This is Riley Ann Sawyers, until last Friday, known as Baby Grace.
Two months ago her body, packed in garbage bags and a plastic container from WalMart, was found by a fisherman in
She was two. She was a little bit older than Maggie.
This is Maggie.
She’s blonde and beautiful, like Riley. Maggie’s daddy constantly refers to her as Pure Sugar. Once, last month when my hormones were acting so crazy, Maggie pulled the diaper wipes out for the fifth time in five minutes and I lost my temper and raised my voice at her. The shock of her momma, her security, yelling at her made her burst into tears. I still feel guilty about it.
Riley must have done something. I wonder what her sin was. I imagine it was similar and among the same caliber as Maggie’s. Maybe she pulled the wipes out, or marked on the wall with a crayon, or spilt her milk on purpose, because Maggie does all those things. Whatever it was, for punishment, her mother and stepfather did things to her so unspeakable that I can’t get them out of my mind. And then they killed her. And then they took her tiny little body, made of pure sugar, and wrapped it up like garbage and threw it away. And dammit, I can’t get that out of my mind. And I know there are thousands of people across this country tonight who feel the same way.
Yesterday Maggie fell off the couch and hit her head pretty hard. She cried and screamed and when I held her and kissed her hair, I began to wonder if Riley cried and screamed like this when her stepdad threw her across the room by her blonde hair, and I cried too.
Years ago I was volunteering for several organizations in town, planning fundraisers and serving on gala committees and the like. I felt like I wanted to do something more tangible than put together table centerpieces, something where I felt like someone specific was really benefiting from my time and energy. The next day, I heard an ad on the radio for Child Advocates (CASA), saying that they needed volunteers. My prayer for direction had been answered very quickly. I attended the trainings and within a few weeks was sworn in as a Court Appointed Child Advocate. If you are unaware of what function they serve, you can read about it here.
I saw some truly ugly stuff. A three month old with three skull fractures, a 12 year old who had been raped more times and by more people than she could count, among others. People would often ask how I could stand it, especially the cases involving sexual abuse. It did hurt. But I had told myself that if a little child could handle experiencing the abuse, then I, an adult, could certainly tolerate just reading about it.
You know how you hear these cases on the news, and you just want to DO something??
Through Child Advocates, I had so many opportunities to DO something. The 12 year old, I got to tell her Jesus loved her, and to emphasize to her that even if the men who hurt her never saw justice on earth, Jesus had made it abundantly clear that he had plans for them. I got to testify to judges as to what I thought should happen to these kids. I got to recommend that a parent’s rights be cut off forever because of the neglect that she had shown to her son and his little sister. And I prayed fervently for these children, knowing that quite possibly I was the only one on the planet who was. I was doing something.
I no longer am. I was an advocate up until Eva Rose was born. And then my children became too demanding and my work with CASA was neglected. Reluctantly, I resigned. I have had to accept that this is not the season for ministering outside my home. But that day will come again, and I will be calling CASA.
The reason I am saying this is because I know there are some out there who feel an amazing frustration over Baby Grace, and want to channel that frustration, to DO something, but don’t know where you can. Writing a check is very important. Planning an event that raises thousands of dollars is very important. But, if like myself, you still feel frustrated – there is a CASA office in almost every city because unfortunately, there is a need for them in every city. And the children who need advocates always surpass the number of volunteers available.
All it takes is that ache in your soul. The caseworkers at CASA will teach you how to do the rest.
It is too late for any of us to do anything for Riley. But sadly, there are thousands of two year olds across the country who still desperately need someone to save them.
Maybe it is what you have been praying for.