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Luncheon raises $78,000 for relief nursery

BEND, Ore. - The annual Children's Expedition Luncheon was held last week in support of MountainStar Family Relief Nursery's child abuse and neglect prevention services for high-stress families with children six weeks to three years old in Central Oregon. Three hundred guests attended the one-hour event where they learned about MountainStar's important work keeping children safe, parents successful and families together.

A key focus of the luncheon, and MountainStar's newest initiative in helping high stress families, was the introduction of the Parent Child Interaction Therapy ("PCIT") program, which is just one service MountainStar provides.

"A child's earliest experiences create a template for relationships for the rest of their lives," stated Cherie Skillings, MountainStar's Program Director. "This mental health treatment helps a child exposed to violence and trauma to re-set their compass with regard to healthy relationships, and helps to create a new trajectory for a child's ability to trust others, communicate appropriately, and steer free of violent, abusive or manipulative behaviors."

This intensive program, implemented over the past year, works well within the context of MountainStar's core services, which include the therapeutic classroom, respite care, home visits and problem solving outside of the sessions.

The nurturing relationship MountainStar develops with the family gives the parent an experience that they can build on to then nurture their child. Skillings shared her first-hand experience of how this treatment helps a parent and child relationship.

"Many of these children have witnessed family trauma or violence at a very young age—often under 2 years old.  As a result, they can begin to exhibit difficult, aggressive behaviors and have trouble moving through their days without tantrums, power struggles and embarrassing moments. The skills we practice reduce these behaviors and create a more warm nurturing relationship between parent and child thereby reducing the risk for abuse."

During the event, a MountainStar client and parent spoke bravely about her reluctance to trust based on painful life experiences, and how this pattern has given way to being more open to help and hopeful about her family's future. The annual luncheon, which raised over $78,000 for MountainStar programs, is key to ensuring these successes continue for Central Oregon's most vulnerable families.

"The event was a big success and we send a huge appreciation to the team that made it happen – community members who were table hosts, staff members, board members, volunteers, clients, and MountainStar friends," says Tim Rusk, Executive Director at MountainStar Family Relief Nursery. "Everyone who attended the event left with a greater understanding of MountainStar, and for many a new commitment to get involved and help children and families in our community," added Rusk.

The most satisfying result of the luncheon is knowing that children who live in families facing multiple serious challenges that can compromise a child's development will receive the care, attention and nurturing they deserve while their parents receive regular home visits, parenting classes, and crisis support to help them address the issues that get in the way of effective parenting and their child's safety.

About MountainStar Family Relief Nursery:

Nationally accredited, MountainStar Family Relief Nursery ("MountainStar") provides crisis intervention and a therapeutic classroom for 350 babies and young children from 6-weeks to 5-years-old in Deschutes and Jefferson Counties. These children come from families with multiple risk factors for child abuse and neglect, including low income, homelessness, mental health issues, domestic violence, and substance abuse.  Children at this critical age represent ½ of the victims of child abuse and are at a stage in their development when it is essential to have attached and attentive caretakers.  Relief Nurseries have documented success in reducing family risk factors for child abuse and neglect, improving family functioning and self-sufficiency and reducing foster care utilization. For more information about MountainStar and its programs, please visit or call (541) 322-6820.

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