Traverse City Record-Eagle

April 15, 2013

Students stage race to raise child abuse awareness

BY GRETCHEN MURRAY Special to the Record-Eagle
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Teens have always been tuned in to the latest fads. This month, students at Traverse City Central High School are using the newest craze, color runs, to help shine light on a dark subject.

Members of the high school’s Student Senate are sponsoring their first Spring Splatter 5K run to raise awareness of child abuse. The race begins at 9 a.m. Saturday, April 20, on the Central High School campus, 1150 Milliken Drive, with proceeds benefiting the Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy Center.

According to co-organizer Emily Decker, the race proceeds normally until runners approach the end. There, they will pass through a gauntlet of dry powder “paint” — all part of the fun waiting at the finish line.

“The ‘paint’ is actually colored corn starch,” explained Student Senate Governor Cooper Macdonell. “It’s essentially edible and washes off with water.”

Macdonell said runners will be given a white T-shirt at the start of the race, the intent being that they will end up with a colorful shirt — or at least a piece of abstract art — at the end.

One runner in particular is looking forward to turning herself into a movable work of art.

“As a runner myself, I was extremely excited as these ‘color runs’ are popular; but more importantly, I was honored they approached our organization,” said Kate Walters, chair of the Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy Center’s Prevention Council. Walters also works as a juvenile probation officer.

“The message the Student Senate is spreading is kids helping kids,” Walters said, adding that in her work as a juvenile probation officer she sees on a daily basis the tough world today’s youths are growing up in. “At times I see kids being mean to other kids, and it is refreshing to see kids trying to help kids going through a difficult time.”

Walters said the students have put a lot of thought and work into the race, from its timing during National Child Abuse Prevention Month to the choice of powder colors.

“Blue represents child abuse prevention and therefore they felt it was important to have blue be the last color we run through in the race, to raise awareness,” Walters said.

The Student Senate at Central consists of about 30 students elected by school-wide vote. While the group serves primarily to benefit the school, community outreach has also been a top priority.

“Along with can drives and coat drives, the Senate has created ‘hope packs’ that were sent to Africa to aid children,” Macdonell said. “Our biggest community outreach projects are our blood drives. We generally have three a year and provide students with an excellent opportunity to give back.”

The Children’s Advocacy Center opened in April 2010. According to Walters, it’s since seen close to 450 children who have made disclosures of alleged sexual or severe physical abuse. The national statistics are equally alarming.

“We know nationally that one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused by their 18th birthday. Also, one in five children will be solicited by an online predator,” Walters said. “Sexual abuse exists because it is kept silent. It is time to shine the light and break the silence to work towards ending child abuse.”

The entire race course is on the Central High and adjacent Eastern Elementary School grounds. Cost is $20 for adults and $15 for students. Racers can sign up online at www.active.com until 11:59 p.m. Thursday, April 18. Search for Spring Splatter on the site. Registration also will be available the morning of the race.