The Paluxy River Children’s Advocacy Center's annual winter gala set for Saturday, Feb. 25, at La Bella Luna is now sold out.
Since 2006, the PRCAC has been promoting the healing of child abuse victims in Hood, Somervell, and Erath counties. The PRCAC serves abused children and supportive family members, helping children move from hurting to healing to thriving.
The center’s annual winter gala — with this year’s theme “An Evening in Paris” — is used as a fundraising event each year, where funds are used to provide essential services to abused children in local communities.
“Probably 17% to 20% of our budget, we have to raise in the community through individual business contributions and fundraising events,” said PRCAC Executive Director Margaret Cohenour. “We like doing a gala, because it's also an opportunity to thank our donors. We want them to have a good evening and know that they're supporting our mission.”
Tickets for the event sold out in the last week of January. Cohenour estimated they will have 280 people in attendance on Feb. 25.
“We are really excited to be sold out,” Cohenour said. “We appreciate everyone who is sponsoring a table as well as those who have provided live and silent auction items. We are looking forward to a really fun evening, and we are grateful for the community’s support of our mission.”
The mission of the PRCAC is to “promote the healing of child abuse victims one child at a time.” However, Tracy Cooper-Ives, director of community education and engagement, said she wants to expand the mission to include education and outreach.
“I want us to expand the (mission statement) to also be about educating our community about the problem of child abuse, so that we can prevent it,” she said. “Not just healing the victims, but also helping people to recognize the signs.”
Services of the PRCAC include forensic interviews, family advocacy, multi-disciplinary team, counseling, prevention education, and outreach.
“With the counseling program, a lot of people don't realize that even though the majority of our counseling clients are going to come through the forensic interview, the advocate will stay with that child throughout the whole course, however long that lasts," Cohenour said. "We offer counseling services, and we don't charge anybody.”
“And the level of counseling that we provide, it would be very expensive,” Cooper-Ives added. “I mean, (our staff is) so highly trained, and they’re magnificent on what they offer.”
In 2022, the PRCAC staff conducted a total of 407 interviews, 1,104 family advocacy sessions, and 2,340 counseling sessions.
“We're working on making a dent in some of those statistics,” Cohenour said. “The one statistic that we really talk a lot about is if only one in 10 children ever tell you that they've been abused, that means there's nine that aren't telling. We would prefer to think that we're preventing those nine from being abused by reaching them, or if they have been abused, that they talk about it so they can get the help and healing that they need. We can't control the number of cases that come to us, so we can just sit and wait for those interviews, or we can go out and try to make sure that we're sharing as much information as possible to prevent it from happening or to recognize it.”
Approximately 10,636 people were reached by PRCAC prevention presentations last year. A total of 1,763 people were trained in recognizing and reporting child abuse, and 16,353 people were reached during community outreach events.
“We'll be happy to talk to any group that would listen,” Cooper-Ives said. “Because really, it's not enough. We used to just train teachers and schools to recognize and report child abuse and child sex trafficking, but every human over the age of 18 is a mandated reporter in Texas so every single person needs to know that — that’s why any group we speak to, we want them to get the same training that teachers would.”
"Abuse has been around for a long time,” Cohenour said. “I think we're just now learning more about what to look for, how to recognize it, and maybe how to prevent it. I think that's what's key about it.”
Individuals can help the PRCAC by donating materials or funds, requesting a tour of the center, inviting staff to speak at a club or organization, attending PRCAC fundraisers, or by volunteering.
“We’ve got a really good team here, and everybody's really passionate about what we do, and committed to the mission,” Cohenour said. “We partner with several nonprofits in the community. Everybody has their niche, and we all work closely together doing our different functions, and I think that’s what works really well.”
For more information, visit paluxyrivercac.org online, or call 817-573-0292.