Thank you, MNCASA

I’ve been sitting here for a good 20 minutes wondering how in the world to start this blog post. The truth is, I have no idea how to start. I cannot even begin to explain the swirl of thoughts and emotions going through my head right now.

Last night.

*Wow*

On February 22nd, I received a letter from the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MNCASA). It started like this:

“Dear Joy,

On behalf of the board of directors, staff and partner programs of the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault, I am pleased to notify you of your selection as an AWARE 2016 Award recipient. Each year MNCASA recognizes citizens, researchers, advocates and policy makers in conjunction with Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). Awardees are named for their individual creativity and perseverance to end sexual violence. We are honoring you for your work to shed light on unresolved issues of child sexual abuse that occurred decades ago. Because of your efforts, victims, who may have felt silenced, have had their voices heard and a perpetrator is being held accountable for harm.”

I believe there are those moments in each of our lives when you take pause, stand outside of yourself, and say, “Well, now. THAT was something.” For me, this was indeed, one of those moments.

In fact, it was SO MUCH “something” that I just couldn’t stop smiling. For days, I smiled through tears, bewilderment, and dare I say it… JOY. It was as if everything I had done… for all those reasons I could never explain… had all come down to this. Suddenly, it all made sense. And it was… deep.

All the phone calls, emails, questions, blog posts, tips, timelines, newspaper articles, Google lookups, trips to the library, and date nights with the microfilm reader had all… MATTERED. In the end, it was all 100% worth it.

You see, this wasn’t just a story about a cold case kidnapping. Somewhere along the line, it became a quest for answers… and for justice… for a group of boys who were never heard and barely believed. It wasn’t just about Paynesville, or Cold Spring, or St. Joseph. It was about KIDS… right here in my own backyard… who trusted and believed that they could bike to the store, camp in the woods, walk home from the pizza place, or give directions to a stranger… without fear for their personal safety. They were just KIDS, whose confidence was shook not only by the act itself, but by a system that seemed to ignore them.

We have to do better. And we ARE doing better, thanks in large part to organizations like MNCASA who are on the front lines every day, making a difference and advocating for victims.

We are doing better because of men like John Choi, Ron Latz, and Steve Simon who were also honored with a 2016 AWARE Award. Ramsey County Attorney John Choi was recognized for his leadership on the issue of sexual violence, particularly his work engaging men and boys. Senator Ron Latz and Secretary of State Steve Simon were both recognized for their leadership as the Chief Authors of the Minnesota Child Victims Act.

We are also doing better because of men like Jared Scheierl, whose bravery in sharing his own story helped shed light on the Paynesville assault cluster and made it OK for others to come forward. In so doing, Jared not only helped solve his own case, he also got a dangerous child predator off the street.

Finally, we are doing better because of the tireless efforts of one woman… a five-foot-one-inch GIANT named Patty Wetterling. Last night, Patty received MNCASA’s highest honor, the Visionary Voice Award, which recognizes the creativity and hard work of individuals around the country who have demonstrated outstanding work to end sexual violence.

From MNCASA’s Facebook page: “Patty Wetterling has been a source of hope and inspiration to victims and parents of children who have been sexually abused. Her tireless advocacy for primary prevention of sexual violence and rational sex offender management policies has made an indelible impact on the state and the nation. Through her many years as the Director of Sexual Violence Prevention for the Minnesota Department of Health, Patty advanced programming and policy in support of primary prevention in Minnesota. Her national efforts through the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the National Coalition to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation have helped shape policies and organizational practices to end child sexual abuse and exploitation.”

To be there in that room… among those giants… learning about all the amazing work that’s being done… watching Patty receive her award… listening to her wow the crowd with her wit, wisdom, and grace… Well, honestly… how do I put that into words?

Amazing? Awe-inspring? Mind-blowing? Nope… nothing quite touches it. If I had to choose one word, I guess it would be “aspiring.” Simply put, I aspire to their greatness… all of them… their collective passion, hope, bravery, kindness, and strength.

Thank you MNCASA… and Patty… and Jared… and all the other giants in the room.

You aspire me.

NEXT: Trek 2016. Let’s do this thing…

Photo courtesy of the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center

Photo courtesy of the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center

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26 Comments

  1. Congratulations to you, Patty, and the other recipients. Well deserved.

  2. Great to see so many inspired people working for a common cause of such monumental importance. Well done all! Well done Joy!

  3. You aspire me and many others Joy. Your award was well deserved. Love you my friend!

  4. I am so happy that your efforts have been recognized. Congratulations!

  5. Mary Kay Bowling |

    Congratulations. I just feel the need to say that Jacob Wetterling has never left my mind. Of all the sad stories of lost children, he stood out the most. Something about his darling face and his dear parents just broke my heart. I still pray for him and his family. Just wanted them and you to know..he is not forgotten.

  6. Congratulations! Very happy to see you recognized for the incredible work you do!

  7. Donavon Mickelson |

    Congrats to all of you people who work so hard to bring these issues to the public with the hopes of bringing the bad ones to justice.

  8. Sherri Anderson |

    Congratulations, and thank-you for all you have done and continue to do in seeking to find the answer to the question ” Where’s Jacob?” God Bless all of you in your efforts to find the truth.

  9. Susan Dressel |

    “collective passion, hope, bravery, kindness, and strength.” That’s you Joy. You are also one of those Giants standing on the same stage. We applaud you. Love you to pieces.

  10. Well done. Every. Single. Day.

  11. Abby Kuechle |

    Congratulations! Well deserved. Thank you.

  12. Congratulations!

  13. Kimberly Rupp-Montpetit |

    Many congratulations to you both. Jakob’s story affected all of us. The way we parent and protect our children. Thank you for your tireless work both of you.

  14. Jean Lesteberg |

    Congratulations, Joy. I enjoy your blog. Every time you put another piece of the puzzle together, I cheered and then I cried. You have done amazing work in this field. May you continue

  15. Amen, and Amen

  16. Keep up the awesome effort.

  17. Kathy Magrew |

    Congratulations, Joy. You, Patty and Jared were a powerful force. Keep on seeking justice for the children.

  18. In a world where there are so many negatives in our daily living, this just lifts us up to know we can still have hope with people like you~ who have been so justly honored!

  19. Joy, it’s been amazing following your journey bread crumb by bread crumb. I am sure you are equally amazed to have been led to deeper developments than just your own passionate curiousity. Thank you for blessing us all with your journey which has led to much healing and incredible experiences for many. May you continue to do such good work!!

  20. Wow! Thanks for giving these victims a voice and keeping Jacob’s abduction in everyone’s minds. You did incredible research.

  21. Congratulations! In this complex world, keeping kid’s out of harms way,
    learning to listen, is an uphill battle. Patty Wetterling and Jared S. aren’t the
    only ones to admire! You are awesome!

  22. lanie m dudek |

    congrats to all of you wonderful people.

  23. Joy, So proud of you. You care for all the children lost, very well deserved!!

  24. Brings smiles to everyone…very deserving

  25. What an honor for you! You deserve it! What great women we have in our country! Thanks for all you do!

  26. Thank you for all of your work, Joy. You are so deserving of this award.

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