It serves two purposes – education and fundraising. And both are vital to the existence of the Southeast Alabama Child Advocacy Center (CAC).
As the month of April quickly approaches, which is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, the staff and volunteers of the CAC are in the midst of planning for their 19th annual Blue Ribbon Campaign. It is this month-long campaign that helps the CAC get its message out to the public through its education effort. It is also through this campaign that a large portion of the funding for the operation of the center is raised. The funds raised allow the center to match important grants it receives each year.
The Blue Ribbon Campaign will kick off Monday, April 1, at 11:30 a.m., on the steps of the Houston County Courthouse. This is a departure from the normal opening ceremony, which has been held at the CAC. It is hoped that this move to a downtown location will draw more public awareness to the campaign.
Jessica Goolsby, community outreach manager for the CAC, and other staff members and volunteers are pooling their talents to lead the campaign.
“The Blue Ribbon Campaign is used to educate the public about child abuse and the magnitude of it in our area,” Goolsby said as she explained the importance of this community awareness campaign. She also noted the agency chose a blue bunny, SPARKLE, to serve as its mascot. It was chosen for an important reason.
“SPARKLE the Safety Bunny is a quiet animal,” Goolsby said. “In most cases, children are quiet about the abuse they are suffering. It’s important to educate adults about child abuse and how to recognize the signs of it. The magnitude of cases in our area is amazing.”
More than 300 new cases of child abuse were reported to the CAC from either law enforcement, the Department of Human Resources or the District Attorney’s office in 2012. Goolsby believes more cases occurred than were actually reported to authorities. Many children suffer in silence.
The need to help the abused children is what makes the fundraising effort within the campaign so vitally important.
“The second part of the Blue Ribbon Campaign is to raise the funds needed to help these children,” Goolsby continued. “Without these funds the staff is not here to be the support for the abused children. A lot of the children who come here don’t have a support system.”
There are two ways people can show their support for the Blue Ribbon Campaign. One is to be a sponsor for the Blue Ribbon Friday for Kids t-shirts and/or the Blue Knights/Blue Ribbon Motorcycle Ride (to be held April 20), or to purchase the souvenir t-shirts. The deadline to be a sponsor or to pre-order t-shirts (to guarantee the sizes needed) is Feb. 22. After that date, t-shirts will be available throughout the campaign, but some sizes may not be available.
“We’re also asking people to wear these shirts every Friday in April,” Goolsby said. “This is a way to make a statement in support of child abuse prevention. We appreciate the support we’ve had during our Blue Ribbon Campaigns. We hope to expand that support this year.”
Other special events will also be included it the campaign.
“On Sunday, April 21, we asking area congregations to recognize that date as the day of the child,” Goolsby said. “We have special bulletin inserts that they can use that day. We also have blue ribbons that they can distribute.”
Throughout April, the CAC is also holding its “Koins for Kids” campaign. Through this effort, area businesses, schools, churches, civic groups and individuals can collect coins or challenge others to collect coins for the Blue Ribbon Campaign. Three sizes of specially-marked containers are available from the CAC to assist in the collection effort.
Goolsby noted groups can used the “Koins for Kids” campaign as a Spirit of Service project.
On April 26, which is “Blue Ribbon Friday for Kids,” members of the CAC staff and volunteers will be at Wiregrass Commons Mall for a “Koin Collection” program.
“This will also be an education platform,” Goolsby said of the mall event. “We want to use every opportunity we can to get the word out to the public about child abuse prevention.”
For more information about the Blue Ribbon Campaign or the services provided by the Southeast Alabama Child Advocacy Center, call 671-1779.