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Cranberry Rotary event benefits Seneca Valley student group

Attendees of the Frostbite Open help bring awareness to Mental Wellness through the Seneca Valley School District Hope Squad at Discovery Christian Church recently. Steven Dalton/Special to the Eagle

ADAMS TWP — Monday, Feb. 19, was a day off for most public school students in Butler County. Some of the students spent part of their day off at the first Frostbite Open, a community event put on by the Rotary Club of Cranberry Township - Sunrise at Discovery Christian Church.

The chief beneficiary of the event was the Hope Squad, a student group in the Seneca Valley School District, which is now in its second year. The Hope Squad is a mental health outreach and suicide prevention program that aims to connect students in crisis to the help they need.

“If you’re a lifeguard, and you’re watching a pool, you actively scan the pool for any trouble. That's what these kids are doing,” said Michael Ozdinec, president of the Cranberry Sunrise Rotary. “They see a student who seems like they're not engaged, and they just walk up to him and say, ”Hey, I'm from the Hope Squad. Is there anything you need help with?’“

“There's a lot of kids who I think are overwhelmed ... a lot of kids who have anxiety or depression,” said Hope Squad member Ellie Stewart. “We are mainly focused on kids who are struggling with suicidal thoughts, and that's our main focus ... to make sure those kids have the help they need.”

According to Ellie, the Hope Squad is in place at Ryan Gloyer Middle School, as well as both the intermediate and senior high schools, and they intend to expand to other schools in the system.

Two of Cranberry Township’s three Rotary Clubs — the Sunrise and Noon clubs — pooled together to donate $6,000 to the Hope Squad, which was presented in the form of a large novelty check. The Hope Squad also received a portion of the proceeds from the Frostbite Open events, with the rest going to the Sunrise Rotary.

Many of those who attended the Frostbite Open took advantage of Discovery Church’s miniature golf course, at a cost of $10 per game. The course was still partially covered in snow from the storm over the weekend, and the decorative ponds were frozen solid, making for a winter wonderland of a scene.

In addition to the Hope Squad, several Butler County nonprofit organizations set up shop at the Frostbite Open, distributing literature and free goodies and promoting their services. These included the Butler County Veterans Administration, Glade Run Lutheran Services, the Center for Community Resources, and the In Toto Community Center, a Zelienople-based organization dedicated to aiding the neurodivergent population.

“We provide social programs and resources for autistic people,” said Sydney Branby, office manager at In Toto. “And all of our groups are fully funded, which means that they're completely free to participants.”

Among those who visited the Frostbite Open on Monday afternoon were two local elected officials, state Sen. Elder Vogel, R-47th, and state Rep. Stephenie Scialabba, R-12th. Vogel stopped by on his way to Harrisburg, where he planned to vote on an appropriations bill.

“When I found out about this event and what they were doing here with the Hope Squad, I'm here to support it,” Vogel said.

Scialabba said she was compelled to attend because her husband, John, is a longtime Rotary Club member.

“We try to sponsor and help as much as we can and volunteer, and this was a great way to do it,” Scialabba said.

From left, Teagan Hmel, Ellie Stewart and Annabelle Obyc were selected by their peers as a trusted friend if anyone should need to talk. The Frostbite Open on Monday was designed to bring awareness to Mental Wellness through the Seneca Valley School District Hope Squad. Steven Dalton/Special to the Eagle
Seneca Valley students Charlie Leach looks on as Brody Horn putts the golf ball Monday during the Frostbite Open to bring awareness to Mental Wellness through the Seneca Valley School District Hope Squad. Steven Dalton/Special to the Eagle
Jonathon Murray, left, with Jane, Steve the Golden retriever, and Sarah watch as Piper takes her putt Monday during the Frostbite Open to bring awareness to Mental Wellness through the Seneca Valley School District Hope Squad. Steven Dalton/Special to the Eagle
Kristin Francis watches as Oliver, 4, takes his putt Monday during the Frostbite Open to bring awareness to Mental Wellness through the Seneca Valley School District Hope Squad. Steven Dalton/Special to the Eagle

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