Inaugural Turkey Trot Benefits Valley Children's Center - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Inaugural Turkey Trot Benefits Valley Children's Center

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A Thanksgiving "fun run" had a much deeper meaning for the Valley Children's Center (VCC).  The agency offers counseling and advocacy for kids who've been abused, and face the scary prospect of going to trial.

About 170 people took part in this first-ever turkey trot - fun and fellowship on Thanksgiving morning at the Club at Ironwood.  But to understand why they run and walk, you have to know what their donations do at the VCC.

At the center, kids who've been physically or sexually abused get to tell their painful story, before having to face a judge or jury from the witness stand.

Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Anne Reed said, "So often, even though we have excellent investigations, a lot of the cases depend on the children and what they have to say."

Specially trained forensic interviewers meet kids in a relaxed setting, rather than a cold, sterile police department or prosecutor's office.  VCC board member Patrick Janes wishes a place like this existed when he was abused at age 12.

"Remembering back on it, it was extremely intimidating from the standpoint where I felt like I had done something wrong," Janes said.  "That's why I think we have so many young people who don't come forward."

To minimize the trauma, children often have to share their experience just once, while an unobtrusive camera allows a roomful of advocates to watch and listen.  This method is another sharp contrast to the old days.

"The police officer would do an interview," said Chief Mike Wilhelm with the Waynesboro Police Department.  "Social Services would do an interview.  Then the commonwealth's attorney would want to do some sort of interview or court preparation.  With this, it's kind of a one-stop-shopping thing."

The VCC also offers crisis intervention and counseling, and support for parents - all on a shoestring budget of roughly $100,000.

Janes said, "If we continue to rely on the grants and the government to keep it going... all it takes is one bad year, and we're out of business."

That's why events like the turkey trot are so important, and why the VCC is so thankful.

"We thank everybody, whether they're a walker, runner... whether they're here to support a walker or runner," said race organizer Janet Flavin.  "We've had numerous volunteers.  We're thrilled with the success."

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