financial help, volunteering or donating supplies.” The center is desperately needed in this community, Skrukrud said, because of the lack of proactive social resources for local youth.
This was made apparent with a survey NEO conducted at the fair in which 200 local youth listed what they would like to see more of in the county, including different activities and games.
The results indicated the No. 1 need was for a safe, supportive place to go, and second was a place to hang out.
“Kids recognized they just want somewhere to go and feel supported,” Skrukrud said.
When she was in high school, Skrukrud busied herself with Nevada Union’s marching band and drug prevention education and realized that information alone was insufficient.
“They need something more than education,” she said.
“They need alternatives to parties and access to healthy choices. A lot of my peers were getting into trouble because they didn’t have something positive to do.”
In the past five years, NEO has hosted more than 300 events in about 25 different locations per year.
Skrukrud said the fundraising goal for the new youth center is $350,000, and organizers have sought grants to assist with funding.
NEO organizers also hope to involve 35,000 residents, half the population of Western Nevada County, to make the center a community-supported effort.
“Whether it’s each person donating time or services or money,” Skrukrud said, “that’s really the goal.”
To contact Staff Writer Jennifer Terman, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4230.