Feasting for a cause
Now in its 15th year, the Boys & Girls Aid benefit Crab & Rib Dinner is coming back to Charbonneau.
The sold-out dinner and auction are hosted by the Boys & Girls Aid Cypress Branch Auxiliary at the Charbonneau Country Club, and proceeds go to help children in foster care in Wilsonville and throughout Oregon.
Founded in 1885 to help abandoned children living on the streets of Portland, Boys & Girls Aid is the oldest nonprofit child welfare agency in Oregon. The purpose of Boys & Girls Aid is to build lifelong, supportive connections between children and adults before children "age out" of the foster care system when they turn 18, according to Ryan Imondi, director of communications and marketing.
Studies have shown that children who age out of the system — turning 18 without being adopted or connecting with a parent or guardian figure — and enter into society without support are at an increased risk of becoming homeless or incarcerated.
As a former foster care child that aged out of the system, Christopher Webb, 30, says that the organization is offering an invaluable resource for foster children and prospective foster parents.
Having lived in the system as a foster child from the age of 6 to 18, Webb says that his experience was difficult but not unique.
"During my time there, it was certainly a little rocky and unpleasant," Webb says. "There were good times amongst the bad, but generally it left a bad impression of the system overall."
After aging out, Webb said that he felt a little bitter and like the world owed him something.
"I didn't really seek any involvement in the system at the time to make any improvements so I just tried to distance myself from it," Webb says.
But after opening his own construction business and getting married, Webb started thinking about giving back and trying to improve the system. One of his priorities was advocating for keeping siblings together, after having been separated from his sisters within days of entering the system. But it wasn't until attending a Boys & Girls Aid function with his wife that he found out about the organization and reached out to get involved.
"I was like, 'Wow, I had no idea this existed," Webb says.
Since then, Webb has given talks through Boys & Girls Aid and spoken with prospective foster parents about the realities and challenges that come along with fostering.
"I would consider foster youth a marginalized people and I think that, like many marginalized people, their story gets swept under the rug or people don't necessarily understand everything that goes on and how difficult that it is," Webb says. "So I basically discuss with (prospective foster parents), 'Hey, you're going to be working with children that have severe trust issues with adults and authority figures in their lives because they've been let down and abandoned or even abused by them, so it's not just going to be a walk in the park where you let them into your home and they should just automatically be nice and respectful of you. It's going to be a long road to that and if that's something that you're committed to and if you can understand that it's going to be difficult from the get-go,' then I think that people will be successful. Or if you're not sure that you can handle that, walk away from this and don't feel ashamed because not everybody can."
Webb says that he tries to be as honest and forthcoming as possible without trying to scare people off from being foster parents, but he said that the organization "felt that that kind of honesty was important."
Webb took a break from volunteering with Boys & Girls Aid to welcome his first son and is making one of his first speaking appearances since the birth at the Crab & Rib Dinner.
"I think that the biggest thing that I'm most excited about is awareness," Webb says. "It sounds like the event is longstanding, and I'm happy to hear about that, but I feel that the general population's awareness with what happens with foster children is very limited, where they assume that, 'Oh, foster care exists so they're fine, fed, housed, and are good to go.' It goes much deeper than that and events like this make it clear that that isn't always the case and I'm excited to be a part of that."
The 220 guests expected at the March 4 event can look forward to hearing more from Webb about his experience in the foster care system as well as what they can do to help children and families in the system. Besides the talk and dinner, the event will also offer a large, curated auction with exotic trips, sports memorabilia, jewelry and more.
If you missed getting tickets for the Crab & Rib Dinner this year, Imondi says that there are several other events to keep an eye out for throughout the year and numerous ways to donate.
"There are kids in Wilsonville who are in foster care who are definitely in need of support," Imondi says. "There are always opportunities to donate through our website."
"As a kid in the system, you don't understand the bureaucratic side of it at all," Webb says. "It's so much easier to look back and appreciate the work that so many people were doing, which I didn't realize back then. But it still doesn't negate the fact that so much slips through the cracks and that things need to be improved within the foster care system, but it was refreshing to meet people and finally be a part of something that was dedicated to championing that cause."