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May 23, 2014
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Philadelphia Children’s Alliance 2014 Bear Affair
by Lissa Alicia

Philadelphia Children’s Alliance  2014 Bear Affair

The Philadelphia Children’s Alliance (PCA) may be one of the city's most outstanding non-profit organizations. On Thursday, May 1st, The Crystal Tea Room was home to the PCA Bear Affair.

The trauma that over 2,400 Philly children face during and after sexual abuse is unimaginable to most. This experience is intensified if the child ends up having to recount their abuse numerous times to detectives in a gloomy precinct. The PCA is an organization that encourages child victims of sexual abuse to speak to authorities without stepping foot into a police station. Instead, the PCA building located in the heart of North Philadelphia, maintains a warm and friendly environment through kid-friendly aesthetics and welcoming staff.

Upon entering the facility, children are given a teddy bear; a simple gesture that creates a foundation of trust and comfort. In addition to the cheery decor and a collection of toys, the organization finds some of the kindest and well-trained individuals to encourage the child to open up about their tragedy, thus helping PCA help them.

There is nothing easy about listening to a child retell the horrors of sexual abuse and exploitation, but the staff at PCA are dedicated to ensuring that these children begin their healing in the easiest way possible.

“Sometimes when there are allegations where abuse is prevalent and there is evidence of abuse and a child is not ready to disclose, it can be frustrating because we want to make sure that the child is safe. If the adult is close like a parent and a family member, and they don't disclose, then we can’t take any action.”, Says PCA Forensic Investigator, Christian Dozier.

Philadelphia Children’s Alliance  2014 Bear Affair500 people gathered in the ornate ballroom located just inches from City Hall, to raise thousands of dollars to help support the priceless work that the PCA does on the daily bases. Five-star restaurant gift cards, high end beauty products and Phillies box tickets were just a few of the prizes for both the live and silent auctions. Even Rita’s Water Ice got in on the philanthropist action. Clearly, there was something for even the most modest of donors.

Between the live musical performances of the Slicked Up 9s and auction announcements, Peggy Caroll-Henry; adult survivor of child sexual abuse spoke about the healing process.

“You never really shed it, the voices are quieter though. Those negative, ugly, yucky, scary voices get quieter and you deal with it better. That’s the thing with sexual abuse or any kind of abuse- it comes again. It comes up again.”

Music was and still is a major part of Caroll-Henry’s healing.

“I've been writing sad songs since I was 5. Singing since I was 4. I have been writing my entire life. The MECA (Musicians Empowering Children of Abuse) Music Heals project started with a song in particular about my abuse; a therapy session I had where I allowed myself to get angry at my perpetrator. Musis has been going on for many years and hopefully the rest of my life.” MECA Music Heals is an organization that Caroll-Henry, created to help promote catharsis in children who are victims of sexual abuse victims through relatable music.

“We actually put together a compilation CD of local Philly artists, all these awesome Philly artists. They either wrote a song about abuse, healing, surviving, or overcoming things. We did a concert for PCA last fall and we raised money for them and we are hoping to do another concert and succession of concerts to raise money for this amazing organization. Philadelphia Children’s Alliance, they are amazing.”

Every year the PCA help thousands of children fight back against all kinds of sexual abuse by creating a friendly place to speak about their trying experience, without the actual pressure of being in a police station or hectic ER.

If you are interested in donating to the Philadelphia Children's Alliance or are in need of their services please visit their website.

Photography by Antwain Melvin Photography