By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – A local supporter of Little Warriors is disappointed with the news the organization was unsuccessful in their application for $650,000 in provincial grant funding. Little Warriors, a national charitable organization that focuses on the education and prevention of child sexual abuse, has been raising funds to build the Be Brave Ranch, a centre that would provide a 30-day in-treatment program for children who are victims of sexual abuse, providing them with the therapy the organization feels is necessary to help them now and in the future.
Morinville resident Brandi, herself a victim of sexual abuse and a woman whose last name we have agreed to withhold, spearheaded a letter-writing campaign last October to get Albertans to write to Premier Alison Redford as well as provincial and federal politicians seeking their support for the Be Brave Ranch initiative.
Three months later, Brandi is dismayed by the news the letter campaign did not generate the outcome she and other supporters of the organization had hoped for. “We sent in a stack of letters. Over a hundred I think. Completely ignored,” Brandi said. “It felt like the government [was] saying that the children of Alberta don’t matter. Because nearly a quarter of the children in Alberta will be affected by this issue before [the age of] 18, statistically speaking.”
She is left with the feeling big business and hockey arenas are of greater importance to the government than the province’s number one resource, its children. She said the ranch is important in providing victims of sexual abuse with the therapy they need and is concerned about the future of those children who are not getting the support and counselling they need.
“It’s taken [Little Warriors Founder ]Glori [Meldrum]27 years to come to terms with her abuse,” Brandi said. “It took me nearly 20. And we made it out and became decent contributing citizens. Not every survivor does. The cost of child sexual abuse is astronomical and the personal costs are sometimes life threatening and debilitating.”
Much needed facility
To date, Little Warriors have raised $1.4 million for the facility. The additional $650,000 was applied for under two grant programs: $400,000 under the Community Facility Enhancement Program and $250,000 under the Other Initiatives Program. The province sent a letter informing the group funding was not available at this time, but have said the grant request is not dead in the water; more paperwork is required from the organization to move forward.
For Brandi and the organization, funding the facility is critical and needs to move forward soon. “It could mean the difference between life and death,” she said. “So many kids commit suicide because of the shame and guilt and loss of power. The ranch restores their power, shifts their viewpoint to an empowered one that has the tools to cope with their history.”
Brandi is left wondering why there are multiple rehabilitation facilities for abusers but no treatment centres for victims. “What about the victims. They need healing too. The ranch is healing,” she said. “Other short-term options exist but are simply a band aid.”
Looking for support
Brandi is hoping people who supported the organization during the letter-writing campaign will add their continued support by creating a short video to advocate for the ranch and criticize the grant decision. The videos can be posted to The Little Warriors Facebook page at facebook.com/littlewarriors, and the organization is encouraging people to send their YouTube video links to provincial politicians.
“We’re sending videos to the government and getting very defensive responses and various excuses for this decision,” she said, adding she feels the government is back peddling on their decision. She believes the videos will help. “We’re not asking [the public] for anything other than to do a 30-second video saying you don’t agree with the decision and why. It may solicit as much help as the letters, but if nothing is tried, nothing changes. And this issue can’t go ignored until a foolproof for sure idea comes up. We have to try what we think will make a difference and we hope people will care enough to help.”
She is pleased to see more than local media covering the group’s concerns. “The letter writing campaign was sort of a quiet thing only really covered by Morinville News,” Brandi said. “Already CTV has done three interviews in the last few days with Little Warriors. Global is reporting; City TV covered our stories this morning. The national newspapers are picking it up. This time a lot more media is involved and therefore a lot more people know about it instead of just relying on social media. Not to mention we also have Theo Fleury tweeting all our videos and news and putting this decision in the limelight for the politicians to be accountable for.”
Brandi would like to see people donate to Little Warriors to help build the Be Brave Ranch. “I’d love Morinville to unite and take a stand against child sexual abuse by donating funds and support to this very worthy cause,” she said, adding she is hoping Morinville residents will consider walking in the Edmonton Victor Walk, and event being run in conjunction with former Calgary Flame Theo Fleury’s Victor Walk in May. “If we get enough we will do a local Morinville Victor walk. Small towns have the ability to do amazing things when they unite.”
For more information about participating in the walk contact firstname.lastname@example.org.