The inaugural Melisha Gibson “Light of Hope” Moonlight Walk will be held Thurday at 6 p.m.
“We are extremely pleased with the response of the community,” said Suzanne Wisdom, director of CASA.
Melisha Gibson was killed by her stepfather and mother.
Her lifeless body was found just before 8 on the morning of Oct. 13, 1976.
Bradley County Sheriff Jim Ruth, then a detective sergeant at the Cleveland Police Department, was the first law enforcement officer to arrive at the residence in south Cleveland 34 years ago. Ruth recalls finding Melisha after entering the home, and says it is one day he will never forget.
Ruth passed a letter to deputies stating his memory of that day is “one that he hopes no officer will ever have to experience.”
Melisha had been removed from her home on at least one prior occasion but returned by the Tennessee Department of Human Services and Bradley County Human Services.
Agencies such as CASA were not around when Ronald and Wanda Maddux reportedly made 4-year-old Melisha walk in circles, beating her and forcing her to drink hot sauce.
Since the first organizational meeting of CASA officials, much has been put into place.
Clergy and speakers have been arranged, T-shirts, commemorative wrist bands and pink Glo-sticks have been ordered.
Walkers will begin the trek on the Bradley County Greenway near Cleveland High School.
The walkers will carry bright pink Glo-sticks.
The lights, wrist bands and shirts are finished in hot pink and black, colors relevant to Melisha’s short and tragic life.
Pink is representative of the little girl’s bright flowers which decorate her grave in Sunset Memorial Gardens. The black represents the darker times of her life and ultimately the last days when she endured so much.
After an intense investigation, laws regarding child abuse and its reporting were changed, additional personnel was hired by the state Human Services and those changes swept across the country, not just locally, according to accounts.
“CASA provides a voice for children of abuse,” said Wisdom.
Wisdom invites everyone to take part in this inaugural event.