For many people conjuring thoughts in their heads of a standard motorcycle gang, the images are most-likely not those of love, support, compassion, protection and teddy bear hugs — but Guardians of the Children is no regular gang.
In fact, they’re not a gang or club at all. The 501 c3 non-profit organization devotes its time and care to victims of child abuse. Their mission: to recognize and react to child abuse, educate the public to do the same, serve as advocates, provide strength and stability to families in crisis and to be the answer to the prayer of an abused child or teen for courage, support and protection.
The organization spans across 11 states, with 12 chapters in Texas. The idea for the organization started in 2006 in San Antonio with an actual motorcycle club called Bikers Against Child Abuse. The club quickly drew in many riders, which became a problem because some of these riders weren’t screened, trained or given a chance to earn a position of trust. It was then that Guardians of the Children formed as a legitimate organization that gives background checks before even considering a rider, followed by a year’s probation under the watch of GOC riders.
The GOC Falls Town Chapter serves the North Texas area, including Young County.
“We can reach out to other areas that most people can’t,” said GOC Falls Town Chapter member Jason Lavender of Burkburnett, whose road name is Yeti.
That road name is just about accurate, as he stands an eye-widening seven feet tall. Yeti is practically a living, breathing wall covered in a thick leather biker jacket and possessing an enormous love for children.
“Most riders have been involved either directly or indirectly with child abuse. It happens everywhere,” he said.
The GOC takes child abuse victims in as members of their own family.
They work with advocacy centers all over North Texas, including those in Wichita Falls, and even Graham’s own Virginia’s House.
GOC Falls Town Chapter member Jeremy Howard (whose road name is Shrek) and his wife, GOC child liaison and member Teresa Howard (Fiona), agree that GOC’s whole purpose is to take care of children. In fact, Shrek and Fiona were on hand to support the victim of the Charles Edward Pair case in Young County.
Here’s how it works: once a legitimate case or court trial has been opened for a victim of child abuse, the victim’s parents or guardians and organizations who work with the victims may contact GOC. GOC then rallies fellow chapter riders and even those in other chapters across the state for an “adoption” of the victim at a set date. Then, parents and victims wait on GOC riders to meet them, usually at a park or an open area. At the request of the parents, GOC riders will refrain from wearing anything that may remind the victim of their perpetrator — ball caps, sunglasses and other items.
Read more in Wednesday's Graham Leader.