By NICOLE ANTONUCCI
Recorder News Staff
Melissa Levoy has seen firsthand what abuse can do to a child.
For the past two years, the Hagaman resident has been working with child protective services, and going back and forth to court, to protect a youngster. It is an ongoing battle and Levoy is frustrated.
Realizing that part of the problem lies in the laws that govern parental rights, Levoy decided to organize the Montgomery County Walk for Children, a walk and 5K run that will be held Sept. 7 at Shuttleworth Park in Amsterdam.
"In New York state, a dog has more rights than a child," Levoy said. "If a dog is abused, it is taken away, put up for adoption and you never see it again. Yet you can repetitively abuse a child and it takes a long time for consequences to happen, because parents have constitutional rights over their children. And because our laws are broken, we are breaking our children. The laws need to be changed and the child has to be protected."
Levoy hopes to raise awareness in Montgomery County about child abuse and inform people about a national hotline they can call if they suspect a child is being abused.
After the child in her situation was taken from its parents in 2012, Levoy said she took temporary custody but later that year, the child was given back to the parents, only to be taken away again three months later. During those three months, Levoy said the child ended up with severe lead poisoning, became malnourished, had perforated ear drums, and more.
"What gets me is for three months, people saw what was happening and no one called because everyone is afraid if they called the hotline they were going to be involved forever," she said. "People don't know the hotline is anonymous. People need to understand that a five-minute phone call can save a child's life."
In addition to raising awareness, Levoy hopes to raise money for the child advocacy groups in Montgomery County including the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Fulton and Montgomery Counties, and Catholic Charities.
Levoy has undertaken the feat of organizing the event herself, and since May has been reaching out to local organizations including police and fire departments, government agencies, and school organizations to encourage people to form teams and raise money.
"We are looking for more people to participate." she said. "We are trying to make it as community-wide as possible. The more money we raise, the more goes toward these organization that help our children."
Those who are not able to walk can still participate by making a donation or becoming a shadow walker by paying the registration fee and getting a t-shirt.
The event will start at 9 a.m. with registration, followed by the walk at 10 a.m. After the walk, there will be community activities including bounce houses, craft, and more.
To participate, signup forms are available on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MontgomeryCountyWalkForChildren/info or for more information call (518) 250- 2100.