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Community turns out to help children

NAWILIWILI — Some 200 guests turned out for the “Treasure Our Children” fundraiser for the Friends of the Children’s Justice Center of Kaua‘i, Friday evening.

Sue Strickland, who chairs the fundraising arm of the FCJCK, was kept busy as she flitted between the serving line, the silent auction and guests at the Kaua‘i Lagoons tennis courts.

“All of this couldn’t happen without Sue’s efforts,” said Greg Meyers, president of the FCJCK Board. “This is basically our only fundraiser. There is a phantom letter campaign that takes place in the state Friends network, but we don’t have the staff so this becomes our main fundraiser.”

The Hawai‘i Children’s Justice Centers are programs of the Hawai‘i State Judiciary system, according to a Web site for the state courts.

They are part of a national program of more than 400 Children’s Advocacy Centers in the country and bring together a multi-disciplinary team of professionals who coordinate activities and investigations of child abuse and neglect.

On average, the Children’s Justice Centers see some 1,300 children per year, but the Web site states that this statistic is not a true reflection of the magnitude of the problem as child sex abuse is often not reported.

In Hawai‘i, more than 50 percent of reported victims in crime are under 18 years of age. Research data reveals that one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually assaulted by the time they are 18, the Web site states.

Proceeds from the fundraiser are used to help the children who visit the Children’s Justice Center as well as provide training for the professionals that work with the children, Meyers said. That includes training of police officers to work with children.

Last year was the first time the Friends of the CJCK hosted the fundraiser and raised more than $15,000.

Friday night’s event had more people, but Meyers wasn’t sure if they could surpass last year’s figures due to the tightening economy.

“People said they like this more personal and intimate atmosphere rather than the ballrooms, so we are glad that we could return to the Kaua‘i Lagoons tennis courts,” said Jamie Mantegena, one of the board members.

In addition to a full slate of entertainment including an opening blessing by Sabra Kauka, performers who offered their services included Malani Bilyeu, Sean Carillo who was joined by John Cruz and Norman Ka‘awa Solomon who was accompanied by Flo Rabut who demonstrated his finesse with a variety of instruments including an electric violin.

One of the areas generating a lot of activity was the silent auction where host J Robertson of Ho‘ike Communty Television said there was a bid on almost every single item being offered.

“I got outbid on a chair provided by Otsuka’s, but my wife is still bidding,” said Dr. Paul Esaki, one of the guests. “She feels good if she wins something.”

The event was made possible through a host of community organizations, businesses and volunteers all pulled together by Strickland, Meyers said.

This demonstrated the unique feature of the Children’s Justice Centers where public and private partnerships between the judiciary and the community help out neglected and abused children.

“It shouldn’t hurt to be a child,” Meyers said.

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