Tennessee’s First Lady Andrea Conte visited the New Hope Children’s Advocacy Center recently to say farewell and to congratulate Blount Today for a state-wide award the newspaper won for coverage of children’s issues and the advocacy center.
Children’s advocacy centers have long been a priority for Conte. In 2004, the governor’s wife walked across the state, stopping along the way at children’s advocacy centers as she raised more than $1.4 million to promote the prevention of child abuse.
“In 2004, you walked across the state, and it was very powerful,” said New Hope board chair Rick Shepard in his welcome of Conte.
New Hope board member Tim Kumes told the first lady of the inspiration her walk provided for him, leading to New Hope’s first annual “Ask me why I’m….” awareness and fundraising campaign this fall. The event, said Kumes, was an offshoot of Conte’s efforts to raise money and awareness about the problem of child abuse and sexual crimes against children. It culminated in a walk/run/ride from the Great Smoky Mountains to the Blount County Courthouse.
New Hope Executive Director Trudy Hughes thanked Kumes for his efforts. “I think Tim has happened along a unique way to spread our mission,” she said.
On hand to receive an award they were not able to pick up at Children’s Advocacy Day in Nashville were team members from Blount Today. Hughes said that each year the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth recognizes a small and large media statewide for helping children’s advocacy centers get the word out about child abuse. The center nominated Blount Today, and the newspaper won the award. Hughes said Blount Today gives readers an accurate picture of activities in the community and of events connected to the Children’s Advocacy Center.
“If you want to know what’s going in Blount County, it’s in Blount Today,” said Hughes. “Either what is going to happen or what has happened is in the paper. Sherri and her staff have advanced our message.”
Sherri Gardner Howell, publisher of Blount Today, thanked Hughes for the nomination. “I think the best awards in the world are those you are fortunate enough to receive for doing what you should be doing,” she said. “Blount Today’s mission is to serve the community, and we are thrilled with this prestigious recognition. There is no more distinguished honor in the world than to be called an advocate for children.”
Conte shared a story about when she made her walk across the state to raise money and awareness for children’s advocacy centers. She said that as she spoke at schools across the state about how the centers were a safe place for children who had been abused, one story stuck in her mind.
“I visited 100 schools, and I started to see students with signs for children’s advocacy centers. In one school, I was coming through the hallway, and one little boy came up to me, reached out and dropped little coins in my hand. H e said that was all he had in his pocket. He wanted to give everything he had to help others,” she said. “I hope this little boy is ok. That is something that will stay with me the rest of my life.”
Conte congratulated Blount Today and told Gardner Howell how much she enjoyed community newspapers. “I love to look at community papers,” she said. “They, more than anything else we have, offer a reflection of our unique communities. Congratulations and thank you for what you do.”