A small group of key stakeholders, survivors of childhood sexual abuse, and trauma therapists gathered at a distance in Panama City to reveal the newly- rebuilt “AshBritt Foundation & Lauren’s Kids Trauma Therapy House” at the Gulf Coast Children’s Advocacy Center – the culmination of a multi-year, $800,000+ construction and design project made necessary by Category 5 storm Hurricane Michael in October of 2018.
“In the aftermath of Hurricane Michael, therapists and survivors were completely displaced and therapy was being provided wherever possible, from fast food parking lots to atop downed tree trunks,” says Senator Lauren Book, founder and CEO of Lauren’s Kids, and a survivor of childhood sexual abuse who received life-saving therapy at a children’s advocacy center. “Today, this rebuilt Trauma Therapy House stands as a testament to hope and healing – reminding young survivors that strength and resilience can be found even after the darkest of storms. I am overjoyed to have been a part of this journey home.” The Gulf Coast Children’s Advocacy Center serves more than 7,000 survivors of child abuse annually, at no cost to those in need of services.
An official 501(c)(3) since 2007, Lauren’s Kids educates adults and children about sexual abuse prevention through in-school curriculum, resources for families, EMMY and ADDY Award-winning awareness campaigns, and speaking engagements around the country and the world. The foundation’s Safer, Smarter Schools K-12 curriculum program is currently used in classrooms in 37 states to teach children about personal safety.
Senator Lauren Book, the Lauren’s Kids Foundation, and the AshBritt Foundation have been a part of the Gulf Coast Children’s Advocacy Center family for nearly a decade, making stops at the center on Book’s annual 1,500-mile “Walk in My Shoes” trek across the state of Florida (completed from 2010 – 2018 to raise awareness about child sexual abuse, sponsored by AshBritt), and working with the children and families served to raise awareness and create change. The children’s stories and legal plights have inspired Book to successfully advocate for dozens of critical changes in law to better protect survivors of abuse, including termination of parental rights for sexual predators when a child is born from rape.
The Lauren’s Kids foundation, with support from AshBritt, has previously renovated sexual assault treatment programs and children’s advocacy centers, including Christina’s Courage in Key West, the Orange County Victims Services Center in Orlando, the Nancy J. Cotterman Center in Ft. Lauderdale, the Brevard County Children’s Advocacy Center in Rockledge, the crimes against children interview room at the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Department, Alpha House in Tampa, and others.
The finalized renovations to the Gulf Coast Children’s Advocacy Center in Panama City will be documented in Lauren’s Kids’ new for-television awareness program, “The Journey Home,” set to air in media markets across Florida in April, National Child Abuse Prevention Month and National Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
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