People involved with Child and Family Resources believe it takes more than a village to raise a healthy child — it takes volunteers who donate time, energy and expertise.
The nonprofit group plans to celebrate 19 local standouts — and promote awareness about April as Child Abuse Awareness Month — at the Champions for Children Brunch at 11 a.m. Sunday at Tucson Marriott University Park, 880 E. Second St.
“It really takes a village to create a safe and healthy place for children in the community and we are honoring members of our village, those people that work as volunteers and those who have a focus and dedication on making children’s lives better,” said Kate Hiller, vice president of development for Child and Family Resources. “They do it in a variety of ways, and all of those efforts make a difference to children.”
The statewide organization offers a range of prevention and intervention programs designed to prevent child abuse and build healthy families. It provides three areas of service: “Helping Families Succeed,” which offers in-home, one-on-one instruction for single parents, couples and families on child development and parenting skills with a focus on preventing child abuse; certification programs and instruction on curriculum and development for aides, teachers and owners of child-care centers; and three programs for teens intended to promote healthy decisions and address issues such as pregnancy, drug use and suicide.
An in-school Youth Empowerment Program encourages positive self-esteem and healthy behaviors; a summer Teen Institute teaches collaboration and leadership skills; and “Go Girls!” is a series of workshops and projects that promote healthy decision-making and empowerment for teenage girls.
“A lot of the work that we do is laying the groundwork so that families are safe. We hope to prevent child abuse by helping families understand what is going on with their children and by teaching them how to be great parents so they can succeed and move forward together,” Hiller said.
Helping children — including those with mental health disorders — to move forward is an incentive that drives 18-year-old Matthew Bryson, who will be honored at the Champions for Children Brunch.
Bryson, a University High School senior and co-founder of the UHS Rotary Interact Club, helped upgrade the library and computer room for Intermountain Academy, a local K-12 school for children with autism and emotional challenges.
Bryson and fellow student Rotarians acquired 2,500 books, refurnished the library and established a small faculty library. They also painted a mural in the computer room and supplied microscopes and other equipment for the school.
“We wanted to do something that everyone in the school could access, and we just did as much as we could to help them out … the really fun part of this project was working with the Community Partnership of Southern Arizona to organize funding and bringing all these people together to make it happen,” said Bryson, who has always been interested in mental health issues and plans to major in neurosciences at Washington and Lee University in the fall.
“I really want to help the mental health community with the bioengineering side of things and help to gain understanding about what causes these disorders and what we can do to solve them,” he said.
Another nominee, pediatrician Barbara Smith, has worked over the past three decades solving problems and addressing issues ranging from child safety to literacy.
Her efforts in supporting laws governing bicycle helmets and safety fences around swimming pools and serving as founder and board member of Reach out and Read Southern Arizona (now part of Literacy Connects) garnered a nomination for a Lifetime Achievement Award at the brunch.
Hiller said the diverse pool of honorees also include local celebrities such as Bobby Rich of 94.9 MIX-FM, who has been an avid fundraiser for several nonprofits supporting children in need, as well as unsung heroes such as Walter and Wendy Wallace, who have been involved with Three Points Childcare Center for almost 20 years.
Hiller credits them all with working toward prevention of child abuse and child neglect, reports of which rose by 36 percent in Arizona between October 2007 and March 2008 and October 2012 and March 2013, according to the Children’s Action Alliance Arizona.
“The champion nominees have woven themselves into the fabric of our community and become a source of support for families,” Hiller said. “They are doing a variety of things, some in subtle ways, and others in very impactful ways, that make families strong and prevent child abuse.”