Gallagher: Pucker up for a good cause

R.J. Gallagher Jr.

“Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful.” — Miss Piggy

I would say that the term “total commitment” might be defined by a person who has agreed to kiss a pig for a cause. You with me here?

It’s that time of year again for the Kiss ‘N Squeal fundraising event, which benefits YouthZone, a nonprofit organization that provides services of assistance focused on prevention, intervention and volunteerism to youths ages 6 to 18. The YouthZone professionals focus on creating an atmosphere of inspiration, where they aspire to be an essential partner with youth and families to help restore hope and establish new horizons of what’s possible in life. Their goal is to provide opportunities for youth to be responsible, contributing members of society and work with their families and the community toward this end. I’m feeling a win-win scenario here for all involved with YouthZone.

YouthZone is celebrating its 39th anniversary this year. It was formed and established by a group of involved and visionary parents concerned about drug use among high school students in our valley. The year was 1976, and YouthZone has been transforming lives and helping youth, families and communities connect and grow together ever since.

The agency’s original focus was to provide recreational activities along with drug information and education to youth. In its first years of operation, YouthZone assisted about 400 youth between 14 and 17 years old. Today, YouthZone works with more than 1,000 youth each year, serving the communities of Aspen, Basalt, El Jebel, Carbondale, Glenwood Springs, New Castle, Silt, Rifle and Parachute. In a world where things constantly change but also stay the same, YouthZone has withstood the test of time and continues to perform within its vision and mission statements. Makes one want to squeal, doesn’t it?

Speaking of squealing: Back to the kissing-the-pig part of this column. I happen to have a great friend, Hollis Kelley, who has puckered up for this cause with the goal to win the ultimate prize to smooch a swine. Hollis is a financial adviser at Edward Jones in Glenwood Springs. He is a Southern gentleman and wears a suit coat to work every day, but don’t let that fool you. He is a very competitive fellow, and when he wants something, he gives it everything he has. Hollis has been involved with YouthZone for over 17 years. He believes that YouthZone provides much-needed services and support, which truly teach and heal lives. His favorite pork dish is a barbecue pork smothered pork shoulder. Gotta be a Southern thing, eh?

All of the great folks who have volunteered to fight for the right to kiss a pig are wonderful. But this is personal to me. To have the rare opportunity to see Hollis pucker up and go lips to lips with Miss Piggy would be priceless. So join me, and support Hollis in his fundraising efforts. You can donate online — visit hosted/YouthZone/Online Donation.html, and write Hollis’ name in the comments section.

Thanks to the generous support of its donors, more than 30,000 kids and families have received YouthZone’s services over the past 38 years. It has helped thousands of families reconnect and develop better communication skills and respect for one another. Its professionalism and experience in youth work have garnered local, state and national accolades.

YouthZone is an amazing valleywide community asset. If you think you could use its assistance in your life, reach out by phone at 970-945-9300 or visit Be sure to check out its online auction, too!

If you want to make a difference, consider volunteering or donating to this great cause. Kiss ‘N Squeal is a perfect place to start. So, pucker up, and kiss and tell.

R.J. Gallagher Jr. is a three-decade resident of the Roaring Fork Valley community. He has proudly served on numerous nonprofit boards, including the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club, the Aspen Community Foundation and Komen Aspen. His firm Forte International is a supporter of local philanthropy that makes a difference on a global level. “Philantopia” is a monthly column in The Aspen Times focused on philanthropy and community involvement. R.J.’s always open for ideas. You can reach out to him at rjg@forte