Hobgood Park Will Light Up For Children

The Anna Crawford Children's Center next month will host its own light show for a good cause.

Cherokee County will soon have its own holiday light show that will raise money for a good cause.

The Anna Crawford Children's Center next month will hold its first-ever Holiday Lights of Hope at Hobgood Park in Towne Lake. The event will be held from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. each night between Dec. 13 and Dec. 22.

Tickets are $10 for adults and free for children 14 and under. Admission includes a photo opportunity with Santa Claus, children's activities and a bounce house. Residents will have to pay for seasonal concessions such as hot chocolate. 

David Pitts, chairman of the board of directors for the center, said the nonprofit has enlisted the help of a Cherokee High School metal fabrication technology class, which is creating the displays for the event.

Pitts said the idea for the fundraiser comes at a special time in which the center wants to do more to raise money for its operations.

"The state and federal grants are slowly dwindling away, and we certainly see a need to do more on the fundraising side," he said.

Cherokee High School has made the project a school-wide event, said Principal Debra Murdock.

The school got involved when Andrew Torrence, a senior at Cherokee, visited Dr. Jason Hefner for a sports physical. Dr. Hefner, chair elect of the Anna Crawford Children's Center's board of directors, told Andrew about the project and the student asked if his class could help in the endeavor.

Metals fabrication teacher Mike Zoeckler then met with the center's board and the class embarked on its project to make displays for the event, including a 25-foot Christmas tree.

Along with the metals class, the school's SkillsUSA Club and the Health Care Science Program are collecting new toys, Cherokee's construction classes are building the ticket booths and a platform to be used by Santa and other clubs have also signed on to volunteer at the event. 

Also, Murdock added the school's chorus and band students will perform on the night of Dec. 14. She noted the project has been "great" for students who are driven to perform community service.

"We hope to instill a value of loving and serving our community and by choosing projects that our students can believe in and support, they become global citizens," she said. "I could not be more proud of this school, these students and our Warrior family."

Along with raising money for the center, Pitts said they are also partnering with other nonprofit agencies in the area as they are also "struggling to do different things” to raise money. 

There are plans to offer discounts on admission pricing if residents bring items to donate to MUST Ministries or Papa's Pantry, but nothing has been set in stone. 

The Anna Crawford Children's Center conducts forensic interviews of children who've experienced some form of child abuse. They also offer programs on child abuse prevention and intervention. 

Specifically it has two programs to address child abuse and neglect: the Child Advocacy Center and its Parent HELP Program, said Executive Director Amy Economopoulos.

The Child Advocacy Center in 2011 served about 300 children, about 75 percent were victims of sexual abuse; performed 261 forensic interviews and over 600 therapy sessions to victims and "non-offending" caregivers. 

The Parent HELP Program in 2011 served over 250 families, provided over 450 in-home parent education visits and 36 group parent education classes. It also coordinated 25 Darkness To Light sexual abuse prevention groups to the public. Those sessions educate adults on how to recognize and respond to child sexual abuse.

Both programs provide services to families who speak English, Spanish and Portuguese last year.

Pitts said he's hoping to see a large crowd turn out to see the Cherokee High School students' work and to also support an organization that has been deemed essential to many children in the community.

The charity, he added, relies solely on contributions and grants and noted this fundraiser will play a major role in developing the center's 2013 budget.

"Everything is going back to the charity," he said.

For more information, visit the Anna Crawford Children's Center's website or call (770) 345-8100.


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