Event Connects Youth with Younger Family Members

An annual event at MacLaren provides much-needed bonding time for youth and their families.

Above: Sintorri Q.M. with his sister.

Story by Kathleen Fullerton, Hope Partnership, Janus Youth Programs
Photos by Gustavo P. S., former OYA youth

Hope Partnership hosted the third annual Through A Child’s Eyes (TACE) event at MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility in late June.

This is an annual family engagement event where youth in custody interact in a positive, fun, stress-free environment with their children, younger siblings, nieces, nephews, and cousins.

During the event, volunteers and youth peers host multiple activities to provide a festival-like atmosphere. The venue for the event is Timberline Treatment Mall, which includes an outdoor playground.

Ten youth attended this year with their families and guests, and an additional 11 youth helped out as workers.

“Having an event like TACE was incredible,” Ezequiel V. said. “Being able to be an uncle, spending time running around and playing with my three nieces, was a beautiful experience that I’ll never forget.

“Given my situation of incarceration, I’ve lost time with my family. But having TACE has helped strengthen my bond with my girls and allowed me to show them more love just by doing simple things like [play] tag.”

TACE events originated in 2001 at the Oregon Department of Corrections’ Coffee Creek Correctional Facility, with the help of Rotary Club of Wilsonville.

With approval from DOC and Wilsonville Rotary, we started a TACE-like program at MacLaren in 2017. Wilsonville Rotary donated sno-cone and popcorn machines to get us started.

Outside activities at this year’s event included the playground, a family barbecue with food cooked by volunteer Scott Fullerton and youth, a water play table, ball games, and the sno-cone booth, manned by youth Brett P.

“Giving us the opportunity and privilege to spend time with our families in a very open and welcoming environment, that Hope provides, is hopeful itself,” Brett said. “We get to actually have family time and laugh and interact comfortably.”

Inside, youth transformed Timberline into a family- and child-friendly area. We had a chalk wall, toys, conversation areas, a pool table, and food service in one half of the building.

In the other half, we offered a quiet space with large bean bag chairs, books, Play-Doh, a dress-up area, a photo booth, and craft tables. Volunteer Tessa Turner led several art activities.

Youth Marco A. provided face-painting, and the day ended with a water balloon fight.

“To me, TACE brings back memories of visiting my mom in prison and enjoying the company of friends and family,” Sintorri Q.M. said. “At MacLaren, our TACE was amazing — snow cones, grilled food, and family-based activities.

“Spending that time with my family and friends while I sit incarcerated made my hectic life seem a little more normal for the first time in four years.”

One youth father who found this year’s event particularly meaningful was Trei H. At the first event in 2017, Trei attended as a worker, helping to set up and break down the event, serve food, and facilitate activities.

During year two, Trei played a bigger role in planning and executing the event.

This year, Trei was finally able to attend with his own daughter, who was visiting from Texas. We even moved the event to a date where Trei and his daughter could participate together.

“I went from setting up the event for two years to partaking in the event with my child this time — a blessing I never thought would happen,” Trei said. “All thanks to Hope and my friend who made this happen.”

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