A mother and her daughter have teamed up to create a program that fosters better connections between teenage girls and their adult mentors, all with the goal of improving the support network for Loudoun’s young people.
12 Great Dates puts on regular events for teen girls and their favorite adult, whether that be a parent, coach or family friend. The events—which cover topics from dating and makeup to finances and self-defense—are meant to be fun and provide a comfortable space for teens to unwind, connect with one another, and improve their relationships with adults in their lives.
Danielle Dube’-Renken, a Loudoun mother and marketing professional, came up with the idea after she almost lost her 14-year-old daughter to suicide. She felt shame that she had missed the signs that her daughter, Madi Jenkens, was feeling overwhelmed. But as Dube’-Renken walked with Madi through her healing, working with therapists and speaking to other families, she realized that they were not alone.
“Every time I turned around I talked to other families who were facing the same thing,” Dube’-Renken said.
She noticed that part of the problem was that many teens do not have a good enough relationship with an adult in their life to talk with them about their stresses. So, with the help of Madi, she started 12 Great Dates, which is hosting 12 events throughout the year. The first three dates sold out just days after they were announced. The first one, called More than Mascara, was held at Be Beauty in Leesburg on April 11; the second, called Dating and Dancing, is planned for the Lightfoot restaurant Wednesday; and the third, called, A Partner is Not a Financial Plan, is planned for May 8.
“We have seen an overwhelming demand,” Dube’-Renken said. She recalls taking her daughter to Dominion Hospital in Reston two days before Christmas after she tried to take her own life. “Half the kids there were from Loudoun County high schools. How was I so blind that this was such a big problem?”
Madi, now 16 and a student at Riverside High School in Lansdowne, said it’s easy for teenagers to feel socially isolated. 12 Great Dates is a chance for girls, ages 13 to 16, to grow closer to their parents or mentors and meet other girls. “12 Great Dates isn’t a magical wand, but it helps,” she said. “Adults don’t usually go out of their way to make plans with their kids. So, this is a structured schedule so everyone sees it and can say, ‘let’s just sign up for this and hang out.’”
The two events still with space available are May 22 and June 19. The first will be a shopping trip for the perfect swimsuit and the second will feature lessons from a professional photographer about how to take great selfies and how to safely share photos.
People can attend all 12 events or just one or two. Cost for each event is $20 for the teenager and the adult. Sponsorships are available for those who cannot afford the fee. See the full schedule and register at 12greatdates.com.