Christine Adams, Freelance Reporter 4:03 am CDT March 11, 2020 (as reported in the Glencoe Anchor)
Following the tragic death of one of its longtime supporters, Glencoe Youth Services has established the Daniel Calhoun GYS All-Star Scholarship, with the intention of improving local teens’ experiences.The scholarship’s namesake, Daniel Calhoun, grew up in Glencoe and participated in GYS programming as a teen, then served on its board of directors until his mid 20s.According to Calhoun’s mother, Anne Helander, Calhoun struggled with his mental health his entire life and never felt like he fit in at school, but at GYS, he “found his tribe.”“GYS was always the backstop for him,” providing a safe space whenever he needed one, said Helander.Daniel’s father Walter Calhoun agreed, saying “GYS was the place he could socialize. It was the place he had made much progress.”Daniel graduated from New Trier High School in 2005, according to his father,and then he went on to graduate cum laude from Lake Forest College and hold several jobs. But sadly, on Nov. 5, 2019, while at University of Michigan Law School, Daniel died. He was 32 years old.At his funeral, several of his friends spoke, calling Daniel their best friend and tracing their relationship back to their days as students at GYS.“You wouldn’t find a bigger heart,” Helander said of her son.“GYS saved my son’s life over and over again. He lived a longer life because of it,” she added.Inspired by the positive impact Daniel had on so many individuals through GYS, the organization’s board, on which his father Walter now sits, decided to establish a scholarship fund “with the determination to continue to provide quality experiences for youth as we know this is something Daniel would have wanted,” according to the scholarship application.Students in fifth grade and higher are able to apply for the scholarship and put the money toward an activity of their choosing, be that summer camp, a new instrument rental, classes for a new hobby, or anything else that they are interested in. At least one scholarship of $500-$1000 will be awarded.“It’s about creating a better experience for the kids,” said GYS Executive Director William Barnard, who hopes that the scholarship empowers young people by giving them the resources to independently seek out their interests and passions.This scholarship is part of GYS’s larger plan to raise awareness for youth mental health and give students space and skills to deal with their struggles.“They need it, and we are simply trying to help,” Barnard said.Anxiety, stress, and other mental health struggles are a nationwide concern at the moment, and from Barnard’s perspective, the adolescents he sees weekly are especially vulnerable due to their limited life experience.“We tell them you have to learn how to love yourself. Take a deep breath and relax. Go one day at a time,” Barnard said.GYS is making May “mental health month,” and is working with the village to plan a mental health day. As part of the month, they are organizing a baseball game with Glencoe Public Safety, a tie-dye day alongside Special Needs Adult Program (SNAP), and other events.Neither mental health month nor the scholarship are expected to be just one-time offerings as GYS is intent on dealing with the mental health epidemic, and keeping the memory of Daniel Calhoun alive.The scholarship “will be something going forward we will be giving every year. We’ll continue to honor him. That’s a staple going forward,” said Barnard.Anyone looking for more information or wanting to volunteer with the efforts is encouraged to visit www.glencoeyouthservices.org.