Chesterton Tribune



Exchange Club sets November 6 virtual fundraiser to combat child abuse

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The Duneland Exchange Club faced a dilemma that has plagued many organizations since COVID-19 was first diagnosed: How do you support the most vulnerable members of your community safely? At stake was one of the club’s largest fundraisers for child abuse prevention. The answer: Go remote.

“It Takes A Virtual Village” will be held Friday, Nov. 6 on Facebook. Like the club’s preceding fundraiser, “It Takes a Village,” the event will feature live music from Eddie Strudas, Tommy Thompson, and Marcus Safirt (cq), plus a silent auction. However, this virtual event also reflects the current reality: T-shirts sold to help raise money will feature children wearing protective masks. And, instead of the $10,000 raised in past years to fund the club’s prevention efforts, Pam Strudas, club past president and “It Takes a Virtual Village” committee chair, has less ambitious goals.

“Understanding that the world looks very different right now and businesses are struggling, we hope to raise at least $7,000,” Pam Strudas said. “People are so aware and so concerned about all of this. I hope they would like to use some of their disposable money to address their concerns. I hope they say, ‘We are not going on vacation, we are not eating out as much, maybe we should do something about child abuse.’”

According to the Children’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Child Maltreatment 2018 report, 25,731 Indiana children were abused, with 80 dying as a result of that abuse. The 2017 Child Maltreatment report found that Indiana had the second-highest number of abused children nationally, with 29,189 reported cases. In Porter County, four children died after being abused, according to the state’s 2018 Annual Report of Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities.

“Having the money to support our prevention of child abuse programs is critical because we know these programs are effective,” said Duneland Exchange Club President Lorelei Weimer. “In 2019, a child sex abuser was arrested because a student who saw the Body Safety program at their school, reported that they were being sexually abused. This program helped the student understand that what was happening to them was wrong and it gave the student the courage to report it.”

While awareness of the dangers facing children has been growing recently, the Exchange Club has long led a crusade against child abuse.

In 2008, the Exchange Club started funding the Body Safety program taught in Duneland elementary and intermediate schools and at the Discovery Charter School. It began offering the Stewards of the Children program to teachers and child-care providers in 2017. The following year, it increased its funding to cover Safer, Smarter Teens for middle-school students. While plans to expand the program this year were interrupted by COVID-19 quarantine, club and school officials still expect to bring Safer, Smarter Teens to Chesterton High School.

“We want to address what could be a danger to them.” Strudas said. “The program for the older students includes sexual harassment and Internet safety. Stewards of the Children teaches the educators what signs to look for. We want to empower everyone at every level to help keep kids safe.”

The club also provides grants to organizations that address child abuse.

After experimenting with different fundraisers, three years ago club members struck pay dirt. “We wanted to have an event that would be fun and raise a lot of money and give members of the community a way to be involved,” Strudas said.

Eddie Strudas and Allgood agreed to provide the live music. The people at the Village Tavern opened their doors. And Emily Strudas, Exchange Club member and Strudas’ daughter, came up with the name It Takes a Village, a play on both the location and the popular saying.

“It was an all-day fun event,” Pam Strudas said. “We had a cornhole tournament to start off the day, a silent auction with lots of items donated. Live music and food and beverages.”

While this year is different, Exchange Club members hope the community will respond by purchasing the T-shirts at Porter Bank’s main office and the Village Tavern, participating in the online silent auction, and leaving a tip in Eddie Strudas’ virtual tip jar Š which will be donated to the group.

For more information about the event, to donate to the fundraiser or the silent auction, or purchase a T-shirt, contact Pam Strudas at (219) 508-0371.



Posted 10/8/2020




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