Generosity boosts playroom at children's center

Generosity boosts playroom at children's center

When families walk into the Children's Advocacy Center of Champaign County, it's often the worst day of their child's life.

The center provides a safe place where authorities can interview abused children with as little trauma as possible. Having a toy to play with, or a good book to read, can make that just a little easier.

"They come in with their shoulders hunched, and they get a toy and you just see them lift up," said Executive Director Adelaide Aime.

The center got a bigger-than-expected boost for its recent playroom renovation after publicity about one family's donation to the agency.

The family of Jayne Lynch, 55, of Fairmount, who died in November, asked that donations in her honor go to the advocacy center. Ms. Lynch had become an ardent supporter of the center after her granddaughter, 10-month-old Macey Deuwer, died in 2004 from being shaken by her mother's then-boyfriend.

After consulting with the family, Aime decided to put the money toward the playroom project. The memorials generated about $700, and more donations poured in after a mailing to the center's donors. The News-Gazette published a story about the project in January and "the phone rang off the hook," Aime said.

In all, donors contributed $2,700 in cash — and more in acts of kindness. Many wrote notes saying, "I'm doing this for the kids," Aime said.

A retired painter and his grandson called to offer their painting services for free. A Department of Children and Family Services employee, Sheree Foley, volunteered to buy the paint. The Mahomet Professional Women's Club sent in money to buy ethnic dolls.

One anonymous donor gave "many, many hundreds of dollars" to pay for the reading corner, complete with pillows, a rug and new shelves full of books.

The center bought several more sturdy shelves with storage bins for Duplo blocks, trucks, games and puzzles; a play rug with a city street map on it; a few new toys; and two club chairs for parents.

Even the teen-agers like the room, Aime said, often playing with the toy kitchen.

"I think it reminds them of a simpler time in their life," she said.

Jayne Lynch's sister, Joni Markel of Sidell, is thrilled by the donations, though she has yet to see the finished product.

"I'm preparing myself. I know I'm going to get emotional," Markel said. "Even now as I'm talking about it, I just fill up with tears."

Ms. Lynch "just loved children," Markel said, and even when illness limited her mobility she still managed to attend a few of the Champions for Children walks and help out at the center.

"My sister would just be so honored to have this safe place, this safe room for the kids to go. It just really warms our hearts."

Children's Advocacy Center open house

What: Open house for the newly refurbished playroom funded by donors

When: 4 to 7 p.m. May 27, with a ribbon-cutting at 5 p.m.

Where: 201 W. Kenyon Road, Suite 1, C