Rainbird Foundation

A Clinton group participates in the 1,000 Mile Journey walk in 2011 in Madison. The walk will be held in Clinton for the first time June 10.

A local children’s advocate is working with a Wisconsin-based non-profit organization to raise awareness about child abuse.

Shirley Darsidan is a court-appointed special advocate to represent children in the system and runs a grandparent support group. She is organizing the first Iowa-based “1,000 Mile Journey” walk on June 10.

The Rainbird Foundation is dedicated to eradicating child abuse. One of the founders, Elizabeth Norton, admits it sounds like a crazy, impossible goal, but she feels it is necessary.

“We have a lot of damaged human beings because of this issue,” Norton said.

Norton said child abuse statistics indicate that the problem is getting worse. According to her, every perpetrator abuses approximately 100 children and 95 to 98 percent of those who commit some form of child abuse were abused as well.

“It's just a behavior that most people don't believe will ever change. And we believe that it will,” Norton said. “We believe that it is possible to eradicate this behavior. We just need to start looking at how to do that.”

The Rainbird Foundation was born out of co-founder Hanna Roth’s own experience with child abuse.

“There was a point at which she determined no child should ever go through what I went through,” Norton said about Roth.

Norton said she, on the other hand, represents those were never abused and do not understand how it happens. Her father was abused and kept her well-protected.

“For me this is just a basic human rights issue. Kids are people and we treat them like property,” Norton said.

Darsidan added that in some homes, animals are treated better than children.

The Rainbird Foundation works to mobilize people and spread awareness about child abuse through the media and various service organizations. The foundation partners with other non-profit organizations and serves as a major fundraiser for service organizations working in this issue.

“Child abuse is such an ugly issue. People don't want to talk about it. They don't want to deal with it. We don't speak about it,” Norton said.

Norton said people need to be aware of the problem and join together to make a difference. She added that until people become committed to a cause, they cannot demand that changes are made.                        “When there's no demand for something, the politicians don't do anything about it. When there's no demand for something, there's no funding for it.

“When there's no demand, it just keeps happening,” Norton said. “So instead of a platitude that children are our future, we start demanding that we operate as a society like children are our future.”

Darsidan is working to bring this awareness to Clinton by organizing the walk and creating an Iowa affiliate of the Rainbird Foundation. She first learned about the walk last year, when a friend sent her information about the walk in Madison, Wis.

She went up with a team to participate and expressed interest in having one in Clinton.

The 1,000 Mile Journey will begin at 1 p.m. at the Clinton County Courthouse.

Participants will walk up the dike and turn around at the walk path to head to the bandshell. Roth will be speaking at the event. Area service organizations can have educational booths and any service organization who builds a team of walkers will receive that money. The event will feature music entertainment and a variety of activities for area families.

The Felix Adler Children’s Discovery Center will provide activities for the walk. Director Margaret Kuhl said the center is excited to help an event that is working to keep children safe. The center will be bringing face painters, carnival games and other activities. Some “Friends of Felix” teams also will be walking in the event.

“We just thought it was a good thing to join up with,” Kuhl said. “If we do all these things for children we will have productive, successful community members in the future.”

The goal of the walk is to have at least 1,000 people walk one mile. People can find more information and register for the walk at http://1000milejourney.org. More information about the foundation is available at http://rainbirdfoundation.org.

“It seems like small actions, but the 1,000-mile journey comes from the quote ‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,’” Norton said. “Everyone of us taking some step will move everything forward.”