Teen’s volunteer work with families in crisis inspires her to raise awareness about abuse
Donuts are bad for you.
But they’re oh so good.
And they can be used for good, too.
Take, for example, a recent fund-raiser organized by Lindsey Wyatt, a senior at Valencia High School in Placentia.
Last summer, Wyatt, 18, volunteered at the Orange County Family Justice Center, the Anaheim non-profit that serves survivors of domestic violence, child abuse, elder and dependent adult abuse, and sexual assault. Members of the Anaheim PD are among the on-site partners of the OCFJC (orangecountyfamilyjusticecenter.org).
So affected was Wyatt by her 80 hours of volunteer work at the OCFJC that she decided to sell donuts and hot chocolate to raise money for the center.
Wyatt recently held her second Krispy Kreme fundraiser of the current school year outside the gym at Valencia High also to raise awareness about victims of sexual, physical and verbal abuse.
“A lot of teens are in abusive relationships, but it’s an issue that kind of goes unnoticed,” said Wyatt, whose father, Daron, is a sergeant at the APD.
Wyatt herself has been in an abusive relationship, she says.
But it took her experience at OCFJC to make her realize it.
Wyatt’s main job at the OCFJC was preparing care baskets for families in crisis.
Mothers show up at the center with their children after fleeing abusive partners.
Wyatt never will forget one 9-year-old girl she met.
In a room for kids, the girl was holding a stuffed animal. At first she was hesitant to speak.
Finally, she told Wyatt: “I was in the hospital last night.”
She soon added this: “I have bruises on me.”
Wyatt realized the sweet girl had been physically and possibly sexually abused.
“It just broke my heart,” Wyatt says.
Soon after her volunteer stint at the OCFJC, Wyatt and her boyfriend of two years broke up.
A Christian who is abstaining from sex until she marries, Wyatt says her boyfriend did not sexually or physically abuse her, but said he was verbally abusive and engaged in “slut shaming” — criticizing her for presumed sexual activity that never occurred.
“I did notice some signs — he was controlling and acted very jealous,” Wyatt recalled.
But it wasn’t until she interacted with other victims of abuse at the Orange County Family Justice Center that the light bulb went on and Wyatt decided to move on.
She hopes her two donut fund-raisers thus far — Wyatt is planning more, possibly selling different food items — will raise awareness among her high school peers about the real damage toxic and abusive relationships can cause, and help put an end to self-blaming and low self-esteem.
The name of the club Wyatt started at Valencia High — Love is Kindness — says it all.
“When you love someone,” Wyatt said, “you don’t hurt them.”
Elia Renteria, a victim advocate at the OCFJC, was on hand at the Dec. 18 fundraiser.
“I think it’s amazing what she’s doing,” Renteria said. “Every little dollar helps.”
Renteria says the OCFJC needs volunteers like Wyatt.
“It’s so important when young people get involved, because that’s often when the cycle of abuse starts,” Renteria said.
Maria Caicedo, 17, a senior at Valencia High, helped Wyatt sell donuts Dec. 18 and has become a member of the Love is Kindness Club.
“I felt it was a really worthy cause,” Caicedo said. “Most high school clubs don’t do much for the community at large, and I think this is a great way to spread awareness (about abusive relationships).”
To contact Renteria about volunteer opportunities at the Orange County Family Justice Center, email email@example.com or call her at 714-765-1627.
To contact Wyatt, email firstname.lastname@example.org