Chocolate helping children, raising money for serious community problem

News 12 at 11 o'clock / Friday, Oct. 12, 2012

MARTINEZ, Ga. -- What better way to get a community together than chocolate? But behind the chocolate fountains and martinis is a serious problem that can not be sugar-coated.

"Seventy-five dollars is a lot of money. It's a cheap price to pay to help children," Judge Doug Flanagan said.

That's the price of a ticket to Child Enrichment Inc.'s biggest fundraiser of the year, The Art of Chocolate, but even though it's a sweet event, it's helping a serious problem.

"Child Enrichment Inc. serves the abused, neglected and sexually abused children from the region," explained Executive Director Dan Hillman. "We're in an epidemic of child sexual abuse, and we haven't been as a society ready to accept it. We're kind of in denial."

Chocolate, however, is hard to deny, so Child Enrichment Inc. is using this sweet treat as a way to get people talking.

"It's a subject matter that most people are uncomfortable with, so this is a way we can center around the organization, have a chance to talk about it," Board President Troy Breitmann said.

The problem is closer than you might think.

"Believe it or not there is a neglected or abused child in your neighborhood. It doesn't matter if you're rich or poor or educated or not," Helen Flanagan said.

"Today we have over 200 children in those three counties that we're serving, so it's a significant problem and an expensive one to deal with," Hillman said.

That's where this fundraiser helps. Between the auctioned items and the ticket money, it raises nearly $40,000 for the organization.

All the money goes to help the children, but Hillman wants to do more than help children recover. He's working toward prevention.

"The kids we see have already been abused. We need to move towards prevention, and for prevention to work, it's going to take all adults," he said.

Every bite of chocolate is getting him closer to his goal.

"I think it's a wonderful feeling, and I like chocolate, too," Judge Flanagan said.

"It's a sweet bite," his wife said.

The fundraiser is also a way to recruit volunteers. Last year more than 400 people offered to help out. They're hoping this year will be just as successful.

If you couldn't make it there tonight, you can still help. Child Enrichment Inc. is always looking for help and donations. If you're interested in finding out more, check out their website here.

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