By Brenda L. Holmes
AVON — The community, lead by the Kiwanis Club of Avon, came together to support Susie’s Place, Hendricks County’s Child Advocacy Center, with Masquerade Mayhem.
The event was Oct. 5 at the Washington Township Park Pavilion in Avon. About 200 people came out to have fun and raise money for the center.
Serving as co-chairs of the event were Rick Myers and Kaye York. Myers is a member and past president of the Kiwanis Club of Avon while York serves on the board of directors for Susie’s Place.
“The Kiwanis Club appreciates what Susie’s Place does for children,” Myers said. “What they do is far reaching and we are proud to be a part of it.”
The facility employs trained forensic interviewers who can help children who have experienced abuse or witnessed a violent crime to tell their stories. The center is designed to be child friendly.
Mary Jane Smallwood is the incoming president of the Kiwanis Club of Avon.
“We thank all of you for being here tonight,” she said. “It is a pleasure to partner with Susie’s Place. As Kiwanis, we seek to help the children of the world.”
Smallwood also encouraged those in attendance to get involved with the Kiwanis Club of Avon.
“We meet at Prestwick at noon on the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month,” she said. “I hope you take us up on the invitation and join us to learn more about the Kiwanis.”
Emily Perry, executive director of Susie’s Place, told those in attendance a little bit about the center and thanked its community partners.
“I would like our team members to stand up,” she said. “These are the people who protect our children. They are the key community members who are out there in the community helping these kids.”
Susie’s Place opened in 2009 with Perry as the only forensic interviewer. Allison Creekmore was hired in 2010 and Whitney Mallow joined the staff in ‘11. The staff opened a second center in Bloomington last year and recently moved to a new Avon location nearly tripling in size.
“We’ve been able to serve 28 counties in Indiana and eight different states,” Perry said. “We will conduct over 900 interviews this year.”
Det. Brian Nugent of the Avon Police Department serves on the center’s multi-disciplinery team and brings his law enforcement expertise to the team.
“This can be the most negative experience in the life of a child,” Nugent said. “They have to sit inside a room with a total stranger and tell their story. I had no level of comfort interviewing these children.”
He said watching the interviewers at Susie’s Place speak to the children and put them at ease is an amazing process.
“In five to 10 minutes, they have them playing tic-tac-toe and talking about what subject they like in school,” he said. “They’ve not only made my job easier — they’ve made my job possible. This is an incredible resource.”