By SARA UTLE
A 72-year-old retired justice of the peace began her second annual pilgrimage across the state last week in an effort to raise money for abused children.
Jerry Enniss, affectionately known as Grandma Gump, hopes to raise more than $10,000 for Children’s Justice Centers in her month-long walk from Dinosaurland in Eastern Utah to Wendover at the state’s western border.
Children’s Justice Centers were created in 1991 as pilot programs in Weber, Utah and Salt Lake counties and provide a comfortable environment where abused children can be interviewed, said Laura Blanchard, Director of the Provo Children’s Justice Center.
Blanchard said abused children had to be taken from one building to another for separate interviews before the centers arose. Now, she said, the interviews come to them.
“By bringing them here we have one interview process which is videotaped and audiotaped,” Blanchard said. “The kids don’t have to be asked the same questions over and over again.”
Although children only stay an hour or two at these centers, the care they receive accelerates their recovery, said Susanne Mitchell, Director of the Salt Lake Children’s Justice Center.
“Children do much better and heal much faster by going through the program,” Mitchell said.
The interviewing process is meant to be short and sweet for the children, she said. Interviews rarely last more than 45 minutes and kids spend the rest of their time at the centers playing with toys in the living room.
The state government pays for the running costs of Children’s Justice Centers, but the initial costs must be provided by the community, Mitchell said.
That is where Enniss comes in.
Last year Enniss raised $6,300 walking 470 miles from Cornish to St. George. All of the money went directly to centers in Ogden and Tooele, Mitchell said.
Blanchard said the Provo center will not see any of the funds raised by Enniss this year, as the money will likely be used to establish additional centers throughout the state.
“Children who are abused in the state really belong to all of us,” she said. “We strongly support helping other children.”
If she keeps to her schedule, Enniss should arrive in Orem June 17 where she will meet with a reception hosted by workers from the Provo center.
Blanchard hopes children and others in the community will join Enniss in her walk and help raise money through pledges.
“It’s a great experience for kids, not only to meet Jerry but to get a sense that they can help other children,” Blanchard said.
Noela Karza, a case manager with Youth Corrections, said Enniss had as many as 50 children at a time walking with her last year.
This year, someone from Youth Corrections will always accompany Enniss, Karza said. The Governor, senior citizens and children from around the state have also been invited to walk with her