9th Annual Run and Community Fair Raises Awareness of Child Abuse
Photo Courtesy of: Bekka Wiedenmeyer
Richardson PREP HI Middle School of San Bernardino was one of the performers at the Care 4 Kids Run and Community Fair.
By Rebekka Wiedenmeyer
2016-04-27 at 13:58:08
2016-04-27 at 13:58:08
SAN BERNARDINO >> April is recognized as National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and as such, the County of San Bernardino is getting involved in the national conversation by holding events like the Annual Care 4 Kids Run and Community Fair. Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of San Bernardino and the Youth Action Project (YAP) joint hosted the run and community fair April 23 at Glen Helen Regional Park in San Bernardino. CASA has hosted the event for nine years, with YAP as a co-coordinator for the last six years. The purpose of the run and community fair, according to Cesar Navarrete, executive director for CASA of San Bernardino, is not only to provide family and friends of the community with a good time, but to also raise awareness about how to provide a voice for children in abusive situations or in the foster care system. “They don’t really have anybody they can count on,” Navarrete said. “Their social workers are transitioned, so CASA are really the ones who can help support them and walk hand in hand with them as they walk through the child welfare system.” Every year, vendors set up booths at the fair to help provide support. Volunteers help to coordinate the running portion, whether it is registering the runners or standing at various points along the 3-mile path to provide water and vocal support for runners of all ages. Staff of CASA and YAP help to coordinate the entire event. “We want people to stick around and celebrate with us, celebrate children in our community, recognizing obviously the plight of young people in our county, as well as some of the challenges they face and just band together to support them,” said Maggie Harris, CASA community outreach coordinator. One of the ways Harris helps get the community involved is by collaborating with other agencies in the area. Many community partners that vended booths at the event have been regular participants over the years because Harris and other coordinators like her in the community make it a point to reach out to one another, exchanging information and providing support for each other’s causes. “It’s a great way of supporting each other in the county,” she said. Some of the vendors present at the fair were the Greater Hope Foundation, San Bernardino County Children and Family Services, ITT Technical Institute, GoArmy, and Outdoor Journeys. In-N-Out provided 300 free meals to volunteers and runners during lunchtime. “We’re so appreciative to them for constantly stepping up and being here for us,” Harris said. While CASA serves thousands of young people in the foster or juvenile systems and provides a voice for the voiceless through advocacy, YAP serves youth from the educational aspect. “We got involved because we say that illiteracy is a form of neglect,” said Joseph Williams, CEO of YAP. “We try to help kids with their math and reading after school.” Williams stressed the importance of YAP’s involvement because April, while being the month to recognize child abuse, is also the month when students start worrying over grades and finals. “The importance is to know there are resources,” he said. “If you need help, say something and someone will help you.” One of the vendors that was present was the San Bernardino County Animal Care and Control Program. Four dogs were available for adoption, and by midday, two had already found new homes, one with Navarrete himself. “It’s already a great opportunity for outreach,” said Deanna Hill, volunteer and resident of Rialto. “Part of what we try to do is not only get dogs adopted out, but also offer education and do outreach and that type of thing.” Trisha Hendricksen, CASA program manager, said every year, the event gets bigger. This year’s was the largest to date, with the most vendors that they have had and the most runners, as well. She said they hit their 200-runner mark even before the day of the event when even more people registered. One thing Hendricksen said they try to do is provide the community with what they want to see at the event every year. This year, there was also a small carnival portion added as a “kids zone.” She said every year, they do an end-of-run survey to ask people what they did and did not like and what they thought overall of the event. “We take that feedback and try to make it better every year,” Hendricksen said. “We can’t please everybody, but we try our best…we want to get what the community wants so more people come out to enjoy the day.” This year was Zana Paulino’s first year participating. She is a student studying graphic design at California State University San Bernardino and was both a runner and volunteer at the registration booth. “It went well even though I haven’t run in awhile,” Paulino said. “These little kids were passing me up.” Karina Frausto, also a student at CSU San Bernardino studying social work and YAP volunteer, helped out at the event for the first time this year and encouraged others to get involved. “It’s a service opportunity and it’s one of the organizations I found really work directly with the community,” she said. “Kids are all of our responsibility,” Harris said. “Putting that initial responsibility on (the community) to just know that it takes a village to raise a child, and we’re here to stand together and do that, to support kids anyway that we can.” To get involved, you can visit CASA at www.casaofsb.org or call 909-881-6760. You can also visit YAP at www.youthactionproject.org or call 909-381-1405.