By RICK HAYES
MT. VERNON — —
MT. VERNON — Several hundred people took time out of their lunch hour on Thursday to call attention to a national tragedy — child abuse and neglect.
A walk around the courthouse square was scheduled as a kickoff to Child Abuse Prevention Month.
"It's beautiful. The sun is out, the temperature is great for walking, and there is a huge crowd. We're excited," said Ladonna Richards, executive director of The Amy Center and one of the co-sponsors of the event, along with CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates), Lutheran Child and Family Services and Christian Social Services.
"There were four of us on the committee, but there's ton of people supporting us, including courthouse employees, attorneys that work with child abuse victims, Chamber members and others. We're very happy with the community support we have received for this event," Richards said.
"There is no value that can be put on how important this is that we're out and all of these people supporting us. It's just wonderful," she added.
"This event is is huge for us. On the prevention scope, we want to bring awareness to the fact there is child abuse, there is child neglect, not just in Jefferson County but throughout the state," said Cassidy Beck of CSS. "CSS works in more than 20 counties in Illinois, and we have children placed in those counties from the Mt. Vernon office and we want to make sure people know this is a problem. We're very thankful for the people who step up and become foster parents who support us either through donations or through being volunteers in doing the best for these kids."
Beck pointed out that foster parents undergo an extensive background checks before children are placed in their homes.
"Potential foster parents will go through work with our licensing workers, and have a background check. Also our licensing workers talk to references, they'll have a home safety check, and a lot of other things through the process to make sure if we allow a child to go into their home it will be a safe environment."
Dennis Schulz, father of slain youth Amy Schulz for whom The Amy Center is named, was one of those who participated in the awareness walk. He said the event has an important significance for those who participate.
"It does for me, but not just for me, but for everybody here," he said. "Unless people get out and make things happen, nothing will ever change so because everybody got out and made things happen, things are changing. I think all these different agencies represented here today are just tremendous. All the kids need our help."