A Look Back at 2021. Maybe It Wasn’t So Bad, Afterall.

I know this is the season to set our intentions for the coming year. What are our new year resolutions or our words for the year? Where are we going to focus our energies?

As much as I love a good Vision Board, I have to admit that I’ve always been a sucker for some good old-fashioned introspection.

This felt like a tough year for me.  I think we all had high hopes for 2021…the year that replaced 2020! That’s a lot of pressure for just 365 days.

I quickly realized that to gain clarity on the coming year, I needed more clarity on the past year. I don’t know if I’m the only one, but thinking back through 2021 produced a lot of fuzz. Seriously…fuzz.  There were so many emotions that I couldn’t quite get a clear picture. 

So, I pulled out my calendar and had a good look-see. And then I sat back and marveled.  I really did.  If you had asked me, I don’t know that I could have quantified the successes and blessings of 2021 without this exercise.

Without this nudge, I don’t think I would have remembered that I presented my signature Child Sexual Abuse Prevention in Youth Sports” at two national conferences, which had participants from around the globe. I’m not being trite when I say it was a thrilling experience.

Here in Indiana, the Cass County Chapter of Prevent Child Abuse Indiana, Indiana Youth Services Association and the Boone County Child Advocacy Center asked me to talk about child sexual abuse prevention and response to their members, partners, supporters and community members. What an honor. And in December, I educated parents and coaches at a Zionsville Town Hall Meeting, which, by the way, was my first in-person training in TWO YEARS! It felt so good to connect with a live audience.

Additionally, I worked with the Association of Child & Youth Care Practice (ACYCP) to provide continuing education to their member youth serving organizations throughout America and Canada.

I’m an Authorized Facilitator and Certified Instructor for Darkness to Light’s Stewards of Children® (SOC). This year alone, I trained the 2nd-year Rabbinic students at Hebrew Union College in SOC and helped train 130 child advocates from around the world as SOC Authorized Facilitators.

I developed two sets of Youth Protection Policies & Procedures for youth serving organizations and assisted Sylvia’s Child Advocacy Center earn its national accreditation from the National Children’s Alliance.

Because of the pandemic and the Zoom Explosion I was able to participate in two business programs that I never would have had access to otherwise. 

I graduated from the Art of Mindful Storytelling with Jennifer James. Jen is…well…the best way I can describe her is a marketing and branding wizard, as well as a Mindful Storytelling Coach. With Jen’s wise counsel (and patience!), I formalized my company’s mission, vision and guiding principles. I also produced a six-minute video that unfolds My Why.

And then I had the amazing opportunity to work with entrepreneurial maven Samantha Bove and complete her business accelerator program, ZenBoss Academy. Sam and her team helped me develop and launch a new signature prevention program for parents (Stay tuned…news on this coming SOON!)

A first for me…I was a Christmas present this year! (You may have seen my social media post with me jumping out of a gift box.  Also a first for me!) A woman I met through ZenBoss Academy was so moved by what she learned about my work, she purchased a personal one-hour session with me for each of her siblings who have children. Such a unique and loving idea that will positively impact these families for generations.

While this started in 2020, it powered through into 2021. I’m talking about my belated awareness of systemic racism and social injustice. I’ve tried to spend my time reading, listening and contemplating. I’ve learned a great deal, but similarly to child sexual abuse prevention, there isn’t a real finish line to this learning.  So, I continue. I will list the books and trainings that have been most impactful on me and my work in a soon-to-arrive Resources section on my website.

Again, thanks to the Zoom Explosion, I was able to attend virtual conferences and learn from some of the world’s experts and leaders on child protection to help me stay abreast of the latest research, innovations and best practices. I have been incorporating so much of what I learned into my work!

Let’s wrap with a bit of gratitude. I am so thankful for..,

Our good health. (Knock wood!) no one in our immediate family has caught Covid;

The roof over our head. No kidding. I’m so grateful for my husband’s job and that I’ve been able to grow this important work during such difficult times; and


Thank you to each of you who have walked alongside me and these amazing successes of 2021. Many of you have participated in my trainings, hired me to work with your organization, forwarded one of my blog posts to someone who needed that information, engaged with and shared my social media posts because you saw its value, changed your own child protection behaviors because of something you learned from me, talked about my work with a friend, relative or co-worker, or simply offered me love and support to keep up the good fight.

I love you all and I wish you and your families a new year of good health, happiness, prosperity and doing all we can for the good of our children.

Please reach out if I can be of any help to you or your organization in the coming year. Email me at toby@starkcg.net or find me on Instagram at @tobystarkprevention.