5 Questions for . . . Yvonne Fedderson and Sara O’Meara founders of Childhelp

How did Childhelp begin and in what year?

Sara: This is Childhelp’s diamond anniversary celebrating 60 years of miracles. In 1959, we were part of a government-sponsored goodwill tour singing for the troops in Japan. During a terrible typhoon in Tokyo, we rescued 11 half-American, half-Japanese orphans on the street know as “throwaway children” due to their mixed heritage. 10.5 million children later, our mission continues to grow.
Yvonne: That was one of the first miracles. Sar and I were actresses playing the girlfriends of Ricky and David Nelson on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, so we were already dear friends. We were both selected out of a cast of over 500 girls to take part in this special show even though they were unaware we knew each other. We know God put us together that day for a purpose greater than our hearts could have ever imagined.

Where do you see the organization in 20 years?

Sara: Childhelp has always been an innovator. We were the first to establish what we now know today as the children’s advocacy center model; the first to build residential treatment villages for abused children and the first and only hotline staffed with degreed crisis counselors available 24/7 for abused children. In the next 20 years, we will continue to break ground in all areas of child welfare as the world becomes even more complicated for our nation’s youth.
Yvonne: Our greatest strides are in prevention education where we dream of getting in front of a crisis before abuse even starts. We have a comprehensive program called Childhelp Speak Up Be Safe that we have throughout the country. In Arizona alone, we have recently reached over 100,000 children, parents, teachers and coaches. We believe it should be in every school in America.

Do you have an exit plan or are you remaining?

Sara: Our exit plan is when God calls us home. As long as we have our health and faculties intact, we have no desire to retire; as you don’t simply turn off 60 years of all-encompassing passion overnight. We don’t golf or knit; so as long as we can lead the best and brightest to make the world better for recovering children, we’re staying right where we are!
Yvonne: Naturally, from the nonprofit strategic standpoint, we have a detailed legacy plan that ensures our life’s work is in safe hands. Our board has approved the continuation of our vision through two surrogates of our daily work, Carol and Jim Hebets, who have spent decades by our sides helping to grow and nurture our mission.

Does the organization plan additional Childhelp campuses for children?

Sara: We have big dreams for the future but will wait to reveal the scope of what’s possible until our Childhelp Drive the Dream Gala. We always like to save something special for the big night because it gives our core audience a chance to help shape our message in the community.
Yvonne: If you’d like to find out, just join us at the Childhelp Drive the Dream Gala “Diamond Jubilee” Celebrating 60 years of miracles. IT takes pace February 2 at the Phoenician and will be our most amazing event yet!

What do you consider your finest hour?

Sara: The America that existed when Childhelp began protected and perpetrator and not the child. State by state, we worked to change those laws and that legacy helps each little heart born in the USA to this day. Also, by establishing the first residential treatment village exclusively for abused and neglected children; we created a ripple effect that led to child welfare programs and services that have blanketed the whole country and beyond.
Yvonne: There is no “finest hour” in our careers because every hour is the very best when you are doing what you can for the love of a child. When we see a little boy or girl transformed by what we do, that special moment eclipses all others. Then, it happens again to the point where we’ve had over 10 and .5 million finest hours; one for each child in our care.