Thursday, April 26, 2012

Courage, tears and a lot of hope at the annual fundraising luncheon for Thompson Child & Family Focus

Thompson Child & Family Focus, which started out more than 125 years ago as an orphanage, now has several centers around town that focus on the well-being of children and their families. The nonprofit provides education, treatment and care for those in need from birth to age 18.

April 26 was its 10th annual Portraits of Courage fundraising luncheon, which has become a must-attend event on my calendar thanks to supporter Kathy Rowan, who has encouraged me to be there over the past several years.

On one hand, it's a delightful event to go to because it's done so well. In recent years its been at the Westin where guests fill up the ballroom. And they keep it to exactly one hour, which is key because I've seen other nonprofit luncheons fail because they run too long on a weekday and most people don't have the time or patience for that.

But it's also a very difficult thing to sit there and hear some of the absolutely heartbreaking stories of the mental, physical and sexual abuse that some of children have to go through before they find a safe haven at Thompson. The nonprofit also helps children from loving homes who are suffering from mental illnesses or other problems.

Thompson's president, Ginny Amendum, spoke this year about a little girl named Destiny who had been neglected since she was an infant - no hugs or kisses, no attention, no exposure to anything positive. I really can't say any more because the details are so distressing and include being sexual abused numerous times by two men before she was six and ended up at Thompson. It's a reminder that even in shiny, happy Charlotte where so many people have big hearts there are also so many suffering.

It's truly hard not to just burst into tears except you also get to hear success stories. After years of support from Thompson, Destiny is healing and is on the path to a bright future. And then you look around the room at all the people who care, and read the program of all the generous people who give their time and money to help children in our community, and it gives you hope.

Through the luncheons, I've come to admire Ginny Amendum so much. I think it's ironic that Amen is in her name because she, her staff and all the supporters of Thompson are truly an answer to a prayer for so many children and families.

I encourage you to go to and learn more about how you can help.