Mentor Me is holding its 12th annual Mad Hatter Ball on April 1 at the Cavanaugh Center, 426 8th St., from 5-11 p.m. The Mad Hatter Ball is the most important fundraiser for the nonprofit organization. Executive Director Deborah Dalton said the event has been able to raise enough money to allow Mentor Me to help students in all 16 Petaluma-area schools each school year.

This year, for the first time, the event will be a gaming night. There will be a Mediterranean Buffet and beverage stations throughout the building. The festive evening allows guests to freely eat, drink, dance and play games for the whole night.

The fundraising goal is $125,000. Dalton said that at least 350 attendees are needed.

Tickets are available for $125 online at wearementorme.org or by phone at 778-4798.

There will be a live auction with several enticing offerings including projects designed and made by Mentor Me’s own mentors and mentees. For instance, long-time mentor Kent Smith has been working with seven mentees on an indoor-outdoor dining table with benches and decorative storage boxes. Half of the proceeds from each of these projects will go directly back to the kids who have dedicated time and hard work into the project.

One of the areas that this year’s Mad Hatter Ball will fund is the promising new Mentor Me Advocacy Team. Despite what Dalton called “the preventative medicine of mentoring,” 10 to 15 percent of mentees either become juvenile offenders or become at risk of dropping out or failing out of school.

“We really have attachments and relationships to these kids and their families. It didn’t seem right to stand by and do nothing when they were in arguably their darkest hour,” said Dalton.

Thus the Advocacy Team is not only “making recommendations to the kids and guiding the families, but also showing up in person as advocates for them in the courtroom,” said Dalton.

Led by Dalton, Mentor Me facilities administrator Chris Bell, Mentor Me board member and school principal Catina Haugen, former judge Jack Meagher, former probation officer Dolan Beaird and Petaluma police officer Zeus Rivera, the team is educating at-risk youth about the juvenile justice system and consequences of certain choices. Mentees who are already in the juvenile justice system are being helped to complete their high school education and to complete probation in an effort to prevent recidivism.

In the couple of months that the team has been working, Dalton is impressed with its successes. She said, “We’ve managed to get five kids who were in danger of failing or dropping out of school transitioned to different schools and back on the right track.” They have guided youths through the juvenile court and for “several of them charges were dropped or dismissed, two have successfully completed their probation, and others are still a work in progress.”

Mentor Me is optimistic about the opportunities that the Advocacy Team will provide as it grows, but as a nonprofit organization, it needs to raise as much money as possible on April 1.