In an effort to reduce the stress associated with the demands of the holiday season, Aiken Youth Empowerment is requesting the honor of the community's absence at its annual "No Show" Christmas Charity Ball Friday. Instead, they are asking people throughout Aiken to donate and give themselves permission to do something for themselves that evening. "There are so many parties and demands on everyone during the holiday season, it's far too stressful," said Susan Meehan, executive director of AYE. "We need to take some time for ourselves or as a family." Meehan said that, in this economy, saving money on things like dry cleaning, a new dress or shoes, tickets, an auction item or a baby-sitter, is very appealing to many people. Meehan said that AYE is asking people to join in by making a donation that would cover the cost of just one of their savings associated with going to a charity event or Christmas party. Those who donate $10 or more will receive a special "I'm a NO SHOW" button to wear around town to let everyone know that they are planning on doing something special for themselves or with someone special or as a family. AYE is also asking people to look the organization up on Facebook and post how they are going to spend their time at the "No Show" Charity Ball. Additionally, all those that donate more than $100 will have their name placed in a drawing for a 18-by-20-inch pet portrait painted by local artist Elodie Huguet. Proceeds from the "No Show" Christmas Charity Ball will support the programs of Aiken Youth Empowerment. "This fundraiser is more important than ever," said Meehan, adding that this had been a rough year for the organization, and 2011 will be even more challenging. In July, a $75,000 grant that AYE received from the state had been cut. AYE has been able to make it to the end of this year without cutting services or programs, but without additional funds, something will have to be cut, Meehan said. "We are so lucky to have such dedicated and professional staff," she stated. "We have always done so much with so little. There are only three full-time and two part-time people at our organization, there are really no cuts we can make without loosing extremely qualified personnel. The thought of it is disheartening." In 2009, the organization educated more than 200 young people through Real Talk for Youth/Girls Circle Program; provided individual educational counseling to about 500 young people through its Positive Outcomes Program at the Aiken County Health Department; trained another 180 adults in Stewards of Children Prevention of child sexual abuse workshop; and distributed 150 Real Care infant simulators to youth in Aiken through the schools and other youth serving programs. To make a donation, visit www.aikenyouthempowerment.org or call 441-0016. Contact Ashleey Williamson at awilliamson@aikenstandard.com.