The Barthold Family Foundation (“BFF”) was the presenting sponsor for this year’s Children’s Advocacy Center (“CAC”) Gala. The Gala is the CAC’s main fund raising event and directly supports the mission of the CAC.
The CAC celebrated 12 years of serving victims and their families this year. The organization’s goal is to reduce trauma experienced by child victims of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse by providing help and hope in these traumatic experiences. The CAC served and interviewed 387 children in 2015 and the organization is on track to serve 440 children in 2016.
The Gala was hosted at the CAC facility and featured several groups that were honored as “super heroes” for their volunteer efforts in conjunction with the CAC. It was a beautiful evening and the BFF was honored to recognize and support this important organization. For more information about the Gala, please visit this page. For more information about the CAC, please visit the organization’s website.
(Left to Right: BFF Members Brittney McKeever, Scott Unger, Kelsey Unger, Alex Ringold, Sophie Munoz; BFF Member Kelsey Unger addressing the crowd at the CAC Gala.)
BFF member Kelsey Unger nominated the CAC to receive funds this year. The CAC asked that a member of the BFF speak as the presenting sponsor of the Gala. Kelsey was selected to speak and she shared the thoughts below:
The Barthold Family Foundation is a private family run foundation and this year’s presenting sponsor.
The Board of Directors asked me to share something on their behalf as I nominated the CAC to receive grant funds due to the work I have seen them perform. The board extends its regrets as it was not able to be here this evening but instead sent some of the member’s children in the spirit of the evening.
I see so many prosecutors, peace officers, and advocates here that have much greater talent and much better stories to share. But since I was asked to speak, I’ll beg their forgiveness as I share one story that, to me, truly encompasses who the CAC is and what they accomplish.
I am a prosecutor. I work in our Victim Impact Program which prosecutes crimes of domestic violence, child abuse, and sex crimes. I’m going to use a case I just finished prosecuting as an example – without using real names.
Kaitlyn was 9 years old when we filed a case against her step-father for sexually abusing her. The defendant made several incriminating statements and so we filed the case immediately. Knowing that children often do not disclose all of the abuse up front, I scheduled an interview with Kaitlyn here at the CAC.
When Kaitlyn arrived with her mom, she was articulate and kind. As her mom filed out paperwork, a volunteer and I got the opportunity to sit on the ground and play games with her. She then went upstairs where Malinda Wheeler did her forensic interview. Kaitlyn, though quiet and emotional in talking about the abuse, did in fact disclose significantly more sexual abuse than was originally charged, including some that made the defendant eligible for a life sentence for his crimes.
After the interview, I was again downstairs with Kaitlyn playing. When it came time to leave, she looked at me and said, “This house is so great. Do I have to leave?”
But our story doesn’t end there. Before our preliminary hearing, the first of two times Kaitlyn would have to testify, I met her at court to show her around and ease the fear of the unknown. Kaitlyn remembered me by saying, “Wait, I met you at the fun house right? We played dolls together?”
She also told me she was scared and nervous, asking to bring her dog to court. I again turned to the CAC who set me up in less than two days with a Pet Prescription team member who came to court with a therapy dog to sit with her in the jury room, before and after her testimony, as well as during break when she got very emotional.
Fast forward to the jury trial that was completed just this week when Kaitlyn again testified at the jury trial. When I met with Kaitlyn to tell her her step-father had been convicted and she would never have to see him again, her response was “That’s really great! Do you live at that fun house we played at?”
I share this story not because it has a happy ending but because of the role the CAC played in Kaitlyn’s life. Because THIS is what the CAC is all about and what they strive to do. This organization took a child – who had been through significant trauma at a young age – and made her comfortable, confident, loved, and supported. It allowed her to disclose and discuss her sexual trauma with a total stranger. Instead of this house being associated with talking about trauma and pain and being scared, it was associated with being a child. As a prosecutor, instead of being associated with the bad man who did bad things to her, I had a positive association – one that allowed her to trust me and build a relationship with me. As a prosecutor, this is invaluable.
So for those here to support the good work of the CAC, please continue to do so because they are actively changing children’s lives. To those in the multi-disciplinary team, including prosecutors, law enforcement, and DCFS, thank you for all you do. You inspire me. If their mission is to produce positive outcomes through a team approach while still reducing trauma, let me tell you first hand…they are doing this daily.
Thank you and enjoy your evening.