001COVERA lip sync battle, in its simplest form, involves people enthusiastically mouthing the words to popular songs. For the Child Advocacy Center’s Ultimate Lip Sync Showdown, members from many of our community’s influential organizations will lip sync, solo and in groups, dressed and acting as a variety of popular singers past and present. Guests to the event on March 25 will be seated at lushly decorated tables in the Crown Center Ballroom set with linen, fresh flowers and substantial hors d’oeuvres. 

But the evening, which will begin at 6 p.m. for social hour and 7 p.m. for the show, is about so much more than entertainment. Lip sync-ers and attendees of the event will help to give unheard children a voice. Fayetteville’s Ultimate Lip Sync Showdown is the Child Advocacy Center’s spring fundraiser, replacing the previous and long-running American Girl Fashion Show fundraiser. 

Roberta Humphries, executive director of the Child Advocacy Center since 2009, is no stranger to the nonprofit sector. She previously worked in leadership positions at the Cumberland County nonprofits United Way and Better Health.  But when the position with CAC opened, something was different — she knew this job was for her. “I have a real passion for wanting to help children who are victims of abuse. I had [been sexually abused as a child], so I’ve just always had a real passion for wanting to help other children. Because … it doesn’t have to define who you are, and it doesn’t have to define your life as you move forward. So when this position became available, it came at the right time, and I just felt like I could really give back to other kids.” 

And she’s doing just that. CACs exist all over the world. Each is founded, owned and run independently, but may receive support from larger accrediting bodies like the National Children’s Alliance. All accredited CACs work with a multidisciplinary team of agencies in that community to create an integrated approach to meeting child abuse victims’ needs. Fayetteville’s CAC works with 19 community agencies, including all the county Police Departments, the DA’s office, CC Mental Health, CC Schools and Ft. Bragg Schools, Cape Fear Valley Health System, Womack Dept. of Social Services and more. 

One way this integrated approach works is to ensure a child need only give their full testimony once. Previous to Robert “Bud” Cramer’s creation of the first CAC in Alabama in the late 80s, a child might have to repeat the story of their abuse as many as 15 times, with defense attorneys picking apart their words and pouncing on any (understandable) childlike inconsistencies — a horrific and re-traumatizing experience. By bringing all relevant agencies together into one child-friendly environment, the CAC eliminates this issue. 

Also previous to the CAC’s establishment, children would have to travel to UNC-Chapel Hill or Duke for their medical evaluations and exams. By coordinating with our local medical care providers, the CAC can make the process more efficient for the family’s sake, talk directly to doctors and nurses about how to speak with and treat the children and enable children to be in a more familiar and comforting environment while being examined. 

Fayetteville’s system, however, is unique from other CACs in one crucial way. Humphries explained that their system has hugely expanded its prevention component in the last nine to 10 years. Prevention training and education is not one of the core components required for accreditation, but the Fayetteville CAC has 76 partners in prevention. “Darkness to Light, one of our partner organizations in prevention, believes that this number is not just higher than any other CAC in North Carolina, but in the United States,” said Faith Boehmer, CAC Prevention/Volunteer Coordinator. 

Humphries added: “CACs were founded to provide coordinated services to children that had been identified as already having been victimized. But the real goal would be for a child never to be victimized and to have a happy, healthy childhood from the beginning. If we can prevent [abuse] from happening, we can save a lot of children’s futures and also community dollars that go into putting the pieces back together.” 

Every service the CAC provides comes at absolutely no cost to the family. This is made possible through events like their spring fundraiser, which makes up about 10 percent of their total income each year. The committee and some board members gathered last March to come up with an event that was popular, unique and that nobody else was doing in the community: lip sync! 

Many CAC partner agencies will be represented at the Showdown, which is being organized by Julia Adkins, long-term chair of the American Girl Fashion Show. Cumberland County Schools’ Pre-K educators Wanda Wesley, Patricia Easton and Denise Dutcher will serenade the crowd as The Supremes. A group from the Fayetteville Police Department will perform as Cyndi Lauper, The Spice Girls, Beyoncé and Kelly Clarkson. Rainbow Pediatrics will bring the house down with a Glee mashup of “Hit Me With Your Best Shot.” Other performances to look out for include Rob Lowe as Prince, Roberta Humphries and her husband Paul as Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta, and local theatre and musical star Cassandra Vallery as — ahem, herself. 

Participants are more than happy to dress up and dance their hearts out in support of the CAC. Catalina Orrego, marketing and administrative assistant at Rainbow Pediatrics by day, will transform into an all-star Glee member on the evening of March 25. “The CAC is a great cause we’re really excited to support! It’s also been fun for us [Rainbow co-workers] to get to know each other on another level, practicing our routine and getting together outside of the work environment. We’ve all come together, and it’s been a real team effort,” Orrego said. 

Peggy Smith, supervisor of Fayetteville PD’s Youth Services Unit, will perform with her co-workers as a number of strong female artists, from The Spice Girls to Beyoncé.  Smith shared that her peers appreciate how the CAC not only helps children who “suffer horrendous acts of violence and are often overlooked,” but also the police officers themselves. “The help that they provide to us is priceless, she said. “[Our unit] investigated over 1,000 cases last year involving children. … [The CAC helps us] get training that is needed and yearly strive to try to educate and [prevent child abuse]. The Child Advocacy Center needs the community’s support, and we are proud to help give back to them who are so often there for us.”

Fayetteville First Lady Kim Robertson will help determine the winner for the night, with audience participation to determine the People’s Choice Award. Audience members can also boost their favorite group’s score by purchasing votes. The event will also feature a raffle ticket drawing for prizes of a 50-inch flat screen TV, an iPad mini and a Fitbit. Raffle tickets are available for purchase in advance or evening of for $5 each. A limited number of performance slots are still available! To learn about performing, or to purchase tickets, visit www.CACFayNC.org or call (901) 486-9700.  Regular tickets cost $50. VIP tickets cost $75 and reward guests with closer seating, more elaborate table decorations and a bottle of wine. 

The CAC is located downtown at 222 Rowan Street. If you would like to support the work they do but cannot attend the Lip Sync Showdown at the Crown Center Ballroom on March 25, consider volunteering your time to do needed clerical work. You can also stop by the center and donate everyday items they need, such as individual snack items, comfort blankets and office supplies. “To see [the kids] laughing and smiling and realizing they’re not alone, to see them move forward and live happy lives, to see these kids be kids … that’s the best thing we see here,” Humphries said.

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