WASHINGTON, July 9, 2013 — There is a coalition of heroes who have dedicated their lives to protecting the innocence of children and to rescuing the vulnerable from predators like Jerry Sandusky. That coalition includes the organization Childhelp, the son of former president Ronald Reagan and child abuse survivor Michael Reagan, and the author, child abuse survivor and advocate Erin Merryn.
Childhelp (http://www.childhelp.org) is an organization that was created by two women whose boundless compassion could not ignore the tragedy that unfolded around them.
Sara Buckner (O’Meara) and Yvonne Lime (Fedderson) were Hollywood actresses who met on the set of Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet.
In 1959 during a goodwill tour visiting U.S. troops in Japan, the two young women happened upon a group of eleven young children wandering the streets after a typhoon. The women quickly learned that the children were those of American troops who had fought during the Korean War. They also learned that the children had been turned away from every orphanage due to their mixed heritage.
Sara and Yvonne, led by their hearts, had no choice and led the beleaguered children back to their hotel room where they fed and sheltered them. They began a relentless search to find a place for these young orphans, and when word finally reached them of one woman who was caring for mixed heritage orphans, they immediately sought her out. What they found was a one-room shack overflowing with those who had been cast aside by society. The woman, Kin Horuchi, agreed to take the eleven orphans in and as the word spread she was soon caring for one hundred Japanese-American children.
Sara and Yvonne could have returned to their lives as Hollywood actresses, but at this point they did something extraordinary. They returned home and began raising money to build the orphanages needed to care for these forgotten children, eventually building four that changed the lives of countless children.
Japan had been a life changing experience for Sara and Yvonne, and since that day in 1959, they have come to symbolize everything that is good in this world and defined the phrase “selfless dedication to a cause.”
In 1959 Sara and Yvonne founded International Orphans, an organization dedicated to finding homes for the lost and forgotten. They have been tireless advocates for children, building orphanages in Vietnam during the brutal war in that country in the 1960s, They took part in the airlift to transport children from Vietnam to adoptive homes in America after the war ended. After hearing a speech by Sara and Yvonne, First Lady Nancy Reagan enlisted their help to combat an epidemic that was sweeping the United States.
A study by the Senate Subcommittee on Children and Youth reported the rising incidence of child abuse in the United States. Nancy Reagan, a woman of great compassion and stature, immediately leapt into action. After she approached Sara and Yvonne the two quickly took up the fight to save America’s children from the tragedy of child abuse. They have been boundless advocates for victims and survivors of child abuse and were instrumental in the education and prevention of the stolen innocence and vandalized hopes and dreams of our children.
Michael Reagan (http://www.michaelereagan.com) has spent the last 25 years of his life raising awareness about the scourge of child abuse.
The son of former president Ronald Reagan and Actress Jane Wyman, he is the founder and chairman of Reagan Legacy Foundation, a New York Times bestselling author, Townhall columnist and former talk radio host.
In his book, “Twice Adopted,” Reagan courageously shares his struggle to overcome his trauma as a victim of child abuse and child pornography. He has used his experience to help educate and empower parents and children so that no child has to suffer as he did. It is through his courage and that of Sara and Yvonne that they have teamed up to protect our children from predators through the 1-2-3 formula. The first component of this is the implementation of Erin’s law created from the courage and determination of author and advocate Erin Merryn.
Erin Merryn was a young girl when her innocence was stolen after being molested by her cousin and a friend’s uncle.
Trapped in a prison of silence, Erin dealt with her pain by writing in a small journal she was given as a present. One day her sister confided in Erin that the same cousin had molested her. Erin’s need to protect her sister eclipsed the pain she felt over her own abuse and she immediately confided in her parents. The friend’s uncle and her cousin were arrested and brought to justice, but like Sara, Yvonne and Michael Reagan, her life embarked on a new course with a determination to save all children from the trauma she endured.
In 2005 her diary was turned into the book, “Stolen Innocence,” and its pages have inspired countless victims and survivors to break their silence and that even on their worst days it would eventually get better.
In 2010 Erin Merryn helped craft “Erin’s law,” which implements child abuse education in grades Pre-K through eighth grade. She is tireless in her quest to have Erin’s law passed by every state. Erin is currently fighting to protect the children of New York State and is awaiting a vote by the New York State Assembly in January 2014.
The second component of the 1-2-3 formula is the implementation of Childhelp’s Speak Up Be SafeTM (SUBS) premier curriculum for grades one thru six.
Through education and empowerment of parents and children, the program combats the ever-growing threat to our children from cyberbullying, Internet predators and “sexting.” The final component is the utilization of technology such as smart phones as aids in the education and prevention of child abuse.
It has been a year this month that Jerry Sandusky was convicted of molesting young boys. Many thought that when Sandusky was locked away we had eliminated the threat to our children from sexual predators. Sandusky was only one of thousands that roam our streets today. Cloaked in the disguise of respectability, these stealth predators are sharks on land searching 24/7 for the next innocent and vulnerable child to target.
The conviction of Jerry Sandusky was not an end but a beginning, a beginning to a war that has been hidden for many years. His conviction is the Pearl Harbor in the war against child abuse that has been raging all around us, fought by brave heroes like Sara, Yvonne, Michael and Erin.
Nationally, one in four girls and one in six boys are victims of child abuse. There are over forty-two million survivors of child abuse in the world today.
According to a Centers for Disease Control study, the lifetime costs for the victims of child abuse reported in one year is $124 billion. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reports there are currently 500,000 registered sex offenders in the United States, and typically 100,000 of those are unaccounted for.
Other pedophiles are not on records or in databases. Pedophiles like Jerry Sandusky walk silently among us, and Sandusky showed us just how well they can disguise themselves.
The United States Government Accountability Office reports that, “More than five children die every day as a result of child abuse.” The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families Administration on Children, Youth and Families Children’s Bureau estimated that between 50-60% of child fatalities due to maltreatment are not recorded as such on death certificates.
Research has also shown that each victim of child abuse has to tell an average of seven adults before they are believed, and those who make it to the seventh adult are few in number.
As a young boy I prayed every day for help in escaping the child abuse I endured. Today I wake up each day and fight to educate and empower parents and children so that not one more child suffers the hell I had to endure. I am honored to work alongside Sara, Yvonne, Michael, Erin and everyone at Childhelp to stop this scourge. If I can save just one child from a lifetime of suffering my purpose in this life will have been fulfilled.
Please join Sara, Yvonne, Michael, Erin and me as we fight to save the most precious treasure we have, our children. To report child abuse or if you are a victim or survivor of child abuse and need help call Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline 1-800- 4-A-CHILD. You can also find more information and how you can help by going to the Childhelp website.
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