Volunteers and employees at the Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center hosted a graduation ceremony Saturday for dozens of children and their families who have overcome tremendous odds.
“I got chills just coming out here today because we have volunteers here, staff members here, police officers and social workers here to make sure these kids get celebrated in an appropriate way,” said Lynn Davis, president and CEO of DCAC. “They’ve gone through a tough time and we want them to know there’s a lot of support behind them.”
The annual event for victims of child abuse is typically held indoors but, because of COVID-19 restrictions, organizers planned a drive-thru event instead.
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"With the pandemic and switching over to telehealth we were not able to do what we would usually do but we wanted to give them an opportunity to be celebrated to let them know that we see them, we are still here with them, and we’re rooting for them," DCAC therapist Tiana Johnson said.
More than 28,000 children are reportedly abused in the state of Texas each year. Of those, approximately 2,800 of the most severe criminal cases received help from the Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center.
Volunteers for DCAC include members of the group Bikers Against Child Abuse, who often accompany children to court hearings and proceedings to provide support and minimize their fears.
“These are our kids. This is just one more thing we can do to help empower them, to make them feel good about themselves, that they have accomplished something," said "Snake," president of Bikers Against Child Abuse. "For me it's helping those who can’t help themselves, being there for the person who can’t stand on their own two feet and to help them."
The road to healing for DCAC clients requires months of therapy and treatment for the entire family. All of that hard work and effort leads to the special graduation day.
“It can really be a difficult time for a lot of families and, not only that but through that difficult time they put a lot of effort and they do everything that they can to work towards healing," Johnson said. "Because of that, we want to celebrate them once they’re done with our services."
More than 60 children and their families participated in the drive-thru graduation. Cheering them on, volunteers and staff who said they’re committed to doing all they can to help the most vulnerable.
“To make sure these kids don’t slip through the cracks and make sure these kids get the help they need to move on and be healthy and hopeful in their lives,” Davis said.