Super Hero Run raises child abuse awareness
     2016-06-03      By Frank Marquez    editor@geringcitizen.com
Holden Rogers, 5, with his father Taylor Rogers, ran in the Super Hero Run last Saturday. This was Holden’s second year participating in the race, and this was his first year crossing the finish line. Frank Marquez/Gering Citizen 
The child advocacy center CAPstone hosted its seventh Super Hero Run at the Gering Junior High School early Saturday with races of 1K and 5K distances.

“The idea is to bring awareness,” said Director Holly Brandt.
“Every child needs a hero, but abused children need superheros.”

Only a fraction showed, compared with 187 runners last year. This year, there were 65 registered runners including the dozen or so kids who were younger than 12. Brandt said she overheard one of the younger kids say after the 1K race, “I’m exhausted.”

All the runners’ efforts end up being worth it. Brandt explained that proceeds from the race go toward expanding the building at CAPstone’s current location in Gering. The non-profit received a $50,000 challenge grant from the Peter Keiwit foundation but in order to receive the funds they need to provide a match of $48,000.00. CAPstone is currently accepting donations to meet this match.

In 2015, the full-time staff increased to five with the addition of Rebecca Fernau, a forensic interviewer and community outreach coordinator. Other staff members include Shelley Thomas, forensic interviewer, Ingrid Frohbieter, family advocate, Winnie Voss, administrative assistant and child advocate.

In 2014, CAPstone recorded 302 interviews. In 2015, there were 100 more, with 412 interviews. So, far this year, according to Brandt, there were 49 more interviews as of the end of March, compared with last year’s number. Brandt said sexual abuse is the highest among forms of abuse. For example, out the 412 interviews, there were 220 cases of sexual abuse or molestation, representing more than half of the cases.

CAPstone advocacy provides education; court support by instructing victims of abuse on how to present themselves, and testify. Also, children are given a safe place to stay, while the family is sequestered. The community organization also makes referrals for mental health, and medical examinations. CAPstone referred 123 children to mental health counseling in 2015.

About four years ago, Alexis ‘Lexie’ Souza, 16, was one of those victims. At the Super Hero run, she wore a cape. On the back of it, she arranged white letters which loudly and clearly proclaimed she has survived. She came to CAPstone in Feb. 26, 2012. Since that time, she has spoken on the behalf of CAPstone to raise awareness.

Lexie’s mom, Tanya Lake, calls it her Super Hero Day. Souza said she was molested by a family member, and was helped by the staff at CAPstone with her court interviews. “I was made to feel safe” during the proceedings which convicted her assailant, who was sentenced to five-years in prison, but is eligible for parole this year.

“I want people to know that CAPstone can help other kids like myself,” Souza said.

Lake added, “Lexie wants kids to know it’s OK to talk about it. It’s her biggest reason for doing this.”

For more information, call 308-632-7274. To report abuse, call the Nebraska Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-652-1999.

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