Trent Yaconelli knows young people. As Executive Director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of St. Helena and Calistoga, his talent and ability to notice, connect with, and respond to kids in need has made him invaluable to the 1500 youth enrolled in the Club’s six locations across the Napa Valley.
An embodiment of the Club’s mission is “to provide all young people a safe, positive and unique place to develop their natural talents, and to inspire them to achieve their full potential,” Yaconelli has served the Club since the late ‘90s, always with a focus on what is best for Napa’s youth. In 2011, he was instrumental in creating the Club’s now annual The BIG Night fundraiser. The 2023 event raised more than $1.15 million, which goes directly to scholarships and Club programs.
In 2018, he initiated the “Into the Woods” retreats for teens, taking groups to the Oregon mountains twice annually to participate in group exercise and receive resources for addressing mental health issues. Free to all participants due to the Club’s fundraising efforts, the retreats have been recognized by Boys and Girls Clubs of America for their effectiveness and are the model for a national pilot program. In addition to his emphasis on mental health, Yaconelli accentuates gratitude in all of the Club’s programs.
Current board of directors’ member Marianna Hawkins, a co-founder of the Club, has long worked with Yaconelli and is in awe of his abilities. “Trent is the lynchpin of our organization, the star player of our team,” said Hawkins. “He is creative, dynamic and kind. He has the talent and ability to see a kid in need and artfully orchestrate the staff to engage and connect with that child. He ties all the separate components of our organization together with his innate ability to communicate with anyone and everyone, from the kids and their families, the staff, the community, the board of directors, the schools, the police and fire departments, the mayors and city staff, as well as our outstanding and supportive donors. He is outstanding.”
Yet Yaconelli self-effacingly credits the Club’s board, staff, and community. “When I came to the board, and no one was really talking about the mental health crises, I said, “we need to do something,” and they immediately said yes,” said Yaconelli. “We started our Teen Mental Health Retreats that very year. We all believe everyone deserves a chance to be and do better, and it is our job to give the upcoming generation every opportunity to succeed. The question we must all ask ourselves is: How do we become a part of the conversation happening in the world around anxiety, depression, and mental health among young people? It doesn’t matter how small your Club or community is; we can do great things when we come together with compassion, creativity, and thoughtfulness. By actively engaging in the issues surrounding mental health, we can raise awareness and break the stigma associated with it.”