Group runs to raise money to benefit Crisis Nursery

Their name may be a cheesy rip-off from television's longest-running crime series, but there's nothing inferior about the efforts of Team Law and Order.

Now in its fourth year of running the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon for a cause other than an endorphin high, the team founded by a lawyer and a cop — (Get it? Law and Order!) — has raised several thousand dollars for the Crisis Nursery of Champaign County.

Rantoul police sergeant "Sean Arie and I founded Team Law and Order. We were both on the board of directors of Crisis Nursery. I'm still on the board but Sean isn't," said Adam Dill, an assistant state's attorney for Champaign County.

In his 10 years of prosecuting criminals, Dill has seen many children who are either victims of actual physical abuse or the environments into which they've been born.

"What's frustrating about our jobs is we are stuck reacting after it's happened. That's important work, but with Crisis Nursery, it gives us a chance to be proactive and to try to prevent child abuse before it happens," said Dill, 35, a father of three.

Billing itself as an "island of safety," the nursery in Urbana provides 24-hour emergency care at no charge for children and their parents in a crisis. After a crisis passes, the staff tries to help parents find ways to strengthen their family.

With cuts in state funding and the general downturn in the economy, Crisis Nursery Director Stephanie Record said every dollar is critical to keeping the nursery open and staffed around the clock.

Since opening in 1984, the nursery has served more than 13,000 children. Its annual cash budget runs about $890,000. In-kind donations from Provena Covenant Medical Center and the community push that figure to closer to $1.4 million. And of that, about 87 percent goes toward salaries and benefits. More than 900 volunteers provided almost 19,000 hours of support to the nursery last year, Record said.

"It is so much more than free child care," Dill said. "They do extensive follow-up with clients, like parenting classes and help finding employment so families in crisis can get out of the crisis situations."

"That's why we're very passionate about it. If you prevent one kid from being abused, the running is worth it," said Dill, who's been distance running about four years.

As a police officer for 19 years in Rantoul, Arie has handled his fair share of domestic fights where children need immediate protection.

"We had one situation where the mother was battered and had to go to the hospital, and we arrested dad and we needed somewhere for the child to go," he said.

"It's a 24-hour organization so it's great for us, not necessarily just for the child care, but for all the other things they do. They have programs to give people the proper tools like parenting skills," Arie said.

Fellow Rantoul police Sgt. Marcus Beach recalled a situation he was involved in where a family was in a motor vehicle accident that left one of their three children critically injured. While the parents were at the hospital for almost three days with their 2-year-old child, who later died, the other two children received care at the Crisis Nursery.

"I see the great things they do. I see the positive effects it has," said Beach, 36, a father of five who recently assumed Arie's spot on the board of directors.

Assistant State's Attorney Stephanie Weber, 35, has handled both juvenile abuse and neglect and delinquency cases in her seven years as a prosecutor in Champaign County. She's seen how Crisis Nursery helps parents required by the court to get services such as a GED or counseling.

"I saw how much we were asking of them. It became apparent to me how they needed a break. The women that were getting it done, I marvel at their ability to balance it all. If they don't have a husband or support, what are they going to do?" she said.

Justin Bouse, a Rantoul police sergeant, said he's never been to the nursery but has heard fellow officers talk about it.

"I just thought it sounded like a good place and realized how much money it takes to run these organizations," said Bouse, 33, a 10-year veteran of the Rantoul police department and father of two.

Bouse, Arie and Dill ran the full marathon Saturday while their fellow team members ran the shorter courses Friday and Saturday.

While the agency receiving the benefits of their lung and leg power is serious, the runners are not necessarily so — on the course, that is.

Arie, who has been running marathons for 14 years, including the Boston Marathon, credits Dill for coming up with "the nonsense" affiliated with Team Law and Order. For instance, Dill wore a suit coat and tie during a previous marathon.

And some team members, like Assistant State's Attorney Lindsey Clark, readily admitted that training for the marathon took a back seat to work and family demands. But less than perfect physicality was not about to deter the 33-year-old mother of two from running.

Record said Team Law and Order raised about $10,000 in its first three years and set a target of $7,500 this year.

Not bad, considering the team started with two.

"We've talked about adding Neighborhood Watch groups to add civilians," Dill said. "When Sean and I started, we had no idea it would grow to this. I'm very proud of that. It's something we plan to keep doing because we're so passionate about this cause."

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