In Berlin, The Cricket Center devotes all its energy, compassion and resources to give at-risk families a fighting chance at survival
Written by Victor Fernandes • Portrait by Grant L. Gursky
Helping hands greet victims of child abuse and their families as they enter The Cricket Center. But a furry, four-legged staff member at Worcester County’s child-advocacy center in Berlin, a 3-year-old Labrador-golden retriever cross named Josiah, often attracts the most attention from the youngest visitors.
Josiah greets children at the door to begin setting their minds at ease. Josiah helps kids forget their worries, even if just for a little while, by playing games with them. Josiah snuggles with them on the couch as a forensic interviewer delicately gets children to open up about their traumatic experiences.
“My daughter talks about Josiah all the time,” one grateful parent wrote in a survey shared with Coastal Style. “She is able to focus on him rather than what happened to her. Thank you for making it possible for her to spend time with him during the hardest time for us.”
The healing process starts with a child-friendly atmosphere that allows kids in crisis to be just kids and families to remain strong and supportive. Within 2,100 square feet of office space in the shadow of Atlantic General Hospital, children and their families find a safe haven to one day move past the nightmare of child abuse. Kids find a small table with toys after walking through the doors, while their families get the attention they need — free of charge — from trauma-based therapists, family advocates, medical and law-enforcement personnel, as well as other service providers.
“We like to say that we can’t change what happened, but we can change what happens next,” said The Cricket Center’s executive director, Wendy Myers.
Like Josiah, the staff help kids and families every step of the way and long after cases are closed. A former victim who’s now studying social work shared that sentiment in a note to The Cricket Center’s family advocate. “You helped me and my family through a very hard time,” she wrote. “One day I hope to help someone, like you helped me.
My mom and I talk about you often;
we couldn’t have gotten through without you.”
The Cricket Center, a 501c3 nonprofit organization, relies on fundraisers, donations and grants to provide invaluable services. Now, the search for a new 7,000 sq. ft. space — estimated to cost between $2.5 million and $4 million — has begun. The Cricket Center’s signature event, the seventh annual Walk for Kids, is set for April 19 on the Ocean City Boardwalk in honor of National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Given the lifelong impact on families throughout Worcester County, a new place for The Cricket Center will be worth every penny.
“Rather than taking a family who are already in crisis and adding to the burden, we partner with them,” Myers said. “We walk with them from beginning to end. We support them through that whole process. It makes such a big difference.”