With blue ribbons tied to nearby trees and blue pinwheels blowing in the breeze, officials declared April as both Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Child Abuse Prevention Month in Centre County.
At a gathering outside the Centre County Courthouse, county and law enforcement officials, residents and a certain motorcycle organization marked the occasion as county Commissioners Mark Higgins and Steve Dershem proclaimed the noted months. Chairman Michael Pipe noted the proclamations are not just words but represent the actions of those in attendance.
Law enforcement individuals were thanked for their roles in prosecuting these crimes and supporting the victims. Outgoing President Judge Thomas Kistler was thanked for his role in starting the Children’s Advocacy Center of Centre County and keeping it funded over the years, and State College Detective Chris Weaver was recognized for his years of service investigating reports of abuse and assault and working with local advocates.
“Today’s not only a day to look forward, but to look back over the last 20 years and say we really have made progress,” Kistler said. “And I’m very proud of the role all of you have played and the part I have played in that progress.”
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The guests of the hour, however, were the leather-clad men and woman of the Guardians of the Children’s Altoona Chapter. The mission of the organization, according to its website, is “to recognize and react to child abuse and educate the public to do the same and serve as advocates to provide strength and stability to families in crisis.”
The organization started about 10 years ago, said the chapter secretary, identified only by her road name, “Tink.” Since then, chapters have appeared across the U.S. and Canada.
“It’s kind of a bittersweet feeling knowing we’re needed that much,” Tink said. “But thank goodness we’re here for these children.”
The organization works closely with police, advocates and agencies and works to shield children from their perpetrators, she said, whether in court or at home. They’re adopted into the “family,” she said, and get their own road name and participate in different events of their choosing.
“Don’t let anybody tell you that Centre County doesn’t care about victims of child abuse and sexual assault,” said Centre County Women’s Resource Center Executive Director Anne Ard in her closing comments. “It’s not true. But it also means the work is not done.”