Editor

The Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) Osceola is ready to rock out to bring awareness to child abuse.

On Monday, the Community Based Care of Central Florida (CBCCF) will kick off the month-long “CAC Rocks” fundraising campaign. Two hundred rocks painted with words of encouragement and hope will be hidden at various locations in downtown Kissimmee, including restaurants, banks and the Hart Memorial Central Library.

The CAC, located at 110 W. Neptune Road, Kissimmee, is encouraging residents to hunt for the rocks, which will raise money to support its cause of helping abused and neglected children. The hunt will be from Sept. 12 to Oct. 12.

The hospital, Orlando Health, will donate $10 for each rock found.

“We hope that with some of the initiatives that we are rolling out including the CAC Rocks campaign, we can raise awareness about what services are available to folks,” said Joy Chuba, executive director of the CAC.

But to incentivize people to get involved, there are possible prizes to be won if they find a rock.

Anyone who finds a rock is asked to post on social media, using the hashtag #CACRocks. At the end of the campaign, the names of participants will be entered into a drawing for a chance to win a prize, such as an Echo Dot, a children’s book basket or tickets to Disney.

“They won’t be hard to find,” said Danielle Abbey, communications manager for the CBCCF. “We want to make it as easy as possible and as fun as possible. That’s what this campaign is all about.”

There will be instructions on every rock and each one will have a number, which will be related to certain prizes that can be won.

While the campaign will run through Oct. 12, there will be a special scavenger hunt Saturday, Sept. 15, from 9 a.m. to noon. It starts at the CAC office.

Anybody can participate. Walking downtown, anyone who spots them can just swipe them up.

The campaign was designed as a way to better address child abuse in the open.

“How can we make this a conversation that’s not icky,” Abbey said. “How can we make talking about child abuse easy. That’s how this campaign came to fruition.”

Either a child abuse victim or a caretaker colored each rock. And they have inspirational messages, such as “Hang in there,” “Hope” and “You’re OK,” Abbey said.

“Just different things like that they (victims) wish people had said to them,” she added. “Each and every rock is unique. Each and every rock was painted very differently.”

It allowed the victims to establish an emotional connection, according to Abbey.

“That’s why it was so important to us to make sure they were the ones painting them and not just ourselves,” she said.

The CAC provides support services for children and families who are going through a formal child abuse investigation. The agency has private areas for people to meet with professionals who are involved with the case. The agency also assigns advocates to help support the children and families. Those services are offered throughout the conclusion of the case.

“We really tailor our services to the needs of the children,” Chuba said.

Estimates show that one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before the age of 18, Chuba noted. The impacts of abuse can include post-traumatic stress disorder. If left untreated, that could lead to poor physical health, such as increased risk of cancer, heart attack and premature death.

“It’s a significant issue. The good news is we know how to effectively respond and we know how to effectively treat child abuse and neglect.”

The goal is to raise the entire $2,000 the fundraiser is designed to do for the CAC – 200 rocks at $10 each.

“It will be used to fill any service gaps we may have,” Chuba said.

To report child abuse, contact your local law enforcement agency or the statewide hotline at 1-800-962-2873.

To donate any child DVDs or video games for the CAC, call the agency at 407-742-1545.