When Highland Village resident Marnie Grodzin visited the Children’s Advocacy Center for Denton County (CACDC) to donate some of her son’s toys 12-years ago, she never imagined she would eventually be chairing the American Eagle Harley-Davidson Annual 2014 Champions for Children Gala.
“I needed to donate toys, searched for a children’s organization online and the CACDC popped up,” said Grodzin. “I put my son and the toys in the car and drove to the center.”
When she arrived, CACDC Executive Director Dan Leal greeted her at the door and when he learned she was a social worker, there was no turning back.
“I started volunteering my social work skills from that moment on,” she said.
For the first few years, she helped organize a women’s league for the center, filed papers, created reports, assisted with the Christmas Program and a variety of other events. In the past three years, her role has become much more involved.
“In 2012 I joined the Champions for Children Gala committee and chaired the silent auction and in 2013 I chaired the live auction,” said Grodzin. “This year, I’m the co-chairwoman with Susan Dawson.”
She has upped her involvement with the non-profit following the responses she’d received a few years back from an e-mailing she’d sent to her contacts– nationally and internationally– promoting CACDC and its upcoming Gala.
“I was overwhelmed with the number of responses from my friends, family and colleagues who said they wished they had an advocacy center when they were a child, because they too had been abused,” said Grodzin. “At that moment, I made a commitment that I would do whatever it takes to get our community educated about child sexual abuse and raise funds to support the center and staff.”
She works to educate people on what CACDC is and to make the public aware– not only about sexual abuse– but also about the services that CACDC provides to children who have been abused.
“As a foster care social worker with the Department of Children and Family Services in Chicago, the message I continually delivered to the children I worked with was ‘my job is to keep you safe,’” said Grodzin. “If there was a children’s advocacy center in Chicago, my team was not made aware of it and the children we served were never interviewed there.”
She recalled a teenage girl she’d spent a year gaining her trust finally burst out saying: “You lied! You said you would keep me safe! Now I have to go sit in the courtroom and see my parents who hurt me more than you will ever know.”
“That girl needed to testify and tell her story, once again, as she never had a proper interview,” said Grodzin. “If she had, she may never have had to enter that courtroom.”
The CACDC is where kids who have been sexually abused can tell their story once in a safe location and where all professionals in the prosecution process– detectives, case managers and attorneys– work together in one location to bring the perpetrator to justice. It’s where abused kids and their non-perpetrating family members can receive free counseling and services to assist them in healing.
When a child is being interviewed at the center, a blue light flashes reminding staff and volunteers to be quiet while a recording of the interview is taking place.
“More and more, over the years I have seen that light flash more frequently,” said Grodzin. “For a while, I found it depressing, but then one day I realized, every time that light flashes, a child is telling their story and getting the help they need and that perpetrator will be brought to justice sparing more children from being sexually abused.”
She said that people typically cringe at the topic of sexual abuse. But, keeping the abuse contained only creates more heartache and pain.
“Every time I see that blue light, I know another child is sharing their story and will ultimately move on with their lives without shame or guilt,” said Grodzin. “What shocks me the most is the general belief that sexual abuse only happens in certain socioeconomic, religious or racial backgrounds. It happens everywhere. Statistics show that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be abused – regardless of their background. In fact I believe the numbers to be higher!”
Since 1997, CACDC has helped bring 976 offenders to justice; more important are the thousands of victims, family members and potential victims healed, empowered and protected by the CACDC staff and professional partners.
The fifth annual Champions for Children Gala is Saturday, April 5, at the Circle R Ranch in Flower Mound. This year’s title sponsor is American Eagle Harley-Davidson in Corinth.
The 2013 gala raised more than $200,000 for CACDC’s programs to serve growing number of clients.
For more information about the Children’s Advocacy Center for Denton County, visit www.cacdc.org. To report abuse, call 800-252-5400.