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.”
Colorado Child Abuse Hotline 1-844-CO4-KIDS