Raising awareness about child abuse through the fluency of dance was a meaningful remedy and on-point for a worthy cause at the CALM at Heart, Healing Through Movement fundraiser held Saturday at the Rincon Beach Club in Carpinteria.
CALM takes an extra step each year for its annual event to devise unique and interactive fundraisers to get supporters involved in the spirit, and Healing Through Movement followed that path.
In years past, CALM at Heart, Healing Through Art gathered attendees together to discover their inner artist with creative painting activities, complete with canvases and brushes. Last year, guests were asked at Healing Through Music to find their inner musician with the help of a group, The Figureheads.
Every year, more than 3 million children across the United States witness domestic violence in their homes and often are victims of the abuse or neglect themselves.
Santa Barbara County, known for its lush landscape and scenic ocean views, is not immune to the reality of violent incidents involving children, and over 80 percent of child abuse reports are documented north of the Gaviota Tunnel.
For the past four years, the organization's outreach programs have helped hundreds of at-risk children from infancy to age 5 and their families who have utilized the treatment and prevention services offered in Santa Maria.
The number of abuse cases in the South County continues to rise, as there is more work to be done with more ground to cover and more lives to save.
“It is imperative that we rapidly and strategically expand our services to Lompoc and Santa Maria to ensure that every child and their families has the opportunity to live healthier and safer lives across Santa Barbara County,” said Cecilia Rodriguez, CALM's executive director.
Interactivity was also featured at the event with a unique option for supporters to text an amount for contributions via smartphone during an auction as live, on-screen thermometer graphics displayed the growing totals of support.
CALM serves more then 2,000 children annually through a variety of therapeutic and intervention programs such as Great Beginnings. CALM also has an array of evidence-based art therapy programs, including teen (ages 14 to 17), teen girls (ages 11 to 13) and domestic violence children’s group (ages 5 to 12). In addition, CALM now provides a multiplicity of bilingual English and Spanish programs offered on a sliding fee scale where no one is turned away due to an inability to pay.
The agency’s diverse community-based programs include the center-based treatment that provides individual, family and group therapy to victims affected by abuse, as well family violence counseling services that are offered to youths who have witnessed domestic violence. Another service is the school-based prevention program that offers a series of child abuse prevention presentations to children within the Santa Barbara County school system, teaching methods to be safe from abduction, negative effects from cyber-bullying and Internet safety.
After a lively dance performance by a group from Santa Barbara Dance Arts, Rodriguez addressed the crowd, thanking everyone for supporting CALM and sharing a heartwarming testimonial about 8-year-old Markus, who was diagnosed with school phobia.
“There had been domestic violence in his home and his therapist did what we do when a child has experienced this kind of trauma,” Rodriguez said, adding that the process took many weeks and then with the help of his therapist he took the next step — he read it to his mother. “She was astounded because what he read was exactly what had happened and she didn’t think he knew anything because she thought little Marcos had been asleep in the other room.”
Founded in 1970, CALM is the only nonprofit agency in Santa Barbara County focused solely on preventing and treating child abuse and family violence through comprehensive cutting-edge programs.
“We can prevent violence in the home by intervening early with CALM’s Home Visitation Program,” Rodriguez said. “We can stop the cycle of violence through our DV Program for kids and moms.”
— Noozhawk iSociety columnist Melissa Walker can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.