Our History

LEAD has a 27 year history of making an impact in our community and beyond.

Where We've Been...

Scroll through the timeline below for a brief glimpse through LEAD’s path from small, ambitious local parent group to a fully-developed non-profit organization and leader in the prevention community. And after browsing through where we’ve been, if you’re so inclined, have a look at our Road Map to see where exactly we’re going.


LEAD's predecessor, The Lake Bluff/Lake Forest Parent Council is formed.

The Lake Forest/Lake Bluff Parent Council is formed in October 1986, following a series of events and community forums which rallies residents to address mounting concerns regarding local teens, including drinking and other drug use, depression, suicide and very high levels of stress. The social acceptability of teen drinking among local adults is also highlighted as a concern. The LF/LB Parent Council’s goal is to bring the parent leaders from all local school parent/teacher associations together to raise awareness of these issues, to increase coordination in prevention efforts among parents and across community groups, and to provide educational resources to parents. Key initiatives coordinated by members of the Parent Council include Red Ribbon Week, Just Say No campaigns, and the Safe Homes Pledge.


The Parent Council evolves into LEAD.

Reforming as LEAD: Linking Efforts Against Drugs in 1991, the council expanded its work with local schools, parent groups, law enforcement, businesses, CROYA, and other community partners to support and coordinate programs for awareness and prevention of alcohol, drug use, and other risky behavior by youth.


LEAD incorporates as a 501(c) 3 organization

LEAD becomes a non-profit entity, remaining a 100% volunteer run organization until hiring its first Executive Director in the late 1990’s. To this day, LEAD’s mission continues to focus on preventing substance abuse and other risky behavior by youth. Programs include support for parents to develop strong families and healthy youth in grades pre-k through 12.


The Speak-UP! Prevention Coalition is born.

Local high school students take a survey about their attitudes and usage-habits of drugs and alcohol. The results of these surveys indicate that students in the Lake Forest/Lake Bluff community are drinking at levels significantly above regional and national levels.  In collaboration with LEAD, a group of concerned citizens form a task force in December 2006 to examine these issues. The task force, now known as the SpeakUP! Prevention Coalition, grows to over 100 volunteers, each committed to reducing underage alcohol and drug use.


LEAD and the SpeakUP! Prevention Coalition are awarded their first federal Drug Free Communities Grant.

Working with members from across all sectors of the community in conjunction with the bi-annual Illinois Youth Survey, the coalition begins using a data-driven approach to achieve results and address to root causes of local substance abuse.

Andy Duran

Andy Duran joins LEAD as its Executive Director.

Entering an an environment wherein teen suicide has become a growing local concern, Andy begins formulating solutions for how LEAD can best address these issues. Early seeds for what would become TextForHelp are planted.


LEAD rapidly expands and enhances its services.

Now offering trainings, workshops, presentations and keynotes for youth and adults across the country, LEAD begins to process of transforming into a major force in the prevention landscape. In the background, its team quietly begins building a tool designed to provide teens in crisis with easy access to direct help and counsel.


LEAD hosts its first Gala.

With the aim of further cementing its role in the Lake Forest/Lake Bluff community, making connections with its stakeholders and adapting to local needs, Andy and his wife Lisa begin organizing what would eventually become a regular and much-anticipated event: The LEAD Gala.


Text-a-Tip, the predecessor of today’s TextForHelp.app platform, launches in Lake Forest/Lake Bluff, Illinois.

The service aims to provide local youth with a live, anonymous, 24 hour text line to trained, licensed therapists who can listen to their situation and, in turn, direct them towards the further help they need.


Second Text-a-Tip, predecessor to LEAD's TextForHelp.app platform, launches.

Representing the first step towards offering LEAD's help line to communities outside LEAD's own Lake Bluff/Lake Forest base, the launch of Text-a-Tip in neighboring Deerfield, Illinois was the first step in what has become a nationwide campaign to provide mental health assistance to teens across the country.


LEAD brings Text-a-Tip out of state for the first time.

Launching in Riverside, California, the introduction of LEAD's TextForHelp.app platform predecessor at a location across the country poses new challenges for the LEAD team, coordinating qualified mental health professionals and the necessary technology to address the specific mental health needs of teens in disparate communities. This would soon evolve into a complex network of mental health lines spanning from one end of the nation to another.

Nate Biggs joins LEAD's team as Chief Operating Officer.

With the increase in LEAD's operational and technological footprint, it becomes increasingly obvious that the organization requires a tech-savvy operations chief with a strong background in youth and prevention programs. Enter Nate, whose experience with and expertise in both prevention and technology provides the perfect compliment to Andy's own leadership and service ambitions. Together, the two begin forming a new structure for a new LEAD: An organization capable of adopting cutting-edge technologies and adapting them to the needs of communities, school districts, and prevention organizations across the country to better serve their parents and youth.


A new challenge: LEAD takes on the proposed Illinois Marijuana Legalization Law.

With the proposed law bringing much confusion and obfuscation to discussions on young people, substance misuse, and marijuana, the LEAD team embarks on an ambitious program to educate parents, teens, communities, and lawmakers on the effects marijuana usage has on young people and their mental health, as well as the changes that the proposed law would bring to community environs.


LEAD takes on an emerging concern: Teen Vaping.

With the arrival of vaping, originally marketed as a "safe alternative" to tobacco use, LEAD is tasked with providing local parents, teens, schools, and community stakeholders with hitherto hidden facts about the substances used and their effect on young people.


Legalization of marijuana in Illinois.

With the passing of the Illinois Marijuana Legalization Law, LEAD works with local parents, schools, districts, and community stakeholders to negate its impact on local youth, highlighting the difference between legality and health and developing means and platforms for young people to discuss how to adapt to these changes.


Adapting to the Outbreak of Covid-19 Pandemic worldwide.

LEAD, like the rest of the world, transitions to home-office workspaces, adapting to the daily changes and challenges that evolve under the shadow of the pandemic. Continuing to offer its same quality programs, presentations, and advisory services via virtual environs rather than via in-person meetings, LEAD also confronts new mental health issues that arise. Platforms such as TextForHelp.app become more important than ever, and LEAD works to provide said platform to communities across the country.

Nicole Quick

Nicole Quick joins the LEAD team as Chief Advancement Officer.

Recognizing the need for a person to take charge of LEAD's ever-increasing number of donors, patrons, and grant administrations, the organization acquires an advancement chief with a passion for excellence and a focus on facilitating client needs.


A new LEAD for a new age in Prevention.

Still working under the shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic and its societal effects, LEAD begins formulating a series of ambitious strategies to implement as the world transition back to normalization. With mental health straining under the weight of the pandemic, and subsequent substance misuse on the increase, LEAD looks to expand and expound upon its existing technological and operational capacities, increasing its social media presence and providing a frontend design that parents, teens, school districts, and prevention organizations can make use of the address their specific needs.

Moving on from the past, LEAD focuses on Linking Efforts between such stakeholders, putting the proper facts, tools, methodologies, and technologies in their hands so that they can have a greater impact on their communities.

Where We're Heading: Past Meets Future.

See our Road Map section for more information on where we are and where we are going. Amazing things ahead, as we embark on our project of Linking Efforts throughout the prevention community.