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Guardians of Children celebration draws a crowdTell North Platte what you think
Photo by Joe Chitwood
The balloon line was popular.
Photo by Joe Chitwood
Ryan Strickland and Nate Yancy
Photo by Joe Chitwood
Ellie Hampton gets a "tat" from Richard Montag
Photo by Joe Chitwood
Adelyn Maser on her four-wheeler
Photo by Joe Chitwood
Bike winner Shantell Cerny with Nate Yancy and Guardian President Mark Russell

At the D&N Event Center Saturday morning, some 400 children and parents arrived for the Guardian of the Children awareness and appreciation day.  

Along with carnival games, prizes, drawings and bicycle giveaways, parents and kids enjoyed free hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza, chips and drinks, courtesy of the Flatrock chapter of the Guardians of the Children.

A bike drawing was held every 15 minutes, with winners in three age groups. A total of 51 bikes were given out, most of which were donated by sponsors. Some were purchased by the club, club member Nate Yancy said.

Sixth grader Heather Johnson was excited to win a bike, and her mother said it was a blessing,

“I didn’t know where we were going to come up with money to buy her a new one so this is nice,” she said.

Guardian Vice President Ryan Strickland said the Flatrock chapter formed three years ago.

“We started because there was a need for advocates for abused or neglected children," he said. “We wanted to give them a voice and empower them and currently we have just over 30 members. To join you must have a motorcycle, love kids and pass a state and federal background check.”

The club helps kids that have been abused, and one of their goals is to educate the public and make them aware of potential abuse.

“Education is the key to reducing abuse,” Yancy said.

The group strives to attend district court cases that involve abused children.

“We feel that if a child has to get up on the stand and they look out across the courtroom and see all of us out there, they know we have their back and they know they don’t have anything to worry about,” Strickland said.

Mainly, the club sponsors activities with money they generate from fundraisers and donations. Recently, they contacted United Way to try to become a United Way partner agency.

“I am not sure how many kids we have been to court with, but it is too many. What we really want is to see a reduction in abuse and neglect,” Strickland said.

He said the club offers educational programs, such as a “little guardians” program.

“Two of our ladies teach them anti-bullying and educate them to recognize danger. They try to meet with the kids every month,” he said.

Even though Adelynn Maser is not quite 2-years-old, she climbed right on the four-wheeler she won.

“When I saw the look of excitement in the eyes of the very first bicycle winner, it brought tears to my eyes and I knew this is what it is all about and made all the effort worthwhile,” Yancy said.

The club decided to hold this special day for kids after visiting the Hutchinson, Kan. chapter last year and helping them.

“They have been doing this type of celebration for eight years, and when we helped out and saw the smiles on the kids’ faces, it inspired us and we knew it was for us,” Strickland said.

Yancy thanked the sponsors who made it possible.

“We have a list of them posted on the wall. Special thanks also goes to D&N for donating the building to us today and to all the volunteers helping out,” he said.

The Guardians of the Children organization continues to grow, with more than 50 chapters nationwide and a dozen more in Canada, Strickland said.

Strickland thanked the advocate organizations that set up booths.

“All these organizations here are all about kids and since April is National Child Abuse Awareness month,” he said. “We  hope to hold this more towards the first of the month next year and coordinate with all the groups, such as Bridge of Hope.”

Strickland encourages other bikers to consider becoming part of the club.

“They just need to have a passion for children and be willing to help out,” she said.

“Some people see our colors and think it is all about the patch, but that is not it,” Strickland said. “I could do this without it. In fact, as a biker, I always said I would never wear a patch on the back of my jacket.”

“That was true until this organization came along,” he said.

Volunteers said they served more than 400 hot dogs, 400 hamburgers and 15 pizzas during the celebration.

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The North Platte Bulletin - Published 4/30/2017
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