By KAYE THORNBRUGH
It takes a village.
Last week, representatives from Silverwood presented a check for $100,000 to Children’s Village, a residential home for children in need of a safe haven from abuse, neglect or severe family crisis.
Only about 5 percent of the annual operating budget comes from the state, so Silverwood’s annual donation makes a big difference.
“If we didn’t have this level of support, I don’t know how long we’d be in existence,” said Children’s Village CEO Mark Wilson. “It enables us to fulfill our mission and care for these children.”
When “robbers” board Steam Train No. 7 at Silverwood, passengers dig deep into their pockets and purses, knowing that whatever money they hand over will be donated to charity.
Chris Tortora, who plays Marshal Jack, the train’s lawman, came in character to help present the check. He’s passionate about raising money for Children’s Village.
“Here are the most abused children in our community,” he said. “(Children’s Village) is the thin line that stands before these children and says, ‘No, we’re going to take care of these kids until the parents can.’”
Each year since he started portraying Marshal Jack in 2012, he has made it his mission to raise more money than the year before. And he has been successful: More than 80 percent of the money contributed by Silverwood this year came from guest donations, while the rest was donated by Silverwood owners Gary and Jeanne Norton.
“This is a Silverwood donation, but it wouldn’t be possible without all the guests who come to our park,” said Jordan Carter, Silverwood marketing director. “They’ve been increasingly generous every year.”
While some kids are placed at Children’s Village after parental rights have been removed, some parents surrender their children voluntarily. Wilson said these parents are often struggling with homelessness, domestic violence, addiction, or mental illness. They retain their parental rights, and Children’s Village looks after their kids at no cost while the parents get back on their feet.
Wilson recalled a mother who was struggling with addiction but knew she had to find a safe place for her children. After bringing her kids to Children’s Village, she was able to get the help she needed. Now she has been sober for two years and is living with her kids in a place of her own.
“Without Children’s Village to care for her children, she couldn’t care for herself,” he said.