February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month and a perfect opportunity to share how SVPAZ has helped BLOOM365 develop connections and relationships that continue to open doors to grow a culture of healthy relationships rooted and stemmed in empathy, respect, consent, kindness, peace and love among our youth.
Almost five years ago today, I was Skyping at night with my Fast Pitch mentors Anne Guerrant and Anita Leach to hone in and slim down my 180 second pitch. Little did I know that the second annual Fast Pitch showcase, held on March 6, 2012 (my 40th birthday), would become a game-changing, life-alerting, and mission catapulting moment for me and for all who shared the big, bold vision of ending teen dating abuse and domestic violence for future generations.
It was the first time out in the open and in front of hundreds of people that I shared my personal inspiration for launching Purple Ribbon Council to Cut Out Domestic Abuse (now DBA BLOOM365) and my vision for tackling a pervasive public health issue that causes emotional, mental and physical harm to one in three teens.
When our name was called as the 2012 Fast Pitch Investee organization, it was confirmation that we were onto something big and that our impact was scalable. But, how do we go from a “mom and pop” start-up to a local and national leader in this primary prevention space? Enter through the door our lead partners Carol Clemency and Diane Walker. Carol and Diane not only invested in BLOOM365, they also showed me and our board how it all works. The SVPAZ Partner network brings in more than just dollars. Partners give advice on strategy, lend their skills and open doors to other influencers who want to help.
Each door opened during the last five years by an SVPAZ Partner has directly or indirectly led to more than 17,000 Arizona teens gaining the knowledge, confidence and skills to prevent teen dating abuse and build healthy relationships so they can avoid domestic violence later in life.
Door number one opened by SVPAZ was to Chad Gestson, the then Principal of Camelback High School and now Superintendent of the PUHSD. Camelback was the first school to take a chance on us in 2013 and pilot our BLOOM It Up teen dating abuse prevention and healthy relationship curriculum in every freshman health education class.
As the interest and demand for our program grew, in 2014-2015 we took the next critical step – evaluation. Thanks to the fundraising efforts of our lead partner Carol Clemency, doors were opened to the dollars needed to contract with the ASU Morrison Institute for Public Policy to measure and evaluate the pre/post data from our seven “dose” curriculum. This led to an evaluation report that deemed our work “a promising practice for the prevention of attitudes, behaviors and social/cultural factors that tolerate abusive and violent relationships as normal among teens.”
After a four-year cycle of developing, testing, evaluating, modifying and proving significant short-term impact, in 2016 it was time to take our three-step prevention approach and organizational capacity building to the next level. This is where, SVPAZ partner and BLOOM365 board chair Patrick Armstrong enters. Under Patrick’s brilliant leadership and relationship building savvy, we created a BLOOM365 “Founding Board,” quadrupled board giving, enhanced our tech capacity, increased our team from three to nine, and are now positioning BLOOM365 to roll out an earned revenue model.
There are just a few more challenges to hurdle before scaling beyond the desert and SVPAZ opens doors once again! The November Think-Tank-a-Thon event led us to Partner Shannon Gaines. Shannon is now volunteering her time as development and marketing director to strengthen our brand and to develop a turn-key “Give.Grow.BLOOM.” fundraising campaign so we can raise residual income in every community where we BLOOM. Check us out in the Arizona Republic’s Season for Sharing video/article.
The Think-Tank-a-Thon event also introduced us to SVPAZ friend Chris Webster, who then opened the door to the Fisher Agency. Fisher’s creative team is launching our “Give. Grow. BLOOM. $35 Saves A Life” campaign with an impact video, landing page, and logo. All pro bono! (SVPAZ’s very own Cindy Vandervort coined “$35 Saves A Life” that night). We will launch the campaign at a public event on Thursday, February 23. Please mark your calendar and stay tuned for event details!
And, the door that we have been waiting to walk through for a very long time was opened at the SVPAZ Holiday Party where we met Ben Smith of Unexpected Art Gallery. We shared with Ben our urgent need for marketing, website, social media and curriculum-specific videos that place teens at the front and center of our work. Ben introduced us to Shaina Churchfield of WAKE Brand Media. Shaina immediately embraced our cause and within one week of meeting assembled our team in her video production studio to capture the story of our impact.
Thanks to these doors and many more opened by SVPAZ, we are now implementing our year-round, research-based, evidence-informed three-Step Bloom It Up prevention program in every health education class in ten schools across the Valley. We currently maintain a wait-list of 32 local middle and high schools, 11 youth organizations, and three church youth groups and national/international interest in our root cause prevention work is growing.
As we continue to make great strides and significant connections that will lead to more love and respect in our homes, our schools, and our communities, I am excited to see what door will open next to help assure that teens today and kids tomorrow have the capacity to BLOOM, 365 days a year!
Please join us in our mission to prevent teen dating abuse before it starts! To become a volunteer, make a donation, or for more information, please visit our website at www.Bloom365.org or contact me via email at email@example.com.
Donna Bartos is the Executive Director of Bloom365 and SVPAZ Investee