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Guard-sponsored children's fair helps raise awareness of child abuse

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Thursday, April 9, 2009

Spc. Jonathan Holt of the 735th Force Provider Co. was one of several volunteers who helped at the 1st Annual Children's Fair.
CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo -- When Staff Sgt. Steven Bell heard about Biker's Against Child Abuse, he immediately knew that he -- and the Missouri Army National Guard -- had to get involved.

"It's an organization that comes to the rescue of children who are truly in need," Bell said. "In the Guard, we support, protect and serve - and what better way to do that? These families need to know that this organization is out there."

So Bell helped organize the National Guard-sponsored 1st Annual Children's Fair to raise awareness for Biker's Against Child Abuse. Bell and a host of other Guard volunteers and other community groups transformed Lynwood Baptist Church's parking lot into a carnival on April 4, where children flocked to games, motorcycle rides and myriad other activities.

"It's so much fun," said 5-year-old Chaylea Neace of Jackson, who had her face painted in between making bead necklaces and a glimpse inside an Army personnel carrier.

More than 400 people turned out for the four-hour event, which was held in April, which is Child Abuse Awareness Month. Eric Welch, a past president and current member of Bikers Against Child Abuse, said that the Guard provided practically everything for the fair, from the food to volunteers to staff rides and games. The Guard also provided military vehicles, such as Humvees. The Cape Girardeau Fire Department brought out two ladder trucks.

The Southeast Missouri chapter of Bikers Against Child Abuse formed nearly three years ago, joining a worldwide movement among motorcycle enthusiasts to protect children who have been abused either physically or sexually, as well as change stereotypical perceptions of people who ride motorcycles. In the chapter has about 30 members, Welch said.

The riders go by 'ride names,' such as Silver Fox, Bear, Samson and Desert Eagle. Welch's is 'Chuck.' Such names are for the protection of the men and women and their families, who may be put in danger by trying to keep suspects away from their targets -- children, Welch said.

"But our mission is to help abused children," Welch said.

Police and other child-services agencies let families know that the chapter is there to help, Welch said. The group shows up to show support at court, stands guard in victims' yards, talks to children over the phone at all hours -- anything to help the victim feel more comfortable, he said.

"We want to empower children to remove their fear," Welch said. "We adopt them into the family and make them a brother and sister. Two of us are assigned to a child, we say, 'Call us if you're scared. Talk to us.' We do whatever it takes to keep a child safe."

People in the community need to know that Bikers Against Child Abuse is out there.

"It's about awareness," he said. "It's a good organization. We want children who have gone through something traumatic like this to stand tall and not have to live in fear. To the perps, we say only this: Stay away from our kids."

The Guard is to be commended for getting involved, Welch said.

"We are so grateful that the Guard got involved," Welch said. "We couldn't have done it without them. We hope it is bigger and better next year."

For more information about the Missouri National Guard, please call 1-800-GoGuard or visit www.moguard.com.


For more information about this release, please contact Scott Moyers at 573-339-6237 or at scott.moyers1@us.army.mil

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