Child abuse rates are 10 times that of cancer, yet the Pediatric Resource Center and the services that it provides for abused and neglected children are not widely known, said Mike Graham, the organization's board president.
Graham, of East Peoria, is the financial consultant and senior vice president at John Graham and Associates in East Peoria. He said he became involved with the Pediatric Resource Center in 2009 when a friend recommended him.
Prior to this time, Graham had never heard of the Pediatric Resource Center.
Graham said he thinks the lack of exposure of the organization may be because of the sensitive topic of child abuse.
"I think that most people haven't heard of this organization. It is a very sensitive crime that's often taken place. ... We found it difficult to get publicity to really promote the Pediatric Resource Center because of the personal and sensitive and criminal nature to what happens often," Graham said.
According to information on the organization's website, the Pediatric Resource Center is a community service program of the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria located at 530 N.E. Glen Oak, Peoria.
"The PRC provides direct services to suspected child victims of physical abuse, sexual abuse and neglect in a child-friendly manner and setting. Medical and social service staff also provide adjunct services to parents, guardians and caretakers. Additionally, they work in collaboration with the many agencies and systems that are involved in a child abuse case. The PRC is affiliated with the Children's Hospital of Illinois at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center, and is located on the hospital's campus," the website states.
Graham, who has two young boys, said he thinks that children are precious.
"They need to be able to be children and have a safe and secure upbringing," he said. "My heart goes out to children who can't live in that safe and secure world and I want to help them."
Graham wants to help raise awareness and money for the organization. He said they are having their major annual fundraiser "Harvesting Hope" Nov. 2 at the Country Club of Peoria. The event is sponsored by OSF Saint Francis Medical Center.
The PRC has a small staff consisting of a medical director, three case coordinators, two staff physicians and an advanced practice nurse, as well as three support staff.
The operating budget is $852,905 (FY13).
Channing Petrak is the medical director. She said that insurance is billed for medical services.
"Anything that is not covered by insurance is written off. In other words we don't try to collect what is not covered. We feel strongly that families should not be burdened when they are already stressed and trying to cope with child abuse," Petrak said. "We are unable to cover the cost of outpatient laboratory studies, which can be costly, but will work with the families to minimize the cost as much as possible. We do try to assist families with navigating the Crime Victims Compensation Program when applicable."
Page 2 of 2 - Graham said they serve about two kids a day within a 50 county radius, including Tazewell, Woodford and Peoria.
"There's more that we're not serving. There's more that don't come for help because they don't know where to get help," he said.
Even a lot of the medical community do not fully utilize the PRC, Graham said.
"We're the specialist. Our agency is the best at this. We need to raise funds. We need to be not dependent on the state of Illinois. We need to be independently viable," Graham said.
The PRC is largely funded (66 percent) by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services through regional and statewide contracts.
But 16 percent comes from community donations, which Graham said is important.
"The more you hear about this stuff, the more you become engaged," he said.
Even parents and grandparents of children who have been abused get involved with the PRC.
"They want to be involved in our fundraisers or our public awareness events. We've had grandparents come and speak at our fall fundraiser about what happened to their grandchild who has shaken baby syndrome,
Last year at the PRC's Peoria Chief's fundraiser, two young girls came to help raise awareness. The girls had been sexually abused.
"Think of how much bravery to stand in front of 8,000 people at a Chief's game as a 10- or 12-year-old girl and say 'I've been sexually abused' because they want to raise awareness," Graham said.
Outside of these brave people who step forward, it is difficult to raise awareness because of the sensitive nature of the abuse and often times a "perceived shame," Graham said.
"We can't put a picture of an abused child on a billboard. It's not like some of the other nonprofits," Graham said.
This year is the 20th anniversary of the PRC, which also has satellite clinics in Galesburg and LaSalle-Peru. Over the 20 years, the PRC has evaluated 5,800 children.
The upcoming fundraiser will help keep staff and purchase equipment. Graham said they are in need of a colposcope, a $10,000 piece of equipment that is used in exams. The colposcope they currently have is breaking down.
"We have more kids that need our help. If we had more resources, we could help more kids basically," he said.
The Harvesting Hope fundraiser at 6 p.m. Saturday will feature live music, hors d'oeuvres, a silent and live auction at the Country Club of Peoria. For ticket information, call 624-9595.
"It is probably 85 percent of our fundraising efforts," Graham said.
For more information about the PRC, call 624-9595 or visit www.pediatricresourcecenter.org.