A Sequim Sunrise Rotary Club Fundraiser for Sequim’s Homeless Youth

Sequim Premier Tickets: Tickets are not yet on sale. We appreciate all the excitement and interest in the Boys in the Boat Premier. We know the movie will be released in the fall but we do not have a date, time or cost for Sequim’s premier tickets. You are welcome to contact Sequim Sunrise Rotary by email and we will put you on a wait list for ticket information. You may also donate directly to the JRRYF by clicking on one of the links below.

The Joe Rantz Rotary Youth Fund was conceived in 2018 by the Sequim Sunrise Rotary club after the Boys in the Boat book was released.  Rantz is the central character in the book which chronicle his struggles through life in his early years in Sequim, culminating with his Olympic gold medal win at Berlin in 1936. Our club realized Sequim was not honoring Joe in his hometown, and wanted to do something in his name. It was then when the Sequim Sunrise Rotary Club began discussing Joe’s past, today’s homeless youth in Sequim, and the huge need to help them. The goal of the Joe Rantz Rotary Youth Fund is to create a home for Sequim’s homeless youth – the Joe Rantz Rotary Youth House.

Audio Transcript

Our club was proud to raise the first $28,000 towards the JRRY House, and now turn to our community to join in honoring Joe, while helping the homeless youth of Sequim. Rotary is a 501c-3 charity, your donation is tax-deductible. Total fundraising goal for the JRRY house is $750,000. Thank you for your support!

Sequim’s Homeless Youth

Sequim is nearing 170 homeless youth, and over 50 at the high school. The number of unaccompanied high school youth is 27. 6% of our school district is considered homeless. The federal government requires all homeless kids to sign up with a program called McKinney-Vento, 30% of our MV youth are considered ‘unaccompanied’ compared to the national average of 3%. How do kids end up in this situation?

Top 5 reasons Teens are Homeless:

  1. Lack of affordable housing – parent’s are not able to find safe temporary housing.
  2. Parental drug and alcohol addiction – creates housing instability and a lack of safety. 
  3. Parents choose not to support a youth struggling with difficult behaviors.
  4. Just like Joe, parents move to a new area or begin a new relationship. 
  5. Youth identifies as LGBTQ+ and parents cannot support the lifestyle.

Donate to the JRRYF House:

Donate via check, make check payable to Sequim Sunrise Rotary, note JRRYF, mail to:

Sequim Sunrise Rotary (JRRYF)
P.O.  Box 1521, Sequim, WA 98382

Donate via credit card, use PayPal or Venmo:

Joe’s History in Sequim

Rantz’ mother died when he was 3 and his father soon remarried and had more children. In 1924 Sequim, at age 10, Joe was exiled from his family home by his stepmother. Joe slept in Sequim’s one-room schoolhouse, foraged for food, and worked odd-jobs to survive.

Eventually his father insisted Joe be allowed home, but that didn’t last long. At 15 he returned from school to find the family packed for a move in search of a better life. His stepmother wouldn’t allow him along.

For 2 years, Joe was again alone, surviving by logging and doing odd jobs for farmers. All the while making good grades at Sequim High School.

When Joe was 17, his older brother whom had become a school teacher, invited Joe to come live with him and his wife in Seattle. Joe excelled, and was later accepted into the University of Washington where he started rowing, and later went on to become an Olympic Gold medalist.  

Rantz is the main character in the book The Boys in the Boat, which is about his early year struggles, which culminated with an Olympic gold medal win at Berlin in 1936. His story is our inspiration.

More About Joe and Boys in the Boat:

  1. Profile: Joe Rantz’s Opportunity Began in High School
  2. Sequim Gazette: No Ordinary Joe
  3. PDN: From Sequim to Berlin… Leads to Best Seller
  4. Boys In The Boat available on Amazon

Joe Rantz Rotary Youth Fund History:

The Club became committed at their 2018 fundraising auction when Rotary was told two senior girls had formed a pack to commit suicide the day after the graduation senior party because, after high school, they could see no future. Fortunately, the SHS counselor got wind of their plan and got the girl’s help. However, their story was a huge red flag for our club. The girls’ story, along with Judy Rantz Wellman sharing memories of her father Joe, our Rotary club raised $28,000 towards that Joe Rantz Rotary Youth Fund. With that seed of a start, we’re on our way to raising the needed $750k for the JRRY House. Here’s a timeline of our journey:

2018-2019: We met with local agencies who provide help to homeless kids in our county. We learned what they were doing, why they were unable to fill the need, and how Sequim Sunrise Rotary could help. We didn’t want to duplicate services, we wanted to add to services.

2019-2020: There was no McKinney-Vento liason at the school district, so progress slowed to a crawl. In 2019/2020 we also awarded our first scholarship. Our Rotary Club also found a building for a Youth Center, and had funds to remodel, but could not find a partner to run the day-to-day basis with enough hours to justify the expense.

2020-2021: The pandemic stalled our efforts entirely because of remote learning. How does a kid living in his car or on someone’s couch learn from home? The need for these kids continued to grow.

2021-2022: Sequim School District hired a dedicated MV liaison, Merrin Packer, who is terrific, and the Rotary Club worked with her to build out services for homeless kids at SHS.  Sequim Rotary awarded 3 scholarships at the 2022 graduation. 

2022-2023: Continue to work with MV liaison Merrin Packer. We unfortunately missed out on 8-rooms at a senior care home that would have worked perfectly for the JRRY House for 16 kids.

Most recently our fundraising efforts have been joined by Sequim High School’s Interact Club who raised awareness with their terrific video which was picked up by local news. It got the attention of George Clooney’s production team and they’re working on an event for the fall when the movie premiers!

Be a part of this journey via a donation to the fund, and follow the Joe Rantz Rotary Youth Fund’s progress on Facebook!

Or make checks payable to Sequim Sunshine Rotary (note JRRYF) P.O. Box 1521, Sequim, WA 98382

Rotary is a 501c-3 charity.