March For Forgotten Children
Tampa's first March For Forgotten Children was held at the Curtis Hixon Park on Saturday. WMNF’s Lachelle Roddy reports, the Guardian ad Litem program and The Voices for Children sponsored this event to draw attention to the needs of foster children.
The Guardian ad Litem Program caters to the 800 foster care children in Hillsborough county. Marchers carried life-size cut outs of these children in the hopes of getting new volunteers. Catherine St. John said she joined the march to support the children.
"I’m here to be a voice for the children. It’s important that these children be heard. There’s no one speaking up for them. They’re forgotten, and I’m here to walk for them today to show my support."
Entertainment included music and kid-friendly activities, such as, face painting, ball games, and a bubble machine. Jessica Reynolds, a Community Outreach Manager for the Healthy Start Coalition, volunteered her services for the activities.
"We are here today to give out information to the community about our programs and services serving woman, children, and families. And this event is very important to our community and to our agencies because we need to represent those children in the system who have been abused or neglected and need a voice."
A family celebration with food and guest speakers preceded the march. Tampa’s Police chief, Jane Castor, spoke on behalf of the Rough Riders Color Guard.
"Not to mention love, encouragement, guidance. These are the things that some of these kids, the abused children in our community do not have, and I count my blessings everyday. I have the two most wonderful boys on Earth, and I adopted them when they were 19 and 21 months, and they’re 11 years old today and I tell you they couldn’t bring anymore joy to my life."
Tampa Teen USA, Kiera Perkins told the story of her experiences in the foster care system and promoted the need for more volunteers.
"We need more Guardian ad Litems. These children need them. That is something that I never had in my first foster home, and if I would have had that, maybe my foster home wouldn’t have been as bad. And we need these children to be adopted before they age out of the system."
Theresa Stinson, the past head of the Voices for Children program, introduced a mural which was painted on the New Glazer Children's Museum to commemorate all Guardian ad Litem volunteers.
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"But I want to read to you what it says on the plaque. It says to be a voice. It’s a gift on behalf of Voices for Children of Tampa Bay to honor the past, present, and future guardians who volunteer their time to protect and provide hope to the abused and neglected children in our community. For everyone that is a guardian, we thank you so much."