SALT LAKE CITY KSL.COM — Ask Children's Center Utah CEO Rebecca Dutson and she'll tell you Agnes M. Plenk was a woman ahead of her time.
Dutson said Plenk, who founded the Children's Center Utah in 1962, had a doctorate in psychology and believed that if professionals worked with children while they were young, those children could overcome any challenge, whether it was mental, emotional, behavioral or developmental.
Sixty years later, the Children's Center Utah still upholds Plenk's vision of helping children succeed, Dutson said.
The nonprofit provides comprehensive mental health care to children and their families, through services such as outpatient therapy and a therapeutic preschool, she said. They also provide training and consultations to child care providers, clinicians, pediatricians and others; as well as advocate for state policies that will help better serve children and families, Dutson said.
In honor of the organization's 60th anniversary, the CEO said it is aiming to raise $60,000 in 60 hours. The Hope and Healing Online Fundraiser kicked off Tuesday and ends Thursday at 8 p.m. — as of Wednesday, the Children's Center Utah was on track to reach their goal.
Community members can donate online, at childrenscenterutah.org/hopeandhealing or by texting "TCCU" to 243725. All donations will be matched up to $35,000 by three sponsors, including the Stephen G. and Susan E. Denkers Family Foundation, the Shari and Jerry Seiner Family Charitable Fund and the HJ and BR Barlow Foundation. Green Dot Bank is also serving as the 2022 event sponsor.
Funds will go toward providing services to children, their families and caregivers who otherwise might be unable to afford them, Dutson said.
"These funds make an incredible difference for children and families," she said. "Children learn and leave our center with the tools that they need to thrive. They have stronger relationships with the parents and caregivers in their lives. They have more tools to use. ... They know how to ask for what they need, and they know how to regulate their emotions."
Dutson said children are resilient, and when they can address challenges early in life, it becomes foundational to their future success. The Children's Center Utah sees some kids who have experienced significant trauma, she said, but their developing brains still have a lot of malleability.
"They can really overcome a lot of adversity that they've experienced and learn how to handle their big emotions in constructive ways that will help them succeed," she said.
Dutson also emphasized that any Utah parent and/or caregiver can call the Children's Center Utah with questions or concerns about the kids in their lives.
"We're a place that they can turn," she said.