(3-18-23) The Mercer County Youth to Youth (Y2Y) Retreats were held in February. The Retreat was held February 18th from 9 am – 9 pm (5th-7th grade) and the Mini Retreat was held February 25thfrom 9 am-5 pm at St. John Lutheran Church (Purple Door) in Celina. Forty-one 5th-7th grade students and fifty two 2nd-4thgrade students attended the Retreats this year!

This year’s theme was “Keep SPACE between you and drugs.” The students had missions to complete with each of their family groups. After completing each mission, they earned a puzzle piece to create each planet in succession closer to Earth. This activated the Rocketship to move closer to Earth and farther from drugs. They all made it safely! 

The Retreats were under the direction of Space Captain Laura Sanford, prevention specialist at Foundations Behavioral Health Services and an adult ally for the Mercer County Y2Ygroup. These youth-led prevention Retreats were led by sixteen 7th-12th grade students from the Mercer County Y2Ygroup. Twenty adult volunteers also made these eventssuccessful. The Mercer County Y2Y group serves many purposes in Mercer County. Y2Y helps to promote Y2Y’s mission – youth empowering youth – and to educate their peers on the dangers of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs, along with mental health and suicide awareness. Y2Y teens serve as a link between the youth, their schools, and the community. Y2Y is a place for Mercer County teens to express ideas and opinions while building their leadership skills.

The purpose of these youth-led Retreats is to equip students with skills to be a better leader and positive role model in their schools and communities. Youth were divided into Family Groups and participated in six different escape rooms in which they all worked together as a team to complete their missions. These sessions all taught a positive coping skill including team building and communication, five senses to calm self, exercise/sports, art, music, and positive self-talk. All students also participated in a How To session of their choice to learn a new skill or hobby. 


The youth participated in plenty of energizers led by the leaders. Students also participated in an astronaut decorating contest competition among family groups. At the end of the Retreats, the parents/guardians received a presentation about the dangers of vaping and the importance of talking to their teens with conversations that really matter. Then they all joined together and watched a video presentation of the day and each Family Group shared about an escape room they attended to make it back to Earth. 


Through supportive small discussion groups, innovative team building, and of course fun, participants gained knowledge, created relationships, and built upon skills that will hopefully last a lifetime. Students are also now more confident in their choice to be drug-free and take charge of their mental healthand were encouraged to share this message with others. 


A big thank you to Carl Wuebker for being the Disc Jockey at the Retreat and who is also a faithful adult ally of the Mercer County Y2Y group. A thank you to Stage Right Productions for donating sound equipment for us to use at our events. A special thanks to Allison and Megan Baucher who were our photographers and Allison for putting together the video presentations for both Retreats. We are very grateful to Purple Door Church for hosting us again this year. Much appreciationgoes to the guidance counselors, principals, and school secretaries for their efforts in recruiting students for theRetreats and collecting applications, the media for advertising the Retreats, and the community for supporting prevention efforts. 


The Retreats would not be a success without the support of the parents/guardians who allow their energetic students to attend, the awesome adult staff, and the talented and dedicated 7th-12th grade Mercer County Y2Y leaders. Those youth leaders include: Celina HS: Destiny Anderson, Hannah Koester; Celina MS: Noah Strombach, Ella Driggs, and Emma Byrne; Coldwater HS: Makenzie Norris, Aiden Norris, Kolton Gehm, Emma Wehnes; Coldwater MS: Alaina Froning; Fort Recovery HS: Tiffany Taft, Bella Taft, Paul Homan, Jose Martinez, Elisa Evers; St. Henry MS: Taylor Schoonover.


A special thanks to Ali Foster who greatly helped with creative ideas for many of the escape rooms and those who led escape rooms or taught How To sessions: AJ Kunk (Fixing Gravity), Paul Homan (Dispersion); Ali Foster and Nevin Sackinger(Captain’s Quarters); Tom Sanford (Operation Positive Talk) and Craig Muhlenkamp for planning this escape room; Shelby Bravo (Repair the Starry Night; Creative Expressions/Sketching and Scribbles), Elena and Elisa Evers (Return to the Rhythm Rocket); Shelly and Doug Moorman (Archery and Backyard Bass); Diamond Long and Beau Koester from Young Guardians MMA (Boxing); Andrea Cahill from Hot Brass Personal Defense (Self-Defense); Candy Hemmelgarn and kids (Take a Bow-Acting); Barb Lockwood from Cakes by Design (Baking with Barb); and Joan Wedd (Old Fashioned Games). 


Thanks to the adult leaders of the Family Groups: Carl Wuebker, Lexi Allmandinger, Danielle Williams, Amber Mustard, Ashley Smith, Jen Smith, Julie Krieg, Kaitlyn Sparks, Nevin Sackinger, and Sabrina Downing. 


The Retreats were funded from a generous grant from the Mercer County Civic Foundation and Midwest Electric’s Community Connection Fund (Gold Level); Mercer Health, ASSURE (Area Suicide and Support Resources), and Pax Machine Works (Sponsor Level); Preferred Insurance Center, Celina Grand Lake FOE Women’s Auxiliary, McDonald’s of Mercer County, Foundations Behavioral Health Services, Grand Lake Health Systems, Mercer County Health District(Mentor Level); Eagle Eye Home Inspections of Ohio, LLCRenewed Hope Financial Coaching, LLCMercer County Prevention CoalitionCakes By Design, Hot Brass Personal Defense, Arrow N Bows, Young Guardians MMA, and Stage Right Productions (Donor Level).


Our Mercer County Youth to Youth Meetings are held the 2nd and 4th Mondays of the month from 6:30-8:30 pm at the Foundations Clubhouse, 221 S. Buckeye Street, Celina. 7th-12th graders invited who want to make a difference. 


If you want more information about the Mercer County Youth to Youth group, please contact Laura at lauras@foundationsbhs.org or 419-584-1000, check out our Facebook group, or YouTube channel. Our closing videos of the Retreats as well as our promo video for the Youth to Youthgroup can all be found on our YouTube channel.