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Bike riding along river trails in Bend is one favorite activity enjoyed by kids and their Friends.

Featured Article

Thank You for Being a Friend

'Friends' Commit Years to Serving Our Youth

Article by Julie E. Furnas

Photography by Justinna Patience Photography

Originally published in Bend Lifestyle

Since its inception 28 years ago, non-profit Friends of the Children Central Oregon (FOTCCO) has been providing long-term professional mentoring services to local youth. FOTCCO is the only program of its kind in the country, employing full-time, salaried mentors ("Friends") to partner with children who have experienced significant trauma, serving those who come from generations of systemic oppression, neglect and poverty. Each child is paired with a Friend who provides 1:1 support for three-four hours every week for 12+ years, no matter what. FOTCCO works inside and outside of schools, partnering closely with families, educators and social services. Their services were especially needed during the pandemic when schooling was virtual and basic resources were scarce.

FOTCCO was founded by Duncan Campbell, who himself had experienced a poor home life and neglect. Campbell had four pivotal experiences with people who gave him hope and shaped the person he is today. "All of these people took time to get to know me. They instilled belief in me. They saw something in me, invested time in me, and they cared about me. That was all I needed,” says Campbell. 

Central Oregon 

According to current statistics, youth in Central Oregon experience higher rates of “Adverse Childhood Experiences” over state averages, including child abuse, a lack of health coverage and access, homelessness, food insecurity and chronic absenteeism. FOTCCO currently serves 44 youth and members of their households, totaling 250 people, living in Deschutes, Crook, and Jefferson Counties. “As one can imagine, technology access, the availability of caregiver support, and a multitude of barriers made it challenging for many of our youth to remain engaged in virtual learning throughout the height of the pandemic. As a result, there are signs that our youth have fallen further behind pre-pandemic expectations in core academic subjects such as reading. This experience has highlighted the need to integrate structured educational support into our ongoing mentorship model,” says Rachel Cardwell, Executive Director of Friends of the Children Central Oregon.

Friends of the Children - Central Oregon provides the most vulnerable local area youth with a long-term, salaried, professional mentor or "friend," who follows the child from kindergarten through high school graduation, 12+ years - no matter what. 

  • From hiking to attending a High Desert Storm game, ‘Friends’ and their mentees enjoy all that Central Oregon offers.
  • Bike riding along river trails in Bend is one favorite activity enjoyed by kids and their Friends.

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