OICA Continues to Serve Despite Challenges Created by COVID-19
Thank you to everyone who was a part of the fourth annual Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA) Heroes Ball last Friday night. It was a success beyond even our best hopes.
The event was held virtually across the Zoom platform, originating from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. Postmates provided food delivery to participants. This virtual banquet was a tremendous success, especially for being the first of its kind. “The Cowboy” and Postmates helped make the event run seamlessly and smoothly through the evening.
OICA continued our tradition of recognizing worthy child advocates for their efforts to improve the lives of children in our state. Those honored were:
- Noble McIntyre, an Oklahoma attorney who regularly airs a program on Oklahoma City television honoring youth leaders and coordinates a food distribution program over Thanksgiving.
- The Oklahoma Educational Television Authority for their work providing educational programming to assist students during COVID-19 school closures.
- Retired Judge Doris Fransein for her lifetime effort to help children seen by the Tulsa juvenile court system.
- Former Senate President Pro Tempore and Secretary of State Glenn Coffee for his work as both a state official and private attorney.
- Former Oklahoma First Lady Rhonda Walters for her initiative to vaccinate children while first lady and her work assisting many children’s endeavors.
From five individual and five organizational finalists, OICA presented two Anne Roberts People’s Choice Awards. Ryan Abernathy won the individual award for his work with the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma to help feed children across the state. Diabetes Solutions of Oklahoma won the organizational People’s Choice Award for their effort to raise awareness and provide support for those facing diabetes. OICA received more than 2,500 ballots; we are grateful to everyone who voted online for the awards.
COVID-19 forced OICA to adapt to this virtual experience. The entire event will be on our website and social media accounts later this week. We encourage others who are considering such events to consult the guide to virtual events we are assembling.
Schools will face many of these same challenges as students begin their studies for the upcoming semester. Schools and state leaders are working hard to ensure children going to in-person-school are safe and protected. Meanwhile, many of those same leaders are trying to overcome technology and internet access barriers to provide quality education to all students in distance learning.
The federal government provided some assistance, and state leaders helped in distributing resources to the areas in need. The demand far outweighs the supply. With that, OICA encourages our federal elected officials to approve additional support for schools in need and employers struggling to retain jobs.
We understand children need to return to schools to be educated, get nutritious meals, isolate issues of abuse and neglect, and to improve development by interacting with peers. We also understand children are more likely to either get sick or carry COVID-19 home to susceptible family members who will potentially get much sicker due to age or health.
OICA appreciates the tough decisions made by state Superintendent Joy Hofmeister, working to ensure all in schools are properly masked and maintain social distancing. Tough decisions like this are being made by true leaders to protect those who could fall ill and not merely to enforce an unpopular mandate. We truly need to follow the scripture of being our “brother’s keeper” and protect those around us by wearing a face mask. Together, we can stop COVID-19 and begin the journey to normalcy.