By JACOB MAYER
The adopted son of former President Ronald Reagan is scheduled to visit Amarillo next month to share his story of being a victim of child sexual abuse and part of the former president’s family.
An Evening with Michael Reagan is planned for 7 p.m. May 10 at the Globe-News Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets are $35.
Reagan was sexually abused in an after-school program as a child.
He is now a public speaker and founder of the Reagan Legacy Foundation, which works to advance causes that were important to Ronald Reagan and memorialize the accomplishments of his presidency, according to the organization’s website.
Arrow Child and Family Ministries in Amarillo is hosting the event to alert the community to the foster care services the organization provides, as well as the needs of children in foster care, said Keith Howard, state director of the organization.
The event is also a fundraiser for the organization to renovate the property at 4655 S. Farm-to-Market Road 1258 that it purchased from Panhandle Assessment Center about a year and a half ago, Howard said.
He said the organization recently began working on a three-year, $2.5-million capital campaign for renovations and new shelters.
About $1.5 million is planned for new shelters that could each accommodate 20 children, one for boys and one for girls, he said.
He said the current shelter can hold as many as 32 children. On average, about 21 children stay in the shelters, he said.
Reagan will speak alongside national Arrow Child and Family Ministries CEO Mark Tennant, who also was a victim of sexual abuse as a child.
Howard said Reagan’s story relates to the services that Arrow Child and Family Ministries provides.
“We’ve had a long-standing relationship, and we thought this would be a time to bring him to town,” Howard said.
“He will share his story, our CEO will share his story and just really make the community aware of what is going on.”
The organization serves as a place where children who are removed from their home by Child Protective Services can stay for about 90 days before officials are able to either return them to their home or provide them a spot in a foster home, Howard said.
Reagan’s story also shows child sexual abuse can happen anywhere, said Lizzie Mason, public relations director for Amarillo National Bank and a member of the organization’s Panhandle Leadership Council.
“This particular kind of situation, there’s no boundaries for it no matter what ZIP code you live in or what your economic situation might be,” she said.
The event also is geared to help people understand how the foster care system works, said Smith Ellis, president and CEO of FirstBank Southwest and a member of the leadership council.
“To me, these are the invisible kids that none of us know about,” Ellis said.
There are about 360 children in Potter and Randall counties living in foster care, Howard said.
The organization also will honor Amarillo Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children during the event with the 2012 Ambassador of Purpose award for its service to children, Ellis said.
CASA represents children to maintain their rights in court proceedings, he said.
Howard said he hopes the event with Reagan helps people understand the lives of foster children and possibly change people’s perceptions of them.
“It’s just taking the stigma away from what is known as foster kids, and just exposing the community to these children and saying these are just kids,” he said.
“They just need loving adults to wrap their arms around them, support them, walk them through the trauma they’ve experienced and provide a safe place for them.”