The seventh edition of Walk a Mile for a Child was held under miserable conditions on Saturday morning at the Justice Center.
But the dark skies, cold winds and pounding rain were no match for the enthusiasm of Dala’s Blue Angels and the more than 200 members of the community who came out to take part in the walk and 5K run.
Jim Egan, the Chief Judge of the Oregon Court of Appeals, was one of the featured speakers at the event and he congratulated those who attended for their fortitude.
“I’d like to thank Dala and Dala’s Blue Angels for coming today and for organizing this great event. I don’t know if it is the Blue Angels, the Blue Ducks or the Blue Beavers, because it is raining like hell out here,” Egan said.
Dala’s Blue Angels was founded by Dala Johnson, a community policing officer with the Lebanon Police Department, to support the local fight against child abuse and neglect. The annual walk is one of the organization’s primary fundraisers, with proceeds supporting the work of the ABC House, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), Family Tree Relief Nursery and Linn County CAN.
“Last year, we gave almost $27,000 to the ABC House and we’re right at it again this year, I think we’re a little bit above, financially, where we started last year,” Johnson said.
The event began with the 5K run followed a few minutes by the walk. The walkers were led by Johnson and her Dani Marlow, who together held the Dala’s Blue Angels banner.
After the walk was completed, participants huddled under rain tents to listen to the speakers. Officer David Dominy sang the national anthem as the flag was presented by Lebanon Police Department cadets. Mayor Paul Aziz then read a proclamation recognizing the event.
Lebanon Police Chief Frank Stevenson, who ran in the 5K, honored Johnson for her commitment to the cause.
“Without her, this would never happen. She’s the leading, driving force behind it. Her and her Blue Angels,” Stevenson said.
Jennifer Gilmore-Robinson, the executive director of the ABC House, began her brief speech with a word of thanks.
“We are one of several agencies that are supported by the intrepid Dala and her wonderful Blue Angels. I just want to say a quick thank you to them and thank you to the Lebanon Police Department for all of their hard work and to all of you for showing up today.”
Several of the speakers noted the importance of public education in combatting child abuse.
“Children rely on others to be their voice. That’s what today is about. Educate yourself by knowing about child abuse and neglect,” Johnson said.
Gilmore-Robinson echoed that thought.
“Education is the silver bullet. This problem, this epidemic of child abuse, is not going to end until we as a community get educated and decide that it’s going to end and take the steps to do it,” Gilmore-Robinson said.
Ronda Vinson, one of the Blue Angels who helped at the event, first started working with the organization four years ago. She was drawn to the Blue Angels by her own personal experience.
“If I can do one thing to stop a child from going through what I did, it’s worth every moment of it,” Vinson said. “We have to be the voice they don’t have.”
Vinson was posted at the starting line of the 5K and walk, braving the weather along with the participants. Her motto, which was repeated by several of the Blue Angels, was simple.
“Child abuse doesn’t stop because of the weather and neither does our efforts,” Vinson said.