Lakeside Park in Port Huron was filled with nearly 300 happy parents, kids and friends Sunday afternoon waiting for the start of the Walk for Kids’ Sake.
Music was blaring, neighbors were chatting and kids were playing an assortment of games.
But if you stopped to ask anyone why they were in attendance, many were speechless.
Some responded with “How can you not? It’s for the kids.”
The event kicks-off the largest fundraiser for the St. Clair County Child Abuse/Neglect Council, which provides prevention programs for kids and raises awareness about child abuse.
The walk led supporters from the park to Birchwood Mall where the 21st annual Community Roof Sit For Kids began.
Chuck Santoni, WSAQ radio personality, was hoisted up onto the roof of the mall by the Fort Gratiot Fire Department to begin his week-long roof camp out.
Santoni will broadcast from the roof of the mall all week as he rallies support for the council.
“It’s all about the kids,” said Sally Straffon, council executive director. “Over 60 percent of our budget comes from fundraising and we are so grateful for the community support we have gotten since we started in 1984.”
The roof-sit fundraiser usually brings in around $100,000 each year.
The council offers programs that teach children what appropriate and inappropriate touch is, sexual assault prevention, and internet safety, among other services.
The council is also instrumental in conducting forensic interviews for alleged child abuse sex victims. Instead of the child having to tell their abuse story multiple times, they only have to tell it once to a council worker.
Straffon said by only having to tell their abuse story once it minimizes the children’s trauma. Nearly 140 alleged abused children are interviewed by the council each year.
Becky Bell, 38, of Kimball Township, was walking with her daughter, Cameron, 10.
Bell said she was walking because her daughter wanted to participate.
“We are here so no kids get abused,” Cameron said.
“This helps to bring awareness to the community,” Bell said. “We have a lot of child abuse stories and it’s something that’s not always talked about.”
Santori will be on the roof until 6 p.m. Friday. To donate people can call (866) 852-KIDS.
“There is no greater need in my mind than this fundraiser,” Santori said Sunday after he was lifted onto the roof. “This week I have (abuse professionals) come on to the show to talk about serving the children in our community and each year I get a bit more educated.”
This is Santori’s 11th year camping out on the roof. He sleeps in a tent, showers in a make-shift shower stall and broadcasts live, all from the top of the Birchwood Mall.