While it’s easy to associate the words “Reno Rodeo” with the month of June, the Reno Rodeo Foundation helps our community every day of the year, no matter what the month. Through Dec. 31, the organization is holding its annual Denim Drive, which provides new clothing to abused, neglected and abandoned children who have experienced the unimaginable in 14 Northern Nevada counties. To talk more about the positive impact of the Denim Drive and other ways the Reno Rodeo Foundation effects our community, I chatted with the organization’s executive director, Clara Andriola.
Who does the Reno Rodeo Foundation’s Denim Drive support?
During the past 12 years, the Reno Rodeo Foundation Denim Drive has provided comfort and clothes to more than 40,000 abused, neglected and abandoned kids in foster care and protective custody. Donations give support to a child who has experienced the unimaginable. One-hundred percent of all the proceeds, whether it’s financial or clothing, go to the kids.
What kind of donations does the Reno Rodeo Foundation need during the Denim Drive?
While all new clothing items collected in a particular county stay in that county, we also need financial donations year-round. The clothes that are donated are certainly appreciated, but monetary donations allow us to purchase the clothes for children in need, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Financial contributions enable us to meet the demand at that moment.
What kind of clothing and comfort items are you able to purchase with funds raised?
We also use financial contributions to purchase new rolling backpacks for the children to use to carry their new clothes and other items. We also buy new teddy bears for each child.
Why do you give each child a new teddy bear?
Everything that is provided from the Denim Drive sends a message that someone cares. The comfort of the teddy bear can be profound. I remember one little girl picking up a brand new teddy bear and saying, “I’m never going to leave you, and I’m going to love you forever.” I had to try not to cry immediately, because it almost felt like it was this little girl talking to herself.
How do these donations make such a difference in a child’s life?
When kids are removed from their home, through no fault of their own, they are just taken with the clothes that they have on their back. So, you can imagine what it means to a child who’s been through unimaginable experiences to get new clothes. It is more than a pair of jeans. This is a way to show that someone cares.
Are there other ways that the Reno Rodeo Foundation help children in our community?
There are about 20,000 children in Washoe County who attend court because of various reasons, none of which has been of their own doing. As families go through court proceedings, children are exposed to an emotionally challenging situation. So, the Reno Rodeo Foundation supports the Washoe County Family Court Reading Rooms, which offer children a refuge from the emotional trauma of their family legal proceedings. We stepped up and provided $10,000 to purchase books and have received donations from several organizations. Now we are building it into the Denim Drive because it’s the same kids that we’re serving.
How important are volunteers to the Reno Rodeo Foundation’s work?
We owe a tremendous amount to our volunteers and our community partners who work tirelessly to support the Reno Rodeo Foundation programs! Our volunteer hours for fiscal year 2017-2018 totaled 2,220. I want to especially recognize Sharon Smith and Linda Canavan, who are responsible for the closet that is located at the Kids Kottage Shelter, which provides temporary care for Washoe County’s abused and neglected children until they can safely be returned to their families or placed in a foster home.
Who else would you like to thank for helping the Reno Rodeo Foundation help children?
I would be remiss in not extending a deep appreciation to the Reno Rodeo Association and the entire community! When people attend the Reno Rodeo, a portion of the proceeds from the Reno Rodeo go back to the Reno Rodeo Foundation. So, the community is supporting our programs, and being able to experience an incredible event.
For more information about the Reno Rodeo Foundation’s denim drive, visit renorodeofoundation.org/denim-drive.