By Abbey Doyle
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. —
In only two weeks, the community of Anderson exceeded the goal of getting 1,000 photos with 10 special blankets on to Community Hospital Anderson’s Facebook page.
More than 1,200 photos were submitted, with more coming in.
More than $2,500 was raised to completely fund A Thread of Hope, a social media campaign raising money to purchase robes for the nearly 70 children who are treated at the Madison County Sexual Assault Treatment Center of Community Hospital.
The second goal of the project was to raise awareness of sexual violence, said Michele Hockwalt, Community’s social media coordinator.
Ten blankets made by Project Linus and given to each child who comes to the center were handed out Jan. 15 with instructions about the campaign sewn on them with “a thread of hope.”
People were asked to take a picture of themselves or others holding the blanket and send the photo in to Community to be posted on Facebook. Then participants were to pass the blanket on to the next person they saw.
For every photo posted or e-mailed, Community donated $1 up to $1,000. Also, Tim Thompson Insurance, Bild & Company and the Anderson Noon Exchange Club each donated $1 for the first 500 photos.
So the first 1,000 photos raised $2,500, and even more donations have come into the center.
“The success far exceeded any expectation I had,” said Holly Renz, treatment center program director and certified pediatric Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner. “When you stop and think about it, every fourth picture on Facebook represents a picture of a sexual violence victim. This project made it real and interactive.”
In addition to fully funding the project, she said it helped begin frank conversations about sexual abuse and what the community can do to be more proactive and curb — and maybe even eradicate — sexual abuse.
“I am sure this is only the beginning of a movement to move sexual abuse out of this community once and for all,” Renz said.
The blankets will continue to circulate, Hockwalt said, while maintaining the conversation about sexual violence, especially against children.
“The best case scenario is that the blankets will cross paths with a victim and give them the courage to step forward and report what happened to them knowing that there are people there to support them,” she said. “Or maybe the blanket will find someone who needs support and comfort them.”
In addition to being passed from individual to individual, many blankets made their way to large events such as an Anderson High School basketball game.
Hockwalt said she was “blown away” by the project’s success.
“We provided people an opportunity to give back in a very simple way,” she said.
The program went so well in Madison County that one sponsor, the Florida-based Bild & Company, wants to do the campaign there.
Jenn Cox, vice president of operations at Bild & Company, said because the business is a “virtual company” the organization supports missions throughout the country where team members are based. And this one, Cox said, has special meaning because her foster daughter has been helped by the center.
“I’ve been personally touched by what they do,” she said. “I’ve seen what they can do and what a difference they can make.”
Another sponsor, Tim Thompson, said he was happy to support the treatment center and was surprised at the overwhelming response to A Thread of Hope.
“This is something that is helping those that can’t help themselves,” Thompson said. “These robes can provide a little more comfort in a really vulnerable and difficult situation.”
Noon Exchange Club president Elizabeth Harpe said Exchange members were “thrilled” to see how the entire community embraced the project.
“Supporting this amazing campaign seemed like a natural fit for the Noon Exchange Club with child abuse prevention being one of our four pillars of focus for our community,” she said. “Campaigns like A Thread of Hope help raise awareness, so that we all can become advocates for the children in our community.”
Find Abbey Doyle on Facebook and @heraldbulletin on Twitter, or call 640-4805.