While residents of the may still be reeling from the death of 7-year-old Jorelys Rivera in December, two community members are hoping to help other children avoid the same fate.
Canton-Cherokee radKIDS, a new organization geared at teaching children how to escape dangerous situations, will hold its first classes at the apartment complex where Jorelys lived and died. The classes, scheduled for Feb. 21-24 and March 2, will be held at the on Waleska Street. Children must attend all five 2-hour classes to graduate.
Canton resident Bianca Cummings and Sgt. Stacy Bailey with the Canton Police Department are certified radKIDS instructors who are teaming up to teach the classes at various locations, such as the YMCA and after-school programs at local schools. The duo became certified and started planning the program earlier last year.
“I’m a Canton resident, and I know a lot of feedback I received throughout the community is that everybody’s traumatized,” Cummings said. “I don’t have any personal connections, but it just seems like this is the obvious place to start. They probably are feeling especially scared and in need of some hope and some information to move forward.”
Jorelys, a Canton Elementary School first-grader, was abducted about 5 p.m. Dec. 2 near a playground at the River Ridge community. Jorelys' severely beaten body was discovered three days after she went missing.
An autopsy found that she likely died 60 to 90 minutes after she disappeared. Jorelys had been compacted, and her throat was slit.
Ryan Brunn, 20, a maintenance worker at the apartment complex, was arrested and charged with Jorelys’ murder. Brunn pleaded guilty to 13 charges on Jan. 17 and was sentenced to life in prison without parole. He hanged himself two days later in his prison cell.
What makes radKIDS unique is that it teaches children how to escape dangerous situations by yelling loud, hitting hard and running fast. Cummings said that statistics show that with this education, children have an 83 percent chance of escaping something like an abduction.
“That really surprised me,” said Cumming, the mother of an 8-year-old girl. “I want to bring my daughter’s chances up from 0 to 83. That’s a no-brainer.”
Approximately 58,000 children are the victims of non-family abductions each year, Cummings said.
“That number is just way too high,” she said. “Most people think that stranger abductions are really rare, and they probably are, but when people think of non-stranger abductions they think it’s just a parent. That’s not necessarily true. It could be a maintenance worker.”
In addition to teaching kids how to protect themselves from abductors, the class also covers other topics such as bullying, Internet safety, and “general out and about safety,” which is geared toward empowering them to deal with a dangerous situation.
“Kids understand bullying isn’t cool but when they’re experiencing it or witnessing it, they feel helpless and like there’s not much they can do,” Cummings said.
Bailey said she discovered in training how "profound" the program is.
"I was in tears," she said. "It forever changed my life. This isn’t something that my department made me do. I went and asked my boss, hey, can I go to this class? And, they let me."
The program gives children hands-on training and empowers them by making them realize that they matter. It's different than the "stranger danger" approach by telling children not to take candy from strangers.
"What do they do as soon as you leave? They take the candy," Bailey said.
Canton-Cherokee radKIDS is something that Bailey said she would want her daughter, who is autistic, to take.
"She’s completely vulnerable," Bailey said. "She doesn’t know good, bad. She doesn’t have fear."
Additional instructors in Canton will go through the certification process in March to begin teaching another round of classes in April. There is typically one teacher for every 10 children in a class.
"To be able to reach as many students as possible," Cummings said, "we need to have more teachers"
She said she hopes other communities in Cherokee County will start similar programs. Until then, the classes at the YMCA in Canton will be open to any children in the county. For more information, call Cummings at 678-488-0415, Bailey at 770-720-4883 or go online to http://www.cantoncherokeeradkids.org.
3 Foundational Principles of radKIDS Personal Safety
- No one has the right to hurt you. No one because you are special.
- As a radKID, you do not have the right to hurt anyone else, including yourself unless someone is trying to physically hurt you. Then, you have the right to stop them. Remember, no one has the right hurt you.
- It’s not your fault. As a radKID, you know that if anyone has ever tried or tries to trick you, hurt you or make you feel bad inside, it’s not your fault. When it’s not your fault, you can tell.
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