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‘It’s OK to not be OK’: Kids at Hutton Settlement get a show, food – and encouragement to open up

UPDATED: Tue., March 9, 2021

Hutton Settlement student Marcella Darling, 12, gives hugs to Bubba, 12 weeks, Tuesday during the viewing of the Heartstrings for Hope concert. The puppy is owned by Hutton Settlement executive director Chud Wendle.  (Dan Pelle/THESPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Hutton Settlement student Marcella Darling, 12, gives hugs to Bubba, 12 weeks, Tuesday during the viewing of the Heartstrings for Hope concert. The puppy is owned by Hutton Settlement executive director Chud Wendle. (Dan Pelle/THESPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

Kids at the Hutton Settlement Children’s Home, an alternative to foster homes, feasted on barbecue Tuesday and watched a virtual country music event focused on mental health put on by MultiCare.

The online charity event, MultiCare’s Heart Strings for Hope concert, featured more than 24 artists, including Tim McGraw, Lauren Alaina and Scotty McCreery. Donations given through multicareheartstrings.org during the performances benefited mental health treatment in Spokane, as MultiCare and Hutton Settlement have partnered to offer expanded counseling to kids there, according to a MultiCare news release.

Kids got a free ticket to the event and catering from Osprey of Ruby River Hotels, the release said.

One of the event’s main objectives, outside raising money, was to normalize seeking help, according to the news release.

Chud Wendle, executive director at Hutton Settlement, said the event encouraged the kids to open up when they aren’t well. During the pandemic, it’s been especially hard for the kids, as they’ve been unable to spend as much time with their friends while mostly quarantined to the campus, a vast grassy plot established as an orphanage in 1917.

“It’s OK to not be OK,” Wendle said. “Most kids come to us broken, and they don’t know how to trust the world, so their guard is up.”

Wendle said his own mental health took a plunge during the pandemic, and he had to adapt to become more open about his feelings.

“I’ve learned it’s good for me, but also there are so many that aren’t open and they feel like if I’m vulnerable, they can be vulnerable, too,” Wendle said.

The contract with MultiCare, started in 2019, has given the kids access to a primary counselor, who is male, and a secondary female counselor, who he said has been crucial for some of the girls who didn’t feel comfortable opening up to a man.

At Hutton, Wendle said building trust and attachment is a “long-term game” that involves support instead of punishment and consistency from the “house parents” at the settlement’s four houses.

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