Last Friday was the Second Annual Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA) Heroes Ball, and it was a huge success!  I want to first thank all the volunteers and staff members who made it possible to have nearly 400 people come together and recognize real-life champions for children in our state.  OICA considered dozens of great Oklahomans as potential honorees, but in the end we selected the Chickasaw Nation, Lou Kerr, and the late Senator Ed Long as this years’ Heroes. Attendees also voted on a People’s Choice Award, which this year went to Cody Inman, a staff member for the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, and Peppers Ranch.
 
At the event, we held an auction to help raise funds for our programs.  I want to personally thank all five remaining candidates for Governor of Oklahoma for agreeing that whomever should win, they would allow for a meal to be served at the Governor’s Mansion for the winning bidder that will be prepared by the Executive Chef of Sonic, Eddie Hartwick.  We even had Drew Edmondson and Kevin Stitt attend the banquet and assist with the auction, and they were great sports (Mick Cornett, Chris Powell and Rex Lawhorn were unable to reschedule events they had, but they provided assistance to OICA in place of attending).
 
Another very special auction item was a partnership with the Oklahoma Humane Society to provide a puppy that needed a new home to the winning bidder.  Bella, a four pound terrier puppy, went to a loving family (who I personally know will treat her like royalty).  She was a huge hit at the party and we were excited that we could be a part of helping such a sweet dog start a new life.
 
OICA and the Humane Society have more common-causes than people might think, because there is a proven link between animal abuse and child abuse.  As the National Link Coalition (which works to stop violence against both people and animals) says, “Violence towards humans or animals can take the form of physical, sexual or emotional abuse or neglect. While most animal cruelty investigations involve unintentional neglect, many uncover intentional neglect and abuse. All cases have the potential to be connected to other forms of violence or dysfunction in the home, and animal control officers and humane law investigators are often ‘first responders’ and the first point of contact for a family in need of assistance.”
 
The Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy is proud to be a partner with the Oklahoma Link Coalition.  The group of various organizations is working to educate those in law enforcement and our policy makers that animal abuse is a key indicator of other problems likely exist in the home.  If a proper investigation is conducted locally when a report of suspected abuse is made, then this could prevent other issues from arising with children or the elderly.
 
The Link Coalition intends to work with lawmakers to address these concerns at the state level, but there will also be work done with the cities and towns from around the state to craft municipal ordinances.  This “first line of defense” at the local level can help intervention at the earliest stage of an investigation and be the preventative measure we need to reduce child abuse in Oklahoma.
If you have further interest in getting involved with this cause, please reach out to us at info@oica.org and we will connect you with the Oklahoma Link Coalition.