Monday, February 20, 2006

Sinatra tourney swings for valley kids

Children’s Center at Eisenhower Medical reaps event’s rewards

This weekend, celebrities like Joe Mantegna, Robert Wagner and Michael Bolton will tee off at the 18th annual Frank Sinatra Countrywide Celebrity Invitational.

Music legend Smokey Robinson will croon for lucky guests at the annual gala, bringing back tunes of Motown's heyday.

But amid the parties, glitz and glamour, star-gazers should remember the critical importance of this landmark valley event.

Over the years, the star-studded golf tournament, known simply as "The Sinatra," has raised more than $10 million dollars for the Barbara Sinatra Children's Center, a nonprofit organization that counsels physically, sexually and emotionally abused children.

The Children's Center, at the Eisenhower Medical Center, offers a safe environment for children in need of therapy. Eight licensed clinicians counsel victims usually between six months and a year, depending on their case's severity.

"Helping one (abused) child helps all of the community," said executive director Susan Reynolds. "And it's the right thing to do."

She cited studies that showed untreated child abuse led to long-term problems, such as heart disease, cancer and an inability to hold steady jobs or healthy relationships.

Reynolds said the center has helped tens of thousands of children since the Sinatras founded it in 1986. An average of 198 distinct cases walk through its doors each month, and that number is growing.

"Everyone is very proud the population is increasing, but with that comes certain responsibilities," Reynolds said.

Clinicians encourage abused children to work through their feelings by drawing pictures and ascribing emotions to colors, among other methods.
The center's architecture, which Reynolds said Barbara Sinatra personally oversaw, is designed to sooth and calm young visitors.

The center includes east Riverside County's only children's forensic exam room. Children thought to be suffering ongoing sexual abuse can be examined non-invasively in a space filled with dolls and friendly animal paintings, instead of your typical emergency room.

The exams also are recorded so victims don't have to relive the trauma of their abuse in court.

Reynolds said the Sinatras have always been "avid volunteers." She added that Barbara, the center's founder and chairwoman, wanted to build a permanent counseling facility in the early 1980s after volunteering for a child therapy group that floated around local churches.

This year marks the center's 20th anniversary. These days the center sees more grandparents as legal guardians, Reynolds said. Many times they take over after abuse or neglect by parents, and the center offers a support group to help grandparents adjust.

"(Child abuse) crosses all social, economic and ethnic groups," she stressed.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Happy Birthday!

Happy 76th birthday, Mr. Wagner!