story and photos by Debbie Miller, special to The City Wire
Guests at the 12th annual Summer Salsa in Fayetteville roamed among tables draped in lime green, bright orange and other festive summer hues in hopes of giving children a brighter future.
The annual fundraiser benefits the Economic Opportunity Agency’s Children’s House, which provides a secure, nurturing place for very young victims of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse and life-threatening neglect. Last year’s Summer Salsa event raised $90,000, and organizers hoped to exceed that tally this year.
Michael Lanier, executive director of Children’s House, said the organization provides an array of educational and therapeutic treatments to children between 6 weeks and 5 years of age. Those day treatment activities are geared toward helping the young children overcome trauma and developmental deficits resulting from abuse. One of the goals, Lanier said, is that by the time the child reaches kindergarten, he will be on the same developmental level as his peers.
Among the issues Children’s House often must address is a lack of trust on the part of the children who have been abused or neglected. “A lot of what we do is building up that trust,” Lanier said. “Trust is a big issue.”
Megan Cuddy, director of advancement, said the organization relies on the generous support of the community to be able to provide the needed services to children. The cost per child to provide the educational and therapeutic support each day is $62.50. Children’s House is located in The Pat Walker Center for Children in Springdale.
Every year, each child receives 1,500 hours of education and early childhood development education. Last year, children enrolled at Children’s House received more than 2,800 hours of counseling and emotional therapy, more than 1,100 hours of occupational therapy, more than 700 hours of speech therapy, and more than 400 hours of physical therapy.
Guests at the Summer Salsa event took turns posing in a photo booth and enjoyed heavy hors d’oeuvres and live music from Ultra Suede.
This year marked the first year for a salsa tasting competition at the fundraiser. Area restaurants provided a spectrum of salsas for tasting, and guests were able to use tickets to cast their ballots for the best salsa. All proceeds from that portion of Summer Salsa went toward the Amanda Moore Memorial Scholarship Fund, which directly supports the mission of EOA Children’s House.
The organization’s mission is stated as “Stopping Child Abuse. Saving Lives.” A video played during the evening’s program discussed how Children’s House had helped a couple of foster children overcome issues related to the trauma they had experienced.
Lanier, the executive director, said the organization has been providing services since its founding in 1978. According to its website, Children’s House is the only program in the state that offers such a wide array of services to abused and neglected children. The annual Summer Salsa event raises awareness and funds for the services Children’s House provides. Lanier said. “We rely a lot on public support to do our work.”