River Bridge Promotes Hope & Healing: Reel It In! Fishing Derby Raises Funds & Awareness
For a child who has experienced abuse, they need only tell their
story once—to a compassionate listener in a safe, peaceful and home-like environment—to
begin the healing process.
Located in Glenwood Springs, River Bridge Regional Center is
a child advocacy nonprofit that has served nearly 2,000 children and 3,000 non-offending
family members in Garfield, Pitkin, Eagle and Rio Blanco counties since its
inception in 2007.
“It can be very scary for a child to have to go to a police
station interview room. Strangers can add to their trauma,” says Mary Cloud,
assistant director of River Bridge. “Our environment is colorful, full of toys
and smiling, approachable people.”
After a session with a highly trained forensic interviewer,
a multidisciplinary team springs into action. Medical personnel, prosecutors,
law enforcement, victim advocates, child protection workers and mental health professionals
each do their part, in a highly collaborative way, to help rebuild the life of
an abused child.
Its central location in Colorado and the growing volume of clients
served between Frisco and Grand Junction necessitated an expansion of River Bridge’s
facility. River Bridge is in its third year of a five-year capital campaign
called Bridge to Their Futures to
fund the expansion of their campus.
In 2020, the COVID environment has brought about big changes
that diminish both the visibility of child abuse, as well as the opportunity to
raise money and awareness for their important work.
“Our community outreach targets schools, dental offices,
camps and other nonprofits to emphasize the importance of mandatory reporting
and how to spot child abuse,” says Cloud.
“Now, kids are out of school and not in front of teachers, coaches,
dance classes, church and other social interactions.”
She adds that typically teachers and coaches make up 40
percent of reporters. This year, calls to the Colorado Child Abuse Hotline have
decreased by 50 percent.
For the past eight years the organization has hosted a gala
that has historically raised around $40,000 annually. In fall 2020, River
Bridge created an entirely new fundraiser. The virtual fishing derby Reel It In! Fish for a Cause was an inventive
new way to raise both funds and awareness.
“It speaks to the ingenuity and resourcefulness of this
organization,” says John Stelzriede, president of Alpine Bank Glenwood Springs and
River Bridge board member. “The financial need remains all 12 months of the
year. But so long as there is work to do on behalf of kids in our communities,
the dedicated team at River Bridge will innovate and persevere.”