Teresa Devaul and Janay Martin started the Blush organization as a way to reach out to young girls. They were worried girls have seen and heard so much on television, they’ve become immune to embarrassment.

They formed committees and planned the first Blush bash in 2010, to reach the hearts and minds of young girls and teach them the importance of being virtuous.

A year later, the organization has hosted thousands of girls and boys at workshops about safety in cyberspace, safe relationships and having courage to be faithful to your own beliefs.

For their efforts, Blush will be honored as the best new volunteer initiative of 2010 by the United Way.

Bebe Dorris, development director for the Kokomo Rescue Mission, nominated Blush for the award, commending Martin and Devaul’s efforts to reach out to young girls with a message about purity.

“What if Janay and Teresa had not pursued the inspiration for Blush? A young woman’s poor estimation of her value as a creation of God might have resulted in a demeaning photo being released across the Internet. Words in print that cut to the quick in another’s heart might have caused unimaginable harm. I believe these two women deserve recognition for their initiative in creating Blush for girls in our community.”

Martin said she’s been moved by how Kokomo has embraced Blush.

“I think there’s just been such a hunger in the community for positive events, positive speakers to come to our area for our youth, and we’ve just been able to also wrap parents into that as well,” she said.

Devaul said people have asked about replicating Blush in other areas, but Kokomo’s response has been the reason it has succeeded.

“I’m thrilled mostly because of how our community has just really embraced Blush and shown up in such a big way with its time and its talents, its volunteer talents and its dollars. Every need we have had, every challenge we have had in the last year, the community has stepped up beyond measure … that tells us there is such a hunger from people of all ages who want to do something for our youth,” she said.

Devaul said at first, plans were just to reach out to girls, but boys, including her own three sons, started asking to be included.

The first few events, including the inaugural Blush bash and a garden party, focused on girls. In November, Blush hosted its first co-ed event, Norm?, which focused on cyber safety and safe relationships. About 1,000 people attended that event. The next event was “Hungry for Love,” a praise concert and food drive for area food pantries. About 800 people attended, bringing 1,500 pounds of food.

Devaul said the main goal of each event is to provide a positive influence on a topic, whether it is anti-bullying, safety with social networking, healthy relationships, healthy body image or dressing stylishly but modestly.

She said having that message come from someone other than a child’s own parents can make a difference.

“I realize I’m not the only voice in my children’s lives,” Devaul said. “If we all come together and layer on those healthy messages … who knows which voice your child is going to listen to?”

Devaul said Ashley Hicks, the speaker at the inaugural Blush bash, will be back for this year’s edition May 5 and 6, bringing her husband, Kory, to talk to the boys.

This year’s event also will include a session for women, she said, “about embracing who you are in Christ and being real about it, really trying to be your authentic self.”

The focus for the middle and high school students is “Relentless,” with a message that urges students to relentlessly pursue finding their purpose and stay pure.

“The cards are already stacked against them,” Devaul said. “If they’re going to navigate life in a positive way, they need to be relentless in that pursuit.”

• Danielle Rush – Kokomo Tribune education reporter