By Bill Petzold
CARO — Everybody knows that superheroes are make-believe, but some real-life heroes are asking for your help in supporting their mission.
A Family Fun Day sponsored by radio station Mix 92.1 FM and hosted by Caro McDonald’s — as well as a Superhero Run 5K run and walk — are planned for Friday in Caro in support of The Child Advocacy Center of Tuscola County.
Statisticallly speaking, one in three girls and one in four boys living in Tuscola County will be the victim of physical or sexual abuse before the age of 18. The CAC’s mission is to provide kids a safe, friendly place to tell their story one time to one person — with a multidisciplinary team of trained professionals listening in via closed-circuit television. The team includes Tuscola County prosecutor Mark Reene, as well as a victim advocate, a child protective service worker, a forensic interview, law enforcement and other personnel who can help determine whether the child’s story is the truth and whether action can be taken to help them.
“(The CAC) is extremely important for kids that have been through something like that,” said Trish Hollingsworth, owner of the Caro McDonald’s and a member of the CAC’s board of directors. “The biggest thing is the (CAC’s motto), 1 Time, 1 Place, 1 Person. Normally a child would have to go through several interviews in scary places that are intimidating to them. To go to one place that is made for children makes them very comfortable, and to be able to talk to one person and be done — that’s the biggest thing. Even after two or three times, kids tend to shut down. They’re like, ‘Why do we have to tell it again. Don’t you believe me?’ ”
Hollingsworth and her employees will support the CAC on Friday with a full day of free events for kids at the Caro McDonald’s called Family Fun Day. Kids can have fun and burn off some energy in a bounce house from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and a face painting artist will be on hand from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. A dunk tank featuring personnel from Caro Schools and supports from local businesses will run noon to 4 p.m., and the McDonald’s Street Team will be on hand from noon to 2 p.m.
Sponsor Mix 92.1 FM will broadcast live from McDonald’s from noon to 2 p.m., and, kids will be able to check out police, fire and emergency medical vehicles from noon to 4 p.m.
Following a day of fun at Mickey D’s, the Superhero 5K is set for 6:30 p.m. at the Tuscola County Fairgrounds, Park Drive in Caro. Awards will be given to the overall and master winner, and medals will be given to the top three in each age group. Early entry is still available for $25 by Thursday, but runners and walkers also may register Friday at the fairgrounds between 4 and 6:15 p.m. for $30.
“We’re just trying to raise money to get through this summer; this summer is such a crucial time,” Child Advocacy Center executive director Amber Spencer said.
Spencer said that the center earned accreditation from the National Children’s Alliance in January, which allows the center to begin receiving state funding. The goal of the 5K and Family Fun Day are to raise enough funds to make it through the summer.
“We went through this huge site review process and accreditation process,” Spencer said. “They came to our center, made sure we were following all of these 10 standards — and forensic interviewing is just one standard. We have to strictly adhere to (all of) them. In less than a year in January we became accredited. It’s pretty unheard of.
“(At the end of the summer) we will be receiving state funding, so it’s just this summer we have to get through. The Community Foundation has already been so supportive of us. The Janks and Andrews Funds, they gave us $15,500 last fall and the Community Foundation gave us $5,000 for our equipment. The community has been so supportive. We are operating solely on donations. We’ll still need community support, but this 5K is so important so we can get through this summer.”
Hollingsworth and her crew at the Caro McDonald’s are having fun pitching in to help. She said that her team has already decorated buckets to collect donations in the drivethrough and in the restaurant throughout the day Friday. Employees, family members and friends also will be teaming up for a bake sale, with all proceeds going to the CAC.
“It’s an amazing thing, just to go and see (the center) and understand what they do,” Hollingsworth said. “It’s unbelievable.”
For information on the Superhero Run 5K, call Karen Southgate at (989) 673-9130. For information on Family Fun Day, call Caro McDonald’s at 673-6628 or call the Child Advocacy Center at (810) 610-8071.