Letter to the editor: Local athletes step up to help children

Published 9:30 am Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Dear Editor,

April is Child Abuse Awareness Month. This was written the last day of April. If only it were the last day of child abuse. Troup County has a team of agencies and individuals dedicated to fighting child abuse. Our multidisciplinary team consists of individuals from all arms of law enforcement, staff from our child advocacy center, attorneys from our DA’s office, therapists and other mental health professionals, representatives from the Division of Family & Children Services, nurses with specialized training, and school system representatives. These agencies and individuals work together under the guidance of an annually reviewed child abuse protocol in an effort to impact child abuse, and with a focus on child sexual abuse.

You, your coworkers, and your friends are a necessary link, an invaluable catalyst, for this system’s effectiveness.  Someone must recognize and report child sexual abuse before this system can move into action seeking to prosecute adults abusing children and provide healing services to child victims and their nonoffending caregivers.  Over the past several years, Troup County has embraced an initiative to better inform adults on how to recognize and appropriately respond to signs of child sexual abuse. Stewards of Children, an evidence-based curriculum developed by Darkness To Light, has been embraced by thousands of citizens. As we neared our goal of a 10% participation rate, we had an epiphany. We had neglected to adequately focus on our future leaders, the students at LaGrange College and Point University.  Conversations with Terlynn Olds and Jaunelle White, the athletic directors of LaGrange and Point, led to a full embracing of this initiative and this curriculum by both school’s athletic divisions. Both schools embraced this initiative as if it were an athletic competition with a hundred-year-old rivalry. Team after team completed the online training. Emails filled my in-box with certificates attached. We quickly went from averaging 15 participants a month to averaging 90 a month.  Point University Skyhawks and LaGrange College Panthers stepped up to the plate and confirmed that they will not only be our future leaders in education, business, science, and the arts, but that they will shoulder the responsibility we all have, protecting our most valuable and precious resource, our children.  I’m humbled to have had the opportunity to witness how each school’s directors, coaches and athletes stepped up to the plate and took this initiative to the next level.

Excuses and reasons to delay seem rampant for too many. For these student-athletes there were no excuses. LaGrange College Panthers and Point University Skyhawks, thank you for being exceptional.

Thank you for being Stewards of Children.

JOHN HARRELL

LaGrange