Christmas trees adorned with at least $2,500-worth of decoration is the centerpoint of ICAN’s Festival of the Trees fundraiser. Last year’s highlight was Chase Construction Company’s tool extravaganza — its tree came with a full assortment of Black & Decker tools — that was actually auctioned off four times. The trees are part of the live auction capping an evening of “Masquerade” at Sheraton Wildhorse Pass in Chandler on Dec. 6 that also includes a cocktail reception, silent auction and “five-star dinner.” “We encourage people to get into the theme,” says ICAN executive director Becky Jackson, who will be carrying her own “Masquerade” mask on a stick. Masks made by the youth in art class will be the “thank you” cards to the winning silent and live auction bidders. This year’s fundraising goal is $250,000, all of which will go toward ICAN’s programs.
Serving a population in a four-square-mile area of downtown Chandler where eight out of 10 youth live in extreme poverty (income less than $15,000 per year for a family of four), ICAN provides youth ages 5 to 18 programming that encompasses drug abuse prevention, leadership training, homework help and more. And fun, of course, to keep them coming back. ICAN’s Hill Learning Academy, developed with Chandler Unified School District, provides an alternative route to a high-school diploma to a population at high risk of dropping out of school.
- ICAN, founded in 1991 as “Improving Chandler Area Neighborhoods” to provide a place youth could go after school as a counter to rising gang violence, was rebranded in 2011 as simply “ICAN.”
- ICAN is one of only two youth agencies in Arizona accredited by the National Council on Accreditation.
- With its four 15-passenger vans, ICAN provides transportation not only from the children’s school but, for about 80 percent of them, a ride home as well. “Many families don’t have transportation,” says Becky Jackson, executive director.
- More than 700 volunteers assist a paid staff of 26, who include prevention specialists with degrees in fields such as social services and education, to provide a variety of programs and services “to help [youth] be more successful and break the cycle of poverty,” Jackson says.