At 7 this evening, glow sticks and candles will be lit for the fourth annual Melisha Gibson “Light of Hope Moonlight Walk,” which will be held on the Greenway near Cleveland High School.
Hundreds of participants are expected to take part in CASA of Bradley County’s most humbling, yet rewarding event, according to Suzanne Wisdom, executive director of CASA of Bradley County and CASA of Polk County.
CASA, short for Court Appointed Child Advocate, is a child’s voice in the court system.
In 1976, Melisha Gibson didn’t have a voice when it came to her welfare in an abusive home.
The 4-year-old died as the result of abusive parents. She had been forced to march, while being struck in the back with a baseball bat and forced to drink hot sauce, the police report said. She asked for water, but it wasn’t in Ronald Maddux’s plan for his stepdaughter.
According to Wisdom, the Moonlight Walk was established as a memorial event in Melisha’s honor and a fund-raiser for CASA.
CASA, which represents abused children in the court system, was introduced into Bradley County in 2008. The organization operates through grants and community including private funding and fundraising activities, according to Wisdom.
“CASA is a voice for children of abuse, and gets them out of an abusive environment if necessary,” Wisdom said.
Changes were made nationwide in child abuse reporting to authorities, after the Melisah Gibson’s story made headlines across the country.
“The Melisha Gibson ‘Light of Hope’ Moonlight Walk is held in honor of her short life. Her story is one of Bradley County’s prolific tragedies in the sense that laws were changed. It was sad that it took a child of abuse losing their life to raise eyebrows of lawmakers to make these changes,” said Wisdom earlier this week.
The number of children caught up in the court system grows as the Bradley County area increases in population.
More than 170 children now have volunteer advocates representing them in Bradley and Polk County courtrooms.
CASA of Bradley County is a part of the Ocoee Regional Family Advocates and also oversees the CASA of Polk County program.
Walkers will begin at the Greenway near Raider Drive, proceed to the Church of God Prayer Garden, then return to the starting point.
A memorial service and the philosophy behind CASA and the walk will also be held prior to the beginning of events.
All members of the community are encouraged to come join in the memorial.
“We can always use an extra hand at CASA of Bradley or CASA of Polk,” Wisdom said.
“Anyone wanting to be an advocate for one of our most precious resources can do so by contacting our office at 716-1844,” she added.