CASA of Bradley County announced its third annual Moonlight Walk in memory of Melisha Gibson.
Organizers said, "It seems like yesterday we were planning the first one. Since we opened in 2008 and started the walk in 2010, the community has been there with us every step of the way in our fight against child abuse and neglect."
The walk will start at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 11, at the Greenway on Raider Drive. The walk is approximately one mile long. Check in begins at 6:30 p.m.
"Melisha Morganna Gibson was four years old in October of 1976 when she died a tragic death by child abuse," organizers said. "The community of Cleveland, was shocked, appalled and deeply saddened that this could happen in such a close-knit community. The case immediately gained the attention from national television and newswire services. The New Yorker Magazine also covered the story. The community quickly took action and within months the child abuse laws in the State of Tennessee and the rest of the nation changed. Everyone who was around in Cleveland in 1976 remembers the death of little Melisha Gibson."
CASA is organizing a walk in Melisha Gibson’s honor so that her short life can be remembered and in the hope that the laws of child abuse will continue to become better and stronger because of her.
"In 1976, the court system was much different than it is today; no one was able to be that voice for Melisha in court. Today, we are fortunate to have CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) of Bradley County to represent the best interest of abused and neglected children in the courts. CASA would like to honor Melisha Gibson with our 3rd Annual Light of Hope Moonlight Walk."
The CASA program trains volunteers from the community. After training, the volunteer is appointed by a juvenile court judge to investigate and determine the needs of abused and neglected children who are petitioned into the court system. The CASA volunteer makes independent recommendations to the court for services, which focus on the needs of the child and advocates for a permanent and safe home for each child within the shortest time possible. Since 2008, CASA of Bradley County has been the voice for over 300 children in the court system.
"Every year, thousands of children in Tennessee are involved in courts cases although not one of them committed a single crime. Many of these children are the victims of child abuse, abandonment or neglect. They feel betrayed, alone, and afraid. Some face life threatening circumstances at home, others are ignored and neglected by the very people who should care most about them. These children are thrust into a judicial system that is overwhelming even to many adults. Too often, their small voices go unheard by the courts and state agencies. These children desperately need a caring, compassionate person who will advocate solely for them – for their safety, security, and happiness."