Nonprofit visits Aspen, announces global initiative |

Nonprofit visits Aspen, announces global initiative

Sara O'Meara, left, and Yvonne Fedderson, former Hollywood actresses and founders of the Childhelp nonprofit, spoke to over 70 people gathered in the L'Hostaria reastaurant in Aspen on Thursday afternoon about their nonprofit's 60 year history and plans to develop a global child abuse education, research and treatment campus.
Maddie Vincent

More than 70 people gathered in Aspen’s L’Hostaria restaurant Thursday for the 60th anniversary of Childhelp, a nonprofit dedicated to helping victims of child abuse, neglect and at-risk children.

Founded in 1959 by Hollywood actresses Sara O’Meara and Yvonne Fedderson, who starred in “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” TV show, Childhelp has transitioned from a series of orphanages in Japan housing “throwaway” children; to flying children out of war-torn Vietnam to adoptive parents, known as “Operation Baby Lift”; to the diverse U.S.-based initiative helping victims of child abuse, including sexual abuse, and neglect that the nonprofit is known for today.

“I’ve known these ladies for over 15 years,” said Rose Ann Leiner, a real estate agent who has worked in Aspen for over a decade. “Their cause and mission is just unbelievable.”

Leiner was one of many Aspen locals at the celebration Thursday afternoon, smiling and voicing her approval as a handful of Childhelp videos played and speakers, including O’Meara and Fedderson, reflected on the past 60 years of service.

Over 10 million children across the U.S. have been impacted by Childhelp over the past 60 years, either through its preventative educational initiatives taught in schools across the country, its residential treatment programs or “villages,” and its national call/text hotline, according to the nonprofit’s data.

In Colorado, more than 11,000 children have been impacted through Childhelp services and resources, and the organization received nearly 2,000 calls from at-risk children in the state to its 1-800-4-A-CHILD hotline in 2018, its numbers show, officials said.

Since Leiner met the Childhelp founders and even visited one of the call centers for its national call and text hotline, she said she’s donated 25% of her real estate earnings to the nonprofit.

Leiner was recognized as a key supporter of Childhelp on Thursday along with several other full-time and part-time locals — which is why she felt it was so important to help organize this 60th anniversary celebration in Aspen.

“I decided this was a good thing for our community to be involved in and to understand what it’s going to take to change,” Leiner said of bringing the Childhelp event to Aspen.

But this wasn’t just a celebration focused on Childhelp’s long history of helping at-risk and abused kids — it also was the official launch of its plans to create a Childhelp Global Campus.

As announced at the private luncheon Thursday, the vision for this campus is an all-encompassing, city-like environment that would serve as a global research and education center, residential treatment facility for child abuse victims, housing for foster families, employment training and services, treatment and therapy programs and more.

Simply put, it would be a hub for various organizations to collaborate with Childhelp to address child abuse across the U.S. and the world through research, education and treatment.

After Childhelp officials introduced the global campus vision, the luncheon guests were invited to ask questions.

One of the first was arguably the elephant in the room: When is the campus going to go up, how much is it going to cost and where is the money going to come from?

Childhelp spokespeople explained the nonprofit aimed to raise $200 million from its supporters, like those sitting in the Aspen restaurant, right off the bat to help acquire the existing property in Pheonix, which Childhelp feels will be the best fit for its global campus and get the various envisioned programs started there.

If Childhelp can purchase this property, its organizers believe it can have its campus up and running within 10 years.

With this advocacy and fundraising mission in mind, speakers from across the country and from Aspen spoke about their confidence in O’Meara and Fedderson’s 60-year track record, their own personal experiences with child abuse and what they believe is an overwhelming need to address child abuse, referred by many as a silent epidemic.

Most of the speakers felt this global campus could be part of the solution, acknowledging it wouldn’t be easy and would take a lot of outside support.

“The biggest problem is that no one wants to talk about it,” said Rebecca Cooper, Childhelp’s national spokesperson. “We knew we needed to come to a place where people would take a hard look at what’s not being done and want to do something about it.”

Cooper said that’s why Childhelp organizers chose Aspen as its unveiling for the global campus project. The nonprofit felt that because the city already has a handful of key supporters and is an “open-hearted” community, it would be the perfect place to start its global mission.

“Yes, Aspen is a wealthy city, but it’s different here,” Cooper said. “There are a lot of wealthy cities in the United States, but Aspen is unique because it has a rare combination of wealth and privilege combined with generosity and purposefulness.”