LONG STRINGY brown hair peeks out from underneath a fuzzy blanket. Below, a precious child holds tight to her well-loved teddy bear. Her little body rustles around in bed. You can almost smell the fresh scent of Downy Unstoppables that her sheets were washed with the day before. As she comes out of a deep REM sleep cycle, her big brown eyes begin to open. Her heart is warm, and her spirit is at ease. She has few worries, fears, or doubts. No anxiety plagues her young mind or makes withdrawals from her soul. Wide-eyed and full of wonder, she eagerly awoke to a new day filled with brilliant energy and joy. She feels excited about what the day may bring. While this is an accurate portrayal for many children, it cannot be said for every child in our community.
Some children wake up shivering, with growling tummies and covered in filth. Eyes are big and wide, but not with innocent wonder. Instead, they are wide, on high alert. Fear, anxiety, confusion, and dread cozy up to some children as they sleep and are there to meet them in the morning when they rise. Thoughts race. “What will today bring? Who will I see? How will they treat me? Does anyone truly love me?” Any and all energy they have will be spent up and used in the fight or flight response, their constant mode of operation.
According to Junior’s House’s website, there are over 1,550 reports of child physical, sexual, or emotional abuse and neglect in the 17th Judicial District (Bedford, Lincoln, Marshall, and Moore counties), averaging over 390 reports per month. Though these statistics are undoubtedly heartbreaking, the children in this district are fortunate to have a powerhouse advocate like Junior’s House in their corner.
Junior’s House is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that provides prevention, intervention, and treatment services to abused or neglected children and their families. All services, like trauma counseling, are entirely free. A family is never charged for any of Junior’s House services! Their mission is “to bring abused kids into a safe space to begin the healing process.” Junior’s House currently operates out of three different locations and has a growing staff of seven. The yearly operating cost of the nonprofit is nearing the half-million dollar mark. The Blue Ribbon Walk has consistently been their largest fundraiser year after year.
This year the walk was held on May 12, 2022, beginning at the Lincoln County Fairgrounds. By 9:30 a.m. a sea of mint green and dusty rose filled your sights all over the grounds. School kids, community leaders, and supportive adults rallied together to complete a 2.6- mile walk throughout downtown Fayetteville. As they walked through one of the most visible areas in town, they aimed to raise awareness surrounding child abuse. After not being able to do an in-person walk the last two years due to COVID-19 restrictions, Executive Director Crystal Guess shared, “It was nice to be in person after having to do it virtually the last two years. About 400 people came out to walk, and we raised over $75,000 from this event altogether.” This number makes this year’s fundraiser the highest-grossing yet! Guess shared, “These events are so important to the community because that is what allows us to do what we do. We are grateful and appreciative for everyone that comes out, and that sends in the sponsorship forms. We are encouraged. This community is amazing and has been so kind to us. Thank you, Lincoln County, for taking good care of us.” GN