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Congratulations 2020 Southeast Champions for Kids

Alaska Children’s Trust honored our 2020 Southeast Champions for Kids, Kevin Ritchie and Kyle Worl, at an awards reception in Juneau on January 29. Each year, we recognize individuals that have demonstrated dedication and commitment in working toward preventing child abuse and neglect, by ensuring that children are living in safe, supportive and nurturing communities.

2020 Southeast Champion for Kids: Kevin Ritchie
Kevin Ritchie, a Juneau resident for over 40 years, came to Alaska as a VISTA/AmeriCorps volunteer. He has devoted his time, passion and brainpower to building the Juneau community ever since.

Kevin is the retired Juneau city manager and retired director of the Alaska Municial League. He continues to be an active community volunteer, serving as a board member, advisory board member or committee member for the Alaska Afterschool Network, Zach Gordon Teen Center, Juneau Suicide Prevention Coalition, Juneau Afterschool Coalition, and ROCK Juneau – Raising Our Children with Kindness. 

“Kevin is the voice and driving force for many of the initiatives and programs that lead Juneau into being a community that values and invests in children and youth,” shared Joy Lyon, Brian Holst and Wayne Stevens in their award nomination. “Kevin has a true passion in caring for the youth of the Juneau community.”

Kevin was instrumental in establishing Big Brothers-Big Sisters of Juneau in 1978 and served as the president of the first board of directors. When the Boys and Girls Club suddenly closed in 2009, he led a steering committee to develop the highly successful BAM afterschool program at both middle schools. Noting that the lack of affordable, quality child care has been a chronic problem in Juneau for decades, Kevin served as a key leader in developing the Juneau Best Starts Initiative.

He also currently serves as a board of director for the Falcons Full Court Club, a nonprofit booster club that he helped establish to benefit the Thunder Mountain High School boys’ basketball team. Kevin and his wife, Barbara, manage the concession stands during all home games, raising more than $35,000 for the team over the past 10 years.

“Through professional and volunteer roles, he rises to challenges and brings others into moving from vision into reality. He is a compelling spokesperson, a can-do problem solver, and his incredible energy, enthusiasm and passion compel others throughout the community to rise up and engage as well,” his nominators shared.

2020 Southeast Champion for Kids: Kyle Worl
Kyle Worl, a Tlingit athlete and coach, spearheaded the movement to revive traditional games among middle and high school students in Southeast Alaska. Traditional games test skills of strength, agility, balance, endurance and focus. Often referred to as Native Youth Olympics (NYO), traditional games are based on hunting and survival skills of the Indigenous people of Alaska and across the Arctic going back hundreds of years.

The program, based in Juneau, is open to all students, but Kyle especially targets at-risk youth. One of the main goals is to foster a safe place where students forge positive relationships with teammates and build comradery and connections with each other. Youth who are struggling at home often find a support system of their peers and coaches through the program.

As a coach, Kyle has earned the trust of youth at risk, including suicidal and homeless youth. He has become a mentor, tutor and a counselor, and in some cases, he has taught youth about basic things, such as proper hygiene and healthy diets — things they should have learned at home but did not.

In 2018, Kyle led a Juneau team to compete in the State NYO in Anchorage for the first time in almost 30 years. A survey of the Juneau athletes found that 80 percent agreed the program helped them improve their leadership and self-esteem, and helped them refrain from or stop using illegal substances. The athletes have since gone on to compete in other meets. In 2019, Team Juneau won an astonishing 14 medals, including five gold, at the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics in Fairbanks.

Kyle has expanded the program to communities across Southeast Alaska by teaching the games to coaches from Ketchikan, Metlakatla, Kake, Angoon, Sitka, Hoonah and Yakutat, and soon Prince of Wales Island.

Outside of athletics, Kyle hosts Saturday study halls for high school students to maintain their grades. As an adjunct faculty member at the University of Alaska Southeast, Kyle also supports students during the school day through tutoring and Tlingit language instruction, and by providing snacks and a quiet, safe place to work.

“Kyle’s work helps students build the skills to survive, but more importantly, change our broken world,” said William Kronick of Tlingit and Haida Central Council’s Tribal Family and Youth Services Department. “By teaching students latseen, (strength of mind, body and spirit) he has helped raise a generation that will improve our world for the next.”

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