By Vern Pierson
Every parent has looked into the eyes of their child and wondered who will they be when they grow up. What or whom will influence that outcome? Good or bad, kids imitate the role models in their lives. When things go right, children are inspired by their own parents, relatives, a dedicated teacher, or maybe their coach who motivates them to excel and be more than they think they can be. Perhaps the role model is a set of grandparents or relatives who have united as a family through life’s tribulations to provide a positive influence upon a young child’s life.
Tragically, sometimes it is an abusive father or mother, a parent abusing drugs, or even worse — a child that is completely abandoned by his or her parents. These kids often witness law enforcement and fire service personnel take their parents away after such a traumatic episode. As a result of a lack of the organic role models every child should have, kids are forced to find an alternate role model to influence their growth. Unfortunately, these role models may take the form of television personalities, entertainers, reality television stars or a variety of other cultural icons, who, while their intentions may not be malicious, the result of their impact is negative all the same. Frederick Douglass famously said, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” I believe this to be just as accurate today as it was in 19th century.
Organizations such as Big Brothers, Big Sisters and CASA or Court Appointed Special Advocates, seek to provide just the kind of positive mentorship these at-risk youths and children need and deserve. The Big Brothers and Big Sisters organizations cater specifically to children with a single parent or guardian and strive to provide these kids with an adult role model who has been proven to be a positive mentor. CASA provides assistance to children who have become dependents of the court system. The courts will appoint each child with an advocate who will mentor them and report back to the court so that they can provide the stability and support that is so often denied to children dependent on social care.
Over the last several years it has been my pleasure to work with these organizations to bring the Snowball shopping event to 150 children each year. The Rotary Club generously provides a complete pancake breakfast while the kids visit with Santa and his elves. Sheriff deputies, Department of Fish and Game officers, DA investigators, firefighters and hundreds of volunteers take the kids to go shopping with a $200 gift card for much needed necessities and a gift. The officers, firefighters and well over 100 volunteers also provide the kids with a possible alternative role model. But the kids give back as much as they receive. They remind us each of the innocence that far too often is lost in adulthood. Thanks to all the volunteers and each of our sponsors.
As much as these organizations have accomplished, there is always more we can do for children in need. Many children need someone to look up to who is not famous, talented, or rich but rather someone who is caring and willing to take time out of their busy lives to be a positive force in their life.
So as the holidays approach, and you reflect upon the years end, perhaps consider a resolution such as becoming a Big Brother or Big Sister, or an advocate with CASA. The gift you receive may be greater than any gift you could give. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.
Vern Pierson is the elected District Attorney and serves as an advisor to Big Brothers Big Sisters and is a former board member of CASA El Dorado.