The Kristen French Child Advocacy Centre Niagara hosted a race through Niagara where 22 teams took part. The green flag, to start The Amazing Race Niagara from Pilonia Park in Niagara on the Lake, dropped at noon as the teams took off to experience Niagara in a unique and fun way.
The race was set up to allow participants to experience different areas of Niagara that they can later return to with family and friends at another time. The locations this year were all futuristic business.
According to Susanne McCarroll, the resource development coordinator at the advocacy centre, this year the event had teams engaged in a race to nine different locations. Of the nine locations, five contained more than one activity and four served as pit stops with only one activity. The challenges and activities have a point system and the teams earn points for doing the best they can.
The race provided a healthy dose of competition for the top spots. The team who raises the most funds, the first, second and third places from the race itself as well as the best decorated team and car got to pick prizes from the prize table.
Brock had two teams of four members in the race #FaceLab@Brock, a face perception lab at Brock, and LabGirls, a child development research team. To support the centre you can pledge teams for up to two weeks after the race. Further pledges will not count towards team statistics, but will still support the centre.
The Kristen French Child Advocacy Centre is “a safe place to help, heal [and] end child abuse.” The centre is a child abuse investigation site for children and youth. Since they opened in 2018 over 3,000 children and youth have benefitted from the centre. They partner with police, child welfare organizations and the family counselling centre to do joint investigations. According to Janet Handy, the executive director of the centre, joint investigation is the model of a child advocacy centre so that it reduces the number of times children have to recount what happened to them. The more they have to do that the more retraumatizing it is so the idea is to be developmentally appropriate with children and reduce the number of times they have to see other professionals.
“Without a child advocacy centre (CAC) a child can see other people up to seven times. It can be very onerous by the time they talk to police, child welfare, talk to perhaps a physician, the hospital, counselor and on it goes,” said Handy. “This system helps to reduce the trauma for the child by taping the interview. It allows for that tape to be used in the investigation instead of the child.”
Their specialized teams ensure everything is geared towards the child “because you can imagine it might be the worst day of someone’s life,” Handy says.
Beyond the investigations held at the centre they have been able to provide social healing programs, which include a youth advisory council, a Teen Connect program, websites about human trafficking and interactive social services map and a creative arts program to help children express what has happened to them.
The funds from the race support this centre and programs for children in the community. Since 2015 the race has brought in over $75,000. This year the centre hopes to exceed $25,000 and are happy they have exceeded their goal for the number of teams entered.
According to Handy this money is necessary, “we are very fortunate to have the community’s support. We depend on it and every kid that comes through the door depends on it so it is really a wonderful reflection of the community care and concern for the kids.”
To learn more about the centre go to www.kristenfrenchcacn.org/