Sunny Hills to Side by Side

Founded in 1895 as an orphanage, Sunny Hills got its name in the 1930s from its idyllic San Anselmo campus. In recent years, though, the organization has evolved significantly beyond its campus and its early mission. Because of this expansion, the group decided it needed a new name, one that better captured its broad spectrum of programs and the essence of its work with young people.

In the search for a new name, staff and clients were consulted about their work together, and the phrase “side by side” came up again and again. Staff emphasize that they walk alongside young people on their journeys – neither leading nor following, but instead meeting youth where they are without judgment or hierarchy.

“As a name, Side by Side encapsulated this simple, but most essential, aspect of our work,” says CEO Mary Denton. “And we also like that Side by Side describes our relationship with the partners and supporters in the community that make our work possible.”

This concept of walking side by side also informed the group’s messaging, including its mission statement. The mission of Side by Side is “to walk with youth impacted by adversity toward a future with connection and meaning.”

Today, Side by Side operates in four counties – Marin, Alameda, Sonoma, and Napa – reaching nearly 2,000 young people ages 5 to 26 and their families. The nonprofit provides services that span behavioral and mental health, early intervention, LGBTQ support, therapeutic housing, special education, and youth justice. The newest service area is substance abuse recovery with ReStart, in Marin, which offers both a residential and afterschool program for teens 13 to 17.

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