In the fight to end child abuse in Benton County, Wal-Mart Stores CEO Doug McMillon and his wife Shelley pledged to match donations raised, up to $50,000, at the 12th annual Cherishing Children Banquet on Thursday (Sept. 22).
The dinner, benefitting, the Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC), raised $78,334 from the 700 people in attendance at the John Q. Hammons Center. The McMillon’s, honorary chairs of the event, gave another $50,000 to bring the total raised to $128,334.
The CAC provides “a safe place for child abuse victims and their families to receive comprehensive services from dedicated professional interviewers, nurses, counselors and advocates in a child-friendly atmosphere through a coordinated team approach.”
Shelley McMillon, board president of the CAC, said that she knows firsthand the struggle the CAC has to meet its budget each year, and since all the money raised goes directly to help children, they wanted to help by donating and encouraging others to donate.
“It’s dear to my heart because it touches so many children in Benton County. One out of 4 girls, and 1 out 6 boys are abused, probably by somebody they know,” McMillon said. “I think it’s a great ministry. It’s faith-based and that’s very important and the people that work on the board are like-minded people. We love every child that comes through that door. The people that work there work very hard, they work on the weekends, and they are on call, and you can’t imagine what their mindset must be at the end of each day. One of the things we pray for is to keep their spirits lifted.”
Natalie Tibbs, RN, executive director of the CAC, said that the money raised will help supply the $1 million budget of the center and provide such services as forensic interviews, medication examinations and long-term counseling.
“Our vision is eliminating child abuse,” Tibbs said. “We will see nearly 1,000 children this year. That’s 200-plus more than we’ve ever seen and this is our sixteenth year in existence. … We’ve come so far, but we’ve got so much work to do in changing the culture and the thinking behind child sexual abuse and sexual violence in general.”
The theme of the event was “Through the Eyes of a Child” and focused on what happens, through a child’s eyes, when abuse occurs and the child is able to tell their story and receive help. The event included dinner, award presentations, testimonials by former clients of the CAC and remarks by Matthew Sandusky, founder and executive director of Peaceful Hearts Foundation. Sandusky was a victim of childhood sexual abuse from the age of 8 to 17 at the hands of his adopted father, Jerry Sandusky. Tickets were $50 per person.
The presenting sponsor of the evening was IRI. Other major sponsors included Unilever and TreeHouse Sales & Solutions.