I admit Saturday was a first for me. I glided into a landing at the duck pond, where Eli’s Block Party Childhood Cancer Foundation sponsored Superhero Day. As I drifted in, my flight was flanked on one side by Superman, having just emerged from behind Founder’s Hall, which he presumably jumped over in a single bound. On the other side, Spiderman whizzed by. Then too, Wonder Woman and Batman, even tiny versions of all these and many more wandered around the happy festival. This event was to raise awareness of brain cancer and its devastating effects. Cancer can affect us all at the most unexpected times. We need the valiant efforts of Eli’s family, and a million others, to fight this plague.

I paid my respects to the ducks, who alone understand when I say, “Who.” All around me were joyous little ones accompanied by happy, laughing parents. Perhaps the most ingenious idea was the placement of two gigantic containers of Legos at ground level. Surrounding these were squadrons of little kids playing their hearts out. I asked one what he was making. “A spaceship,” he replied, holding up a handful of multicolored Legos. I was charmed. Then I visited a couple booths, and I now understand the immortal phrase, “It was the worst of times; it was the best of times.”

We would need to travel far to find far more serious, problematic times than those faced daily by the Limestone Child Advocacy Center (LCAC). At their booth, discussions of another side of a child’s life were possible. The LCAC is where police and the Department of Human Resources (DHR) bring children who might have been abused. There a patient, kind, professional welcoming staff greets them. A forensics interview is conducted by a professional who can determine, through eliciting facts from children in a developmentally appropriate manner, just what happened. From there, therapy is available as needed. To arrive at this, a whole program of community education is provided. From attorneys, to parents, to law enforcement, to judges, and especially teachers, all are educated on what to look for to identify possible abuse, be it physical, sexual, or neglect. Also, age-appropriate classes are offered regarding abuse and prevention in a Safety-First program given at schools. Best of all, LCAC works in an interdisciplinary approach. This includes DHR, Law Enforcement, mental health professionals, the DA, family advocates, as well as medical professionals. A more well-rounded group could not be hoped for. But they, like any valuable first rank responders, need our help. Remember, LCAC is where small voices can be heard. It is a safe place for children impacted by abuse to tell their story and receive free treatment. They’d be happy to come speak to your group about their life saving effort. Give them a call at (256) 998-5556.

The festival showed young people at their finest. It was the best of times. A dynamic, caring teacher, Monica Hobson, together with one of her science students, explained “Team 34.” This “varsity sport of the mind” (a superb name!) is designed to help young people discover how interesting and rewarding the life of engineers and researchers can be. We’re surround by NASA, Redstone Arsenal, and science aplenty in our Tennessee River Valley. This project allows high-school-aged young people to take part in robotic and similar challenges to solve common “problems” in six weeks. With only teacher-mentors and some basic equipment, they’ve designed working robots that can “shoot” basketballs into hoops, move objects and people, and generally astound and amaze their parents. With equipment and teacher support from the Limestone County School system, they rely on corporations and private donations, “To create a world where science and technology are celebrated … where young people dream of becoming science and technology heroes.” Our Limestone Robotics Booster Club can be reached at (256) 710-2941.

All in all, it was an heroic day. As I started to fly away, I was genuinely glad to know our future is in such good hands. From dedicated professionals who deal with some children’s terrible life-experiences to teachers who rejoice that young people are grasping ideas an older generation could only dream of, we have the infrastructure to make life happier for us all. Team 34’s mentor Monica reflected, as we parted. She said how proud she was of her students, some now returned as credentialed engineers and scientists to volunteer their help for a program that helped them so much as they came along life’s journey.

How hopeful that left me, knowing the Limestone Child Advocacy Center was also trying to make sure all our children get to take that pilgrimage to a rewarding life. Maybe they, too, will have a chance to be not victims, but superheroes.

John William Davis is a retired U.S. Army counterintelligence officer, civil servant and linguist. He was commissioned from Washington University in St. Louis in 1975. He entered counterintelligence and served some 37 years. A linguist, Davis learned foreign languages in each country in which he served. His published works include “Rainy Street Stories: Reflections on Secret Wars, Terrorism and Espionage” and “Around the Corner: Reflections on American Wars, Violence, Terrorism and Hope.”

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