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SafePath CEO Jinger Robins, Kennesaw Mayor Derek Easterling and SafePath Community Resource Coordinator Denise Hession.

SafePath Children’s Advocacy Center held its 18th Annual Hearing Children’s Voices Gala at the Renaissance Atlanta Waverly Hotel & Convention Center on Saturday, April 27, with nearly 600 in attendance and raising approximately $300,000.

The 2019 gala theme was “SafePath Night Fever,” and guests were encouraged to embrace the 1970s and dress in their favorite disco digs, while also enjoying a live and silent auction, entertainment provided by Sound by Silvers featuring DJs Yvonne Monet and Sed the Saint, dinner and dancing. “The support from the community was fantastic this year as we all came together to work toward a community free of child abuse,” said Jinger Robins, SafePath CEO.

“As we celebrate ‘SafePath Night Fever’ and reminisce about many of our own childhoods in the 70s, we must strive to do everything in our individual and collective powers to protect the youngest in our community so that they, too, may experience joyful childhood memories,” added Jennifer and Jeff Brown, co-chairs for the gala. “Together with this incredible organization, we can build a safe path for all children.”

Throughout the program, the Browns were joined on stage by WSB-TV anchor Linda Stouffer, who served as emcee for the evening, as well as Kelly Bodner, Cobb EMC Board of Directors; Rhonda and Mark Jacobson, Cumberland Diamond Exchange; Kristina and Bert Brown, Governor’s Gun Club; and George Franco, a reporter with FOX 5 News who also served as auctioneer for the live auction and is with Red Cloud Auction LLC.

This year’s inspirational speaker was Erin Merryn, who authored three books, including one she wrote as a senior in high school about her experience as a young child being sexually abused by her male cousin titled, “Stolen Innocence.” She is also a child sexual abuse activist and founder of Erin’s Law, which requires public schools to educate children about personal body safety on the prevention of child sexual abuse. It is the first law of its kind in the U.S. and has been passed in 35 states throughout the country, most recently in Georgia in May 2018.

Erin was so grateful for what the children’s advocacy center provided for her family, and the most amazing part was that it was at no cost. “For a lot of children without access to children advocacy centers, they don’t have the insurance to get the mental help needed,” she explained. “Without these centers being available — over 900 in America — a lot of these kids would never get the help they need.”

She proclaimed that some of the most important people on earth are those who work in children’s advocacy centers, but those who are even more important are donors to these centers. “It’s the people sitting right here in this room; the people who come to events like this, open up their pocket books and help keep these centers open and running; giving these kids the therapy and services they need to reclaim their voices,” she said. “You help people like me turn this negative thing in my life into something positive.”

SafePath’s mission is to reduce the trauma to children and their families by offering a comprehensive, professional and child-friendly approach to allegations of child abuse, while also bringing awareness throughout the community. SafePath has helped nearly 14,000 children and families since opening its doors by providing approximately 70,000 units of service the past two decades, and the need is growing.

To learn more about the organization or to make a donation, visit safepath.org.

Sally Litchfield is a longtime Marietta resident. She has written for the MDJ since October 2000. Send Sally news at sallylit@bellsouth.net. Call Sally at 404-713-7318.

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