Senior volunteers awarded for service

KidsFirst kicks off child abuse prevention month
By: ToLewis, The Press Tribune
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The Golden Coyotes senior volunteer group never asked to be recognized. However, the group, made up of about 30 Roseville senior citizens, was recognized by KidsFirst at the 13th Annual Putting KidsFirst awards luncheon, which was held Friday at Sun City Lincoln Hills. KidsFirst, a Roseville-based organization formerly known as The Child Abuse Prevention Council of Placer County, paid tribute to individuals and organizations in the Sacramento region that have made a positive difference in the lives of children. “They work behind the scenes all the time,” said co-host Amy Lewis, morning DJ for Sacramento radio station KFBK. “I know they never do it to be recognized, they do it to help kids. It’s just our chance to honor them.” The Golden Coyotes were among five recipients of awards given out by KidsFirst to recognize individuals and groups that have gone “above and beyond” helping underprivileged, abused and neglected children succeed. “The Golden Coyotes senior volunteers give their time to help children in elementary school,” said co-host and KFBK morning DJ Ed Crane. “The volunteers are able to give individual attention to students who need the one-on-one attention that is sometimes not available at home.” Accepting the award for the Golden Coyotes were Coyote Ridge Elementary School Michelle Harmeier principal and volunteers John Smith and Sid Katz. “We would like to thank KidsFirst for recognizing our Golden Coyotes,” Harmeier said. “I feel grateful because our program is getting recognition, which not only acknowledges our seniors, but hopefully will bring more seniors into our program.” The theme of this year’s event was “The Art of Putting Kids First,” which was meant to showcase how KidsFirst is utilizing art as therapy for abused and neglected children. Art therapist Lisa Mitchell, who runs an art therapy studio in Fair Oaks, trains KidsFirst staff and volunteers on how to use art as therapy with children. She was also the guest speaker at this year’s event. “When kids are abused or traumatized, the experience of that actually goes into the brain in a way that does not have words,” Mitchell said. “When they use art and experiential creative expression, they can process what happened to them without being re-traumatized and actually transform experiences so that they don’t have the wounds and the baggage that they tend to carry from that experience.” Other groups and individuals that were honored at the event included Sleep Train Mattress Centers, which donated 18 mattress sets to the KidsFirst organization in 2009 and continues to support the organization, and Placer County prosecutor Karen Bjork, who has been prosecuting child abuse cases for more than 14 years. Child advocates Cathy Vollmer and Rick Jennings also received the adult volunteer award for countless hours of volunteer work with KidsFirst. A nonprofit agency that formed in 1988, KidsFirst is governed by volunteer, business and community leaders devoted to preventing and healing child abuse and neglect. Ninety-six percent of families referred to KidsFirst from Child Protective Services stay out of the foster care system, according to Kathy Burris, human resource director for KidsFirst. “We believe that all children should live in a safe, healthy and nurturing home,” Burris said. “Child abuse is 100 percent preventable and so we’re the advocate that helps those children and families in need through our programs, counseling and therapy.” The 13th annual awards luncheon also initiated April as National Child Abuse Prevention Month, to raise awareness about child abuse and neglect and encourage individuals and communities to support children and families. Toby Lewis can be reached at