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Closing the funding gap on childhood abuse services

Willow Tree Cornerstone Child Advocacy Center is hosting its 10th annual LIFESAVER benefit on July 31 – an event designed to help close the funding gap on childhood abuse services. Submitted photo

By Olivia Coffin

Contributing Writer

GREEN BAY – Willow Tree Cornerstone Child Advocacy Center is hosting its 10th annual LIFESAVER benefit on July 31 – an event designed to help close the funding gap on childhood abuse services.

Willow Tree Cornerstone Child Advocacy Center is a program of Family Services of northeast Wisconsin that opened its doors in 2011. Prior to this, children experiencing physical or sexual abuse had to visit multiple places, explain and remember their experiences several times to receive help and support.

The National Center for Victims of Crime reports that 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse, with 90% of offenders someone the child knows and 60% of offenders family members.

About 45% of children served at Willow Tree are victims of child sexual assault.

Willow Tree changed this process by bringing a multidisciplinary team of community support services to the child in a safe and friendly environment.

The Willow Tree Child Advocacy Center provides a safe place for children to share their experiences and begin to heal.

The LIFESAVER event started when Willow Tree Advisory Members, Christy Policy and Tim Kneeland, learned that as Willow Tree referrals grew, so did the funding gap necessary to provide services.

“We knew that funding would be essential for Willow Tree to continue providing services to those in need, and we wanted to create awareness of how many children in our community are hurting and need support in this way. Tim took the lead to create a unique and fun event, engaging our friends and neighbors for support,” shared Christy Policy, event co-chair.

Recognizing the need to increase revenue, they created a plan that would raise awareness of the services’ importance and offer their friends and neighbors along the Fox River an opportunity to contribute.

“There is often a misperception that services provided through Willow Tree are fully funded by federal or county contracts. While these are crucial funding sources, they account for less than 25% of the dollars needed to keep Willow Tree programs and services thriving. More than 40% of the necessary funding comes from community support. The LIFESAVER Benefit is Family Services’ only fundraiser that dedicates 100% of its proceeds to Willow Tree, making support for this event incredibly important,” said Michelle Pierquet-Hohner, vice president of philanthropy and communication.

This event has raised more than $750,000 to support services for abused and neglected children in the community.

This year, the event is providing transportation by trolley rather than boat for the first time.

“We were nervous about making a change to an already successful event, but it has been clear that our supporters are committed to the mission of Willow Tree. Sponsorships and registrations continue to come through. Transitioning our means of transportation this year also allows us to increase capacity a little, and we are excited to welcome new guests and supporters,” said Pierquet-Hohner.

The event will begin at the Thompson Marina and guests will be transported by trolley to featured homes along the Fox River.

Each stop will have its own unique theme, refreshments and entertainment.

The themes this year consist of Oktoberfest, Bluegrass Junction, Margaritaville and South of the Border.

“Supporting the Willow Tree Cornerstone Child Advocacy Center through the LIFESAVER Benefit has been an incredibly rewarding experience. Every ticket sold helps provide crucial services to children who need it most. It’s a privilege to be part of an event that brings our community together for such an important cause,” added Policy.

To learn more about the event, contact Beth Rieth at 920-436-4360 or [email protected].

To learn more about Willow Tree Cornerstone Child Advocacy Center, visit www.familyservicesnew.org/willow-tree.

If you are concerned that your child or someone else’s child may be a victim of abuse or neglect, please contact your local law enforcement or Child Protection Services office.

For more information, visit: https://dcf.wisconsin.gov/cps.

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