Walking For Project Oz

Walking for Project Oz

Nathan Henthorn will walk the 2,600 mile Pacific Crest Trail beginning March 18, 2018 at the southern tip near San Diego, CA, and ending at the northern tip at the Canadian border.

Along the way, he plans to raise awareness for the plight of homeless and runaway youth, and raise money for Project Oz to help those youth. All funds donated through this page will go directly to Project Oz.

Here is why Nathan is embarking on this walk:


I’m 19 years old, and have always loved the outdoors while camping, hiking, and backpacking.

Alex and I have been close friends since 7th grade. After my mom passed, he was there for me when I felt most alone. My church has also been a big inspiration.

During our sophomore year, when Alex shared his idea for this walk, I immediately wanted to join him. We spent the next three years preparing, which included my losing 60 lbs.

I wish I’d known about Project Oz when one of my high school friends was kicked out of his home and had nowhere to stay but in my garage. I want to do all I can to help homeless youth in his position.

To donate toward their goal of $2,600, please go to their donation page here.

2,600 Mile Pacific Crest Trail

Posted in News, Updates| Tagged , , , , , , | Comments closed

Thanks For Making #GivingTuesday 2017 A Success!

We are awed and thankful for the generosity our supporters have shown on #GivingTuesday.

We received over $4,000 in total donations before funds are matched from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The contributions received will translate into helping improve the lives of youth in need of homes, and guidance, in our community.

Our Facebook video, #Talk2Somebody, shares a small portion of how Project Oz’s programs and staff affect the youth in our community.

Many thanks to the Friends of Project Oz!

Posted in News, Prevention, Updates| Tagged , , , , | Comments closed

How to Help on #GivingTuesday

Dear Friends:

We are asking for your support on Tuesday, November 28th!

Double your impact by visiting our Facebook page and making a donation between 7:00 a.m.- 10:00 p.m, CST.

Every donation made on #GivingTuesday will be matched by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation!

Proceeds to this campaign will help local homeless & runaway youth, support school-based counselors, and provide drug, alcohol, and suicide prevention to local youth.

Project Oz believes that all youth desire to have meaningful, fulfilling lives. We believe that preventing problems and intervening when life becomes difficult is critical to a family’s success.

Our desire is to promote health and well-being for all youth and their families.

Project Oz works to make a difference in the lives of youth.

Posted in News, Prevention| Tagged , , , , , | Comments closed

Project Oz Prevention Specialist Colleen O’Connor Receives Award

Congratulations to Project Oz Prevention Specialist, Colleen O’Connor, CPS, CADC, who was awarded the 2017 McLean County Public Health Award by the McLean County Board of Health last week.

Colleen O’Connor receives McLean County Health Department’s 2017 Public Health Award

“Colleen O’Connor makes a difference in the lives of young people by teaching Youth Mental Health First Aid classes within the community. She shines shines as a community leader, role model, and symbol of health and hope in McLean County.” –McLean County Health Department Board

Last year Colleen started a school-based prevention program that has reached more than 2,000 students at nine schools. The health department says the program has referred dozens of students to other support services as a result of the program, some of them with depression and suicide attempts. Here is WGLT’s full article.


Posted in News, Prevention| Tagged , , , , | Comments closed


Dear Friends of Project Oz,

Did you know that if all the runaways in the United States lived in a city, it would be the fifth largest city in the US? Project Oz works hard every day to scale that city back.

It starts by getting youth to #Talk2Somebody.

We all need somebody to talk to:

Somebody to lighten the load when our problems threaten to overwhelm us.
Somebody to celebrate our strengths.
Somebody to encourage us with hope for the future.
Somebody to share our successes along the way.
Somebody to help guide us.

For almost 900 young people in our community last year, that somebody was a Project Oz counselor or caseworker. Every day, Project Oz connects with youth on the streets and in the schools who just need somebody to listen and give them a little help to achieve their goals for the future.

November is National Runaway Prevention Month. Project Oz wants to make sure that all young people in our community know they’re not alone.

Throughout the month, we’ll share personal stories, statistics, and articles through social media in order to raise awareness about the needs of homeless and runaway youth in Central Illinois, and the services we provide. Please help us spread the word by “Liking” and sharing our social media posts, and telling your friends about Project Oz.

Please follow us on: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, & LinkedIn

Project Oz helped 216 runaways in McLean County and Livingston Counties during the past year, and provided phone support for an additional 87 runaways.

To help more runaways, we are participating in “Giving Tuesday” on November 28th.

We hope you’ll consider donating to Project Oz to help ensure that local youth can #Talk2Somebody, and have a safe place to go this holiday season.

Please click here to donate to #GivingTuesday anytime during the month of November.

Your gift can make a difference! Thank you for your continued support of Project Oz!

Peter Rankaitis

Executive Director

Posted in News, Prevention, Updates| Tagged , , , , , | Comments closed

Federal Grant Will Help Project Oz Curb Sexual Exploitation

“The efforts of Project Oz to combat youth homelessness, exploitation, and sex trafficking are crucial not just for McLean County, but for Illinois as a whole.

“Project Oz is exactly the kind of local resource we need to prevent this criminal industry from growing and save at-risk children in our communities from becoming victims. Thank you to the team at Project Oz for helping make a difference in the lives of children in Central Illinois.”
–U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville WGLT Article Link

#GivingTuesday -> You can help by donating here.

“The grant will help Project Oz pay for nine new beds for homeless youth who are at risk of exploitation or already being exploited,” said Project Oz Vice President Lisa Thompson. “Many homeless youth who are being exploited are engaging in some type of “survival sex. Picture an 18-year-old who’s staying with someone 40 years older than her, giving her food and a place to stay in exchange for a sexual relationship.”

Lisa Thompson is vice president at Project Oz in Bloomington.

Posted in News, Prevention, Updates| Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments closed

SAVE THE DATE for #Giving Tuesday, November 28, 2017

SAVE THE DATE for GIVING TUESDAY, November 28, 2017.

#GivingTuesday is a global day of giving, fueled by the power of social media and collaboration.

Celebrated on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving and the widely recognized shopping events Black Friday & Cyber Monday, #GivingTuesday kicks off the charitable season, when many focus on their holiday and end-of-year giving.

One of the best ways to get involved is in your own community.

The countdown is on!

Mark your calendars for November 28th and donate to Project Oz the day after the busiest shopping days of the season!

Join the movement with Project Oz and give back!

Posted in News| Tagged , | Comments closed

Join our Youth Action Board for upcoming October – November Events!


WHEN: October 28, 2017, 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM
WHERE: Normal Police Department, 100 E. Phoenix Avenue, Normal, IL
WHAT: Dispose of your unwanted and/or expired prescription drugs safely.

The DEA’s National Prescription Drug Take Back Day aims to provide a safe, convenient, and responsible way to dispose of prescription drugs, and also educate the general public about the potential for abuse of medications.

Project Oz’s Youth Action Board and Bloomington High School’s H.Y.P.E. Club will assist the Normal Police Department collect unwanted and/or expired prescription drugs for safe disposal.

We’ll make it easy for you! You don’t have to even leave your car. Just drive your car through Normal Police Department’s circle driveway at 100 E. Phoenix Avenue, Normal Illinois. Students and police officers will collect your unwanted prescriptions for safe disposal.

Below is a link to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) National Take Back Day which occurs on October 28, 2017 all across the nation.


The following police departments in McLean County will be participating in the DEA’s National Drug Take Back Day:

Bloomington Police Department, 305 S. East St., Bloomington 309 434-2700 M-F 9:00am-11:00pm

Normal Police Department, 100 E. Phoenix Ave, Normal, 309 454-9535

Chenoa Police Department, 209 Green St, Chenoa, 815 945-7627

Colfax Police Department, 307 N Harrison, Colfax, 309 723-6241

Danvers Police Department, 105 N Broadway, Danvers 309 963-6330

Heyworth Police Department, 108 S Buchanan, Heyworth, 309 473-2811

Leroy Police Department, 207 S East St, Leroy, 309 962-3310

Lexington Police Department, 329 E Main, Lexington, 309 365-3871

Stanford Police Department , 200 S Grant, Stanford 309 379-2026


Project Oz’s Youth Action Board will host a booth at Miller Park’s Spooktacular on Sunday, October 29, 2017, from 12-3 p.m.

Please come out and join us for a fun afternoon at the Zoo.

Please see the links below for more details.



Sign up here:

Visit our Facebook page: http://bit.ly/2xlcOdH

We hope to see you for a beautiful day to RUN DRUGS OUT OF TOWN!

Posted in News, Prevention, Updates| Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Comments closed

‘Never an option’: Teens, adults discuss ’13 Reasons Why,’ suicide

“The Ending the Silence program is not about suicide. It’s about hope. It’s not about how bad things were. It’s about how good things can get.” Colleen O’Connor, Project Oz Prevention Specialist, explained during the discussion at Normal Community West High School, Normal, IL, about the Netflix television series “13 Reasons Why” and the topic of teen suicide.

Part 1 of the 9-10-17 article in the Pantagraph may be found here.

Part 2 of the 9-11-17 article may be found here.

To teens grappling with depression or suicidal thoughts: “Don’t hold it in,” Jordyn Washer, now an IL State University senior, who previously confided in a close teacher which helped pull her out of the darkness of depression and self-harming when she was 15.

Help Is Available.

Warning signs that a person may be contemplating suicide include talking or writing about hurting or killing himself or herself; looking for pills, weapons or other means of dying by suicide; expressing hopelessness; increasing risk-taking behavior such as through alcohol or drug use; giving away prized possessions; saying goodbye; withdrawing from friends and family; dramatic changes in mood; feeling no sense or purpose.

Take the warning signs seriously. If you have an immediate concern, call 911.

Ask the person if he or she is thinking about taking their life. Listen to them. Validate their feelings. Don’t leave them alone until the crisis has passed. Remove weapons or other possible means of dying by suicide. Tell the person that thoughts of suicide are common, don’t have to be acted on, that help is available and people care.

Help is available locally from:
PATH (211 or 309-828-1022
Center for Human Services (309-827-5351)
Center for Youth & Family Solutions (309-820-7616)
24/7 Crisis Text Line (text START to 741-741)
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255)
Trevor LGBTQ Line (366-488-7386)
NAMI Livingston/McLean Counties (ETS@NamiLivingstonMcLean.org or 309-287-9913).

Sources: Kimberly Klepec, Tosha Maaks, Kristina McDowell, Mental Health First Aid USA, Colleen O’Connor, Adam Snell, Karen Zangerle.

Posted in News, Prevention| Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Comments closed

New Host Homes Needed in Livingston County

Host Homes Needed!

Are you willing to open your heart and your home to help keep young people safe and strengthen families?
Temporary placement (1-3 nights) in the Host Homes program helps provide families with time to resolve conflicts and problems. When a situation has become more than a youth or family can immediately deal with, Host Homes provide a reprieve to the family that allows them time to work with our counselors and seek out resources and guidance in resolving the situation.

Willingness to provide a safe and welcoming temporary shelter for teens experiencing a family crisis. Host Homes can be any family size and employment status. Host Homes may be couples, singles, families, and retirees. All it takes is a spare bedroom and the desire to lend a helping hand. You don’t have to become a counselor. Project Oz works with the youth and family to help them build stronger bonds and happier homes. Host Home families receive training and have access to Project Oz staff 24 hours a day.

How does it work? Host Homes in the program take turns being “on call” to receive youth, usually for a month at a time. During that month, each Host Home generally provides 3-5 nights of shelter. Project Oz staff respond to crises at all times of the day, so calls for placement may occur outside of regular business hours. All Host Homes undergo licensing by the state, which requires a full background check on everyone 13 and older living in the home, an interview and site review, and completion of a 40 hour training course. Costs for training and licensing are paid by Project Oz. Host Homes receive a modest stipend for the months they are on call, in order to reimburse the costs of providing care.

Interested in learning more about this program or becoming a Host Home to help keep families in our community together? Contact our Host Homes Liaison Anita Smith at Asmith@projectoz.org or call her at 309-827-0377.

Posted in News, Updates| Tagged , , , , , , | Comments closed