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May 9, 2022

Champions for Children helps foster kids live their best lives

Courtesy Photo
Participants post at a pre-COVID Champions for Children 5K at Great Meadow.
By Sue Baldani
Warrenton Lifestyle

While children in foster care receive the basic necessities like housing, clothing and food, there often isn’t enough money for extras. Even birthday parties and gifts, which mean so much to kids, are sometimes out of reach. This is where Champions for Children (CFC) comes in.

In 2017, a group of local foster care workers wanted to raise money so children in foster care could have access to the same activities as their peers.

“Foster parents receive a stipend, but it’s not enough to cover swimming lessons, music classes, karate and other activities the children might be interested in,” said Gabrielle Winningham, one of the social workers with the Fauquier County Department of Social Services (DSS) in Warrenton who an integral part of this group. “So, we brainstormed ways in which to fundraise.”

One of her coworkers mentioned how popular 5K races were as a way to raise money.

“The first two years we held our 5K at Great Meadows and after the race, we had a Family Festival with local vendors like Orangetheory Fitness in Gainesville, a petting zoo, a moon bounce, and other activities,” she says. “And, 4P Foods in Fauquier donated all the fruit.”

Initially, they had close to 200 runners, but in subsequent years the numbers waned, and the last two years, because of COVID, they’ve done it virtually. This year, instead of a 5K and festival, they’re asking for direct donations to the Champions for Children fund.

“All of us on the Family Services team were very involved those first couple of years,” said Child Protective Services (CPS) supervisor Barbara Crowling. “It was a lot of work but also a lot of fun to see all the people come out and support it. We were able to distribute a lot of informational materials and had really good conversations with people about CPS and foster care. I hope that one day we can go back to that.”

The funds raised are used not only for birthday presents and fun activities, but also for much more dire needs.

“We had siblings in foster care whose mother died,” said Winningham. “She was in Arizona, and we were able to use those funds to send the kids to their mother’s funeral. We also bought them necklaces which contained her ashes and had her name on them.”

Champions for Children also raises awareness about child abuse.

Said Crowling, “Child Abuse Prevention Month (which just wrapped up in April) was started by a grandmother in the Tidewater area who lost her grandson to physical abuse. Last year, DSS was able to get permission from [County Administrator] Paul McCulla to put what we call a pinwheel garden in front of the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court. In previous years, we'd only been able to get permission to put it close to our office, and not everybody comes close to our office, so it was nice to be able to have it there.”

She said they generally receive 25-plus calls a month about possible cases of child abuse. “You don't have to give your name and even if you do, it's protected, and we can talk about a situation that you have concerns about.”

Right now they have 43 kids in foster care, and foster homes are always needed.

“They need a safe, comfortable home to go to with a family that's willing to take them in, provide support and encouragement and treat them like one of their own,” said Crowling. “Overall, we hear a lot of good feedback from our foster parents. It's a lot of work, and a lot of heartache, but it can be really rewarding.”

About eight months ago, Winningham began doing resource coordinating, assisting in foster parent training and handling all the foster home approvals.

“Our next training begins on May 18,” she said. “It's five consecutive weeks, and it's all virtual.”

To support Champions for Children, Winningham said people can make a donation to DSS with a notation that it should be directed to Champions for Children. For organizations, corporations and businesses, they can send out sponsorship packets that explain the various levels of giving.

***

To find out more about CFC, Child Abuse Prevention Month and about becoming a foster parent, contact Gabrielle Winningham at 540-422-8433 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Local Sponsors

-4PFoods
-Barrel Oak Winery
-Carmen Rivera State Farm
-Country Chevrolet
-Fauquier Cops for Children
-Fauquier Health
-Hallmark Youthcare
-Law Offices of Kimberly Chadwick
-Law Offices of Marie Washington
-LCI Landscaping & Excavation
-Mark B. Williams & Associates
-Piedmont Fine Properties
-Stribling Orchard
-UVA Community Credit Union
-VA Farm Bureau
-Warrenton Toyota
-Woodside Pediatrics
-Youth For Tomorrow

This article originally appeared in the April 2022 issue of Warrenton Lifestyle. Read the issue here.

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