Oprah Winfrey’s “Ambassador of Hope” speaks

Original story here: http://www.myvalleynews.com/story/80797/
Friday, September 19th, 2014
Issue 38, Volume 18.
Michelle Mears-Gerst
Special to the Valley News

The Humanity of Justice Foundation, founded by Riverside County Deputy District Attorney Burke Strunsky and his wife Geraldine hosted its second annual Polo Luncheon and Gala at the Temecula Valley Polo Club Saturday, Sept 14.

Michelle Mears-Gerst photo - Riverside County Deputy District Attorney Burke Strunsky and wife Geraldine listen to keynote speaker Marala Scott. Scott, a motivational speaker and author was named an ambassador of hope by Oprah Winfrey.

Michelle Mears-Gerst photo – Riverside County Deputy District Attorney Burke Strunsky and wife Geraldine listen to keynote speaker Marala Scott. Scott, a motivational speaker and author was named an ambassador of hope by Oprah Winfrey.

The keynote address was delivered by Marala Scott, a motivational speaker and author. Scott was named by Oprah Winfrey as an “ambassador of hope,” because of her survival of child abuse.

“Child abuse and neglect is an epidemic devastating lies,” said Scott. “If one out of every four people has been abused that means at every table here in this room at least one person has been abused.”

Scott told the crowd how her father who was in a powerful public position abused her, her brothers and mother.

“I was that 9-year-old who was begging for someone to help me and that help never came,” said Scott. “If you are abused and survive, I encourage you to go out and help the people who need help. Be that person to someone being abused who you didn’t get.”

Scott’s message was not to remain a victim; if someone faces and overcomes adversity they should go out and teach others.

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Michelle Mears-Gerst photo – An artist painted a scene live during the charity event that was later auctioned off.

At the charity event two programs aimed at comforting children who find themselves thrust into in the criminal justice system through no fault of their own were introduced.

The first program the Humanity of Justice Foundation (HOJF) spoke about initiating was “Paws for Healing,’’ which provides dogs for children called to testify in criminal trials.

As part of the program, a specially trained canine is approved and allowed into the witness box to sit with a child, who can cuddle the pet to ease anxiety.

Jennifer Garcia, president and board member of HOJF introduced Eric Garcia a community liaison and board member who is helping to launch Humanity Bears.

“We want to place these teddy bears in patrol cars so that when a law enforcement officer removes a child from an abusive household and places him or her in the custody of child welfare workers, the kids will have a comforting object to make the experience less traumatic,” said Garcia.

Garcia went on to describe how the idea of the teddy bear came about after responding to a call where a little boy at the scene asked him for a hug.

“I picked that little boy up and held him like he was my child. I wasn’t sure if he knew what was going on but he wanted comfort-he knew that,” said Garcia.

The sheriff’s Temecula station will be the first to try the program. However, Garcia expressed hope it would go countywide and farther.

About 200 guests attended the fundraiser, which was kicked off with the HOJF polo team, led by Geraldine Strunsky, who squared off against team Doffo Winery.

A petting zoo, pony rides and wine tasting also took place along with an awards ceremony recognizing local officials including Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone and Sheriff Stan Sniff for their contributions to children’s causes.

Other sponsors of the event included the Hemet and Murrieta Police departments, the Riverside Sheriffs’ Association and the Riverside County Deputy District Attorneys’ Association.

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