The 3rd annual Melisha Gibson “Light of Hope” Moonlight Walk will be held Oct. 11, beginning at 7 p.m., on the Cleveland/Bradley County Greenway.
“CASA of Bradley County is so proud to announce our 3rd Annual Moonlight Walk for Melisha Gibson. It seems like yesterday we were planning the first one. The community has been there with us every step of the way in our fight against child abuse and neglect,” Suzanne Wisdom, executive director for CASA.
CASA — Court Appointed Special Advocates, trains volunteers to be a voice for the abused or neglected child in the court system.
“Without a CASA volunteer, these children are vulnerable to falling through the cracks of the system,” Wisdom said.
CASAs giveS the child a voice in court, according to Wisdom.
Melisha Gibson was a victim of child abuse.
For three days, beginning on Oct. 10, 1976, Melisha was made to march around the room by her stepfather. Investigators called it a “death march.”
Gibson died Oct. 13, 1976, and the case made national headlines. Advocates against child abuse were able to get child abuse reporting laws changed not only in Tennessee, but many other states.
She was four years-old. Her mother and father both died in prison after being convicted regarding her death.
The tragedy was a “black eye” on our community, according to Wisdom.
“We (CASA volunteers) provide hope to children who may be caught in an abusive family relationship. We know Melisha’s death was devastating for our community and that’s why we honor her memory and strive to protect our children from abuse,” Wisdom said.
After the Banner published a series of stories in 2009, about Melisha’s short life and what followed regarding law changes, Wisdom decided to honor the child’s memory and establish the “Light of Hope” walk.
“Give a child a voice,” said Wisdom.
CASA was introduced into Bradley County in 2008. The organization operates through grants and community funding including private funding and fundraising activities, according to Wisdom.
CASA of Bradley County is now expanding its reach into Polk County and the board of directors is seeking CASA volunteers to aid in that program.
Wisdom said a number of churches, civic organizations and school clubs have committed to participating in the Light of Hope Moonlight Walk which is held along the greenway.
The numbers have grown from 350 walkers to more than 500 in 2011.
For additional information, contact Wisdom at CASA of Bradley County at 716-1844 or e-mail to suzannewisdom @aol.com.