As the summer is winding down and you're starting to prepare for another school year, you may be filled with many emotions knowing it is going to look different than in the past. Amidst the uncertainty and change COVID-19 has brought into our lives, many youth have also reported they have had an increase in feelings of anxiety and loneliness. 79% of teens surveyed by the 4-H National Council wished there was an inclusive environment or safe space for people in school to talk about mental health, and Snowball is that safe space for so many. Curriculum's looks different, meetings are now virtual, and Snowball programming is shifting but we don't want that to deter you from remembering the impact this program has on the lives of our youth. It will be a year of strategic planning, and many new experiences but OS, Inc. is here for you every single step of the way. Don't forget we are just a phone call or email away! We are happy to troubleshoot, brainstorm, or share resources from others across the state.

Below you will find save the dates for upcoming virtual sessions, the OS, Inc. fall training calendar, articles, and resources that OS Youth Advocates have created, as well as the launch of our Snowball monthly challenge where you will see us inviting the community to participate in!

You will also notice that our newsletter will be shifting from quarterly to monthly. Our goal is to get as much information to you as possible and to continue being the resource your Chapter needs. We look forward to welcoming you back in the next few weeks for Snowball programming, enjoy the rest of your summer!
Join Us for Episode Four!
This series is just for adult Chapter leaders and their youth directors. Please continue to pass this information along to your youth leaders and encourage them to sign-up.

Episode four will be focused on virtual fall event schedules, tips and tricks, policies to keep in mind if opting to hold a virtual event, and we will end the meeting with a Q&A session. 

If you cannot attend live and would like to have access to the recorded session please register and email Riley Blythe .
Tuesday, August 4 - Virtual Session
Effective Virtual Group Facilitation
Wednesday, September 23
 Virtual Session
Knowing Yourself as a Leader
Thursday, October 22
 Virtual Session
ATOD Prevention Campaign
Tuesday, November 17
Virtual Session
Be Kind to Your Mind
Monday, December 7
 Virtual Session
Registration will be open next week!
Check our website for registration links.
October 13-16 the 3rd Annual Operation Snowball Adult Leader's Conference will be held virtually. Each day we will hold a session from 11:00am-12:30pm on topics ranging from suicide prevention, ATOD trends in Illinois, OS virtual event recommendations, and more!

Please be on the look out for registration soon!

If you're unable to attend one or all the days, you can still register and be send the recording after each day's session.
Our Youth Advocates on the OS Board of Directors have been busy brainstorming all summer to ensure the 2020-2021 school year is full of innovative programming and new ways to our community to stay connected.

This month we are launching our Monthly Snowball Challenge - You've Been Snowballed!
They're popping up in a neighborhood near you: "We've Been Snowballed!" signs that fly from house to house. First one neighbor, to another, and then it's your house! What's behind it all?
Welcome to the wonderful world of Operation Snowball random acts of kindness monthly challenge. Snowball-ing is a friendly tradition to spread the snowball spirit by gifting friends, family, or neighbors a secret care package.

To start a "You've Been Snowballed" chain reaction, one neighbor secretly leaves a small care package, "You've Been Snowballed!" instructions and a sign at their doorstep. The lucky person is asked to post the sign near the door, alerting others that "We've Been Snowballed!" That way, new recruits won't leave a duplicate care package on the doorstep. In turn, the neighbor is asked to SNOWBALL two other households, leading to a community of caring chain reaction. Day by day, the signs continue to grow. Soon, the entire neighborhood is sporting signs, and everyone is guessing. Who Snowballed who?

If you get Snowballed remember to take a picture and tag us on Facebook or Instagram, we want to see how far and wide this can go!
If it were up to us, we would have been screaming a welcome from the stage in the MLK Ballroom on a hot, perfect Sunday morning at Eastern Illinois University. We would have been looking at 500 faces in the crowd with anticipation, excited about what would become of this magical summer week. We would have been thinking about the speakers we have lined up and the activities we can’t wait to share, and most importantly, we’d be wondering what incredible things the youth would accomplish together and individually, big and small, throughout our time together.
Life is unpredictable. We cannot control when it rains during registration or if CGTI is relocated not just to a different campus, but to your computer. We never know what the highlights and memories of the week will be until we get there, and we did not know what Virtual TI was going to be like until we signed on. CGTI is just one of the many things this year that has changed for us all. Some of the changes have been easy, and many of them have been hard. But what we do know, is that if CGTI has taught us anything, it’s that what makes a group of people into a group of leaders is the willingness to do.
We had over 230 register for this summer's virtual Teen Institute! Attendees heard from a keynote speakers, broke into discussion groups and community action team meetings, participated in icebreakers and team building activities, and even attended breakout workshop sessions. Even though we couldn't be together physically, we truly feel that we were able to hold true to our mission and empowered youth and adults to create positive change in their community!
Youth Advocates on the OS Board have been spending the past few months working hard writing articles, creating resources, and engaging our snowball community online.
Please see below!
In seeing these, I thought I wasn’t doing enough, that I was wasting my time if I didn’t fill every second with a new activity or skill during this quarantine. But after many attempts of trying new things and not finding the relief I wanted I took a step back to reflect. 

In uncertain and crazy times, or at any time where you might feel anxious or upset, we as humans tend to suppress our emotions. Those around us try to make us instantly feel better, and we fill our time with distractions, so we do not have to feel the unwanted emotion. But when we suppress our feelings and never acknowledge how we feel, it can often lead to more harm than good. Trying new things and acquiring new skills are wonderful ways to stay mentally healthy, but recognizing your emotions and acknowledging that a situation is unpleasant or uncomfortable is equally important. When we acknowledge how a situation makes us feel, we can grow and take action. If we don't let ourselves feel and instead continually distract ourselves, the emotions just continue to pile up. In these very abnormal times, it is especially important to be kind to ourselves and give ourselves some slack if we don't feel quite "normal." One of my favorite things about Snowball and the snowball community is that everyone allows you to be open and honest about your emotions. The OS spirit enables you to feel safe and to feel supported. Sharing with others is not easy, but the non-judgment and self-love atmosphere promoted by being with those who love you can help foster profound growth. 

We have to remember that if we do not feel okay that does not mean we are doing something wrong or are weak. It is okay to be scared, it is okay to be lonely, it is okay if not everything brings you joy and relief, it is okay if you want to give yourself a break, and it is okay not to be okay. And when you don't feel okay, it is important to try hard not to avoid it or endlessly distract yourself until it becomes numb. Instead, let yourself process any and every emotion because once you allow yourself to feel, you can not just begin to grow, but flourish.
Mental Health Checklist
During this time of uncertainty in the word it is important to continuously evaluate how you are feeling. Please see below a Mental Health Checklist that can assist in determining if you or a loved one could benefit from engaging in some helpful, quick and relaxing ways to reset.

Setting goals for the future to prioritize your Mental Health can go a long way, find some suggestions of goals below.

You can click the pictures to access a downloadable PDF to keep!
Brittany Reed | Libertyville, IL
Emma Murphy | Homewood, IL
Social Media Interaction

In an effort to have more interaction on our social media platforms we created "challenges" for people to complete. This gave participants, teen/adult directors, and alumni an opportunity to reflect on their favorite memories from their Snowball events over the years, and share them with us.

We will continue to find ways to showcase different Snowball Chapters and their special traditions throughout the year.
Amari Brown | OS Board
Finding Support in Others
It goes without saying that during the past few months of living in quarantine, the state of a person's mental health can change drastically. Without the usual social contact from others in our day to day lives, it can be hard to feel like our usual selves. During this uncertain time, it is a great idea to reach out to friends, family, and peers for some social/emotional support, especially if you are feeling saddened or just exploring the world's weight a bit more than usual. Reaching out can be very helpful to not only yourself but others as well! Checking in with your friends and family can be a great way to maintain friendships and connections while adding a layer of support and aide in mental health.
There are multiple ways to reach out and connect with people. It can be FaceTiming or texting. Letter/card writing is also a great way to add a personal and sentimental approach to those connections. One of my favorite things about Snowball is writing out personal notes or "bag of good feeling notes." These notes are the perfect way to let someone know how much you care for them and support them, and they're also great to keep and read later on for a warm fuzzy feeling. I personally love sending out letters and cards to friends and family to break away from the usual text message or phone calls. Another tip that could help improve mental health is to spend more quality time with family if possible. With all of the unprecedented changes in our world, it is hard not to observe the news and social media posts constantly.
Instead of watching the evening news every day, maybe play a card or board game with your family to break away from some negativity. Taking small breaks and precautions can really help improve moods and overall well-being. 

Using these tips/advice can make a difference in your quarantine. Remember to reach out to others and to check in on others who may also need some support. 
Supporting School Mental Health in the Context of Racial Violence Series
The Great Lakes MHTTC is pleased to invite you to our upcoming two-part learning forum,  Supporting School Mental Health in the Context of Racial Violence . This series is intended for students, families, educators and school mental health professionals who are navigating the impact of racial violence on student mental health. Each learning session will feature a moderator who will engage advocates, leaders and the school mental health workforce in a conversation that focuses on:

  1. Strategies for supporting students’ mental health while navigating racial violence (in and out of school);
  2. Opportunities for the field to improve its commitment to fostering a workforce ready, able and willing to hold racial violence as a mental health issue;
  3. Steps we might take to advance school mental health supports for students experiencing racial violence.

For inquiries and scheduling requests please contact Riley Blythe
riley@ilabh.org | 217.528.7335 ext. 27

Vaping: Know the Facts Toolkit
An awareness campaign and toolkit for parents, teachers, school administrators, and teens. As the real risks of “vaping” remain largely misunderstood by adults and teens alike, Vaping: Know the Facts boils down the latest science into a free, open-source toolkit that explains the harms associated with adolescent vaping and empowers audiences with the tools to take action.
K-12 Toolkit for
Mental Health Promotion
and Suicide Prevention
The K-12 Toolkit for Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention was created by the Health Care Alliance for Response to Adolescent Depression (HEARD) in 2013 (updated in 2017), in response to a need for schools to promote student mental health and well-being, to prevent suicide and, in particular, how to respond after a suicide loss. 

 The toolkit convenes national best practices from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the National Center for School Mental Health (NCSMH), and several other organizations. 
How to Get Help
If you or someone you know is in a suicidal crisis, call or text a suicide hotline (toll free, 24 hours/day, 7 days/week):
  • Text HELLO to 741741 to connect with someone
  • Call SAMHSA’s National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
  • Call 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433)
  • Call 1-800-799-4TTY (4889) for hearing & speech impaired
  • Call 1-866-488-7386 for the Trevor Project, a suicide hotline for LGBTQ youth
MISSION STATEMENT: Through the development of leadership skills, Operation Snowball shall be a youth and adult partnership, providing awareness and prevention of alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use, while encouraging healthy decision-making in an active community of caring.
Operation Snowball, Inc.

937 South 2nd Street | Springfield, IL 62704
217.528.7335 ext. 27