Penn State students put feet down to stamp out child abuse

mdawson@centredaily.comSeptember 26, 2013 

— A Penn State student-organized walk raised more than $8,300 that will be used to educate local people about preventing and recognizing child abuse.

Donning dark blue T-shirts, about 100 students looped around campus Wednesday for the walk sponsored by Penn State’s chapter of Darkness to Light, a national organization dedicated to stopping child abuse. Joining them was Jay Paterno, the honorary chairman of the walk.

Student organizer Lance Chappelle said his group hopes to make a “positive difference” in the fight against child abuse in central Pennsylvania since the Jerry Sandusky scandal spotlighted the horrors of the issue. Walk participants donated $10 to register, and the group had been collecting donations — even an anonymous one for $1,000, Chappelle said.

This year’s event netted $8,326 that will provide funding to train 832 people on the Darkness to Light program called Stewards of Children. Last year, the same event raised $5,000, and all the money went toward the training.

Paterno said the students’ efforts to prevent child abuse were “impressive.”

“One of the most impressive things that’s happened at this university has been the response by students to the events of the past two years,” Paterno said, referring to awareness-raising walks such as the one Wednesday and other events, such as last weekend’s “blue out” at Beaver Stadium. “This thing thrives in the darkness of our ignorance of the issue.”

Students at the walk said they were proud to take part in a noble cause.

“We want to come out to show support and get in front of the movement,” said walker Adam Bruskin, a student from the Philadelphia suburb of Elverson, who participated with 15 of his fraternity brothers.

Students Lena Fekkak, of Rockville, Md., and Andrew Tamaccio, of Reading, were glad to show their support, too, and they said they think the student body in general has become more aware of child abuse given the Sandusky crimes.

Advocates here so far have provided the Stewards of Children training to 3,000 people. The goal is 5,800, which would be 5 percent of the county’s population and a level considered as the tipping point to spark change in a community.

Student Lauren Poletsky, who’s the secretary of the local Darkness to Light club, has taken the training, which consists of a video that outlines ways to recognize and intervene in child abuse. For her, the statistics that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 5 boys is molested was startling and “very eye-opening,” she said.

The walk’s participants included Penn State professor Susan McHale and the executive director of the National Children’s Alliance, Teresa Huizar. McHale had helped to organize a conference on campus earlier Wednesday that focused on the development of children’s advocacy centers and multi-agency investigative teams to protect child victims, and Huizar was the keynote speaker.

Like Paterno, Huizar was impressed with the walk and she said she hopes the students continue with their momentum for the cause.

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