Guardians of the Children are bikers with a cause
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Monday, Nov. 18, 2013

Guardians of the Children are bikers with a cause

  • Learn more: For information on the Mooresville Guardians of the Children or resources for reporting child abuse, visit www.gocmooresvillenc.com

The Guardians of the Children is a national nonprofit with a unique mission.

It unites motorcycle enthusiasts to “recognize and react to child abuse and educate the public to do the same,” according to the group’s website.

The mission includes advocating for families in crisis and being “the answer to the prayer of an abused child or teen for courage, support and protection.”

Chip Capps, president of the Mooresville chapter of the nonprofit and a biker for 40 years who rides a Harley-Davidson Electraglide, was a police officer for 10 years.

“I saw child abuse up close and personal,” said Capps, “and it is very painful for anyone who is exposed to it. I chose to leave law enforcement but never want to stop helping kids.”

The Mooresville chapter, North Carolina’s first, was started by Joe Messina about four years ago after he watched a news story about an abused little girl and decided he wanted to do something to help.

Since, three other N.C. local chapters have started: in Gastonia, Winston-Salem and coastal Brunswick County.

Founder Messina was honored for his work as a Bulldog Biker of the Year 2012, an award given by Charlotte’s Bob Karney Law to philanthropic bikers. The firm is known for representing injured bikers.

Members of the Gastonia GOC are featured in a movie that is showing in theaters now, said Capps. Much of the spoof film “Bad Grandpa” was filmed in the Charlotte area, in which personality Johnny Knoxville of MTV fame impersonates a “bad grandpa” and sees how people react on film.

“The chapter did not know it was a staged scene, but it shows the boy being abused and the intervention the chapter made,” said Capps.

“The chapter perceived an abused child and intervened, taking the ‘abuser’ and putting him in an arm drag to control the situation. … This shows what GOC is all about: We will do whatever we think necessary to help a child.”

The Mooresville GOC has 23 members. They meet at 11 a.m. on the second Saturday of each month at Statesville’s Northview Church of Christ on Amity Hill Road.

About half the members attended an Iredell-Statesville school board meeting Oct. 14, where Capps spoke on anti-bullying initiatives.

According to the National Conference on Bullying, Capps said, suicide is the third-most common cause of death for children ages 10 to 14, and the fourth for ages 15 to 24.

He referenced a Sept. 27 incident in which an 11-year-old boy in Salisbury took his own life after being bullied in school.

“While they don’t keep stats on how many (suicides) were a direct result of bullying, we know far too many are just that,” said Capps.

The chapter is planning a screening of the documentary “Bully” at 11 a.m. March 1 at Northview Church. It also plans to help The Bully Project with its goal of getting 10 million kids to pledge to prevent bullying.

Capps said the group’s involvement in anti-bullying campaigns, besides its other abuse-preventing activities, is because “any child that needs help is the sole reason we exist.”

Children helped by the GOC are first referred by such organizations as law enforcement, the Department of Social Services and other child advocacy organizations.

The referring organization and GOC liaison then meet with the child’s non-offending guardian to decide how they can help the child’s situation improve.

When is it determined that the GOC can help, an adoption ceremony is held for the referred child. The bikers ride to welcome the child into the GOC family, giving him or her an honorary GOC biker vest and a teddy bear that each member has hugged so it will be full of hugs for the child. Children like the motorcycles.

The child is given contact information for the two nearest members in case they ever need help. Members are available 24/7. The GOC sometimes provides moral support by escorting a child to a difficult court date.

The group’s website says, “Within our membership we have veterans who have served our country with honor, survivors of abuse, and bikers who recognize the need to empower the smallest victims.”

Members are given background checks and a one-year probationary period. At least two guardians are present for each interaction with a child.

Some signs of child abuse include unexplained injuries, changes in behavior such as sleeping and decreased school performance, regression, fear of going home, lack of hygiene, risk-taking behaviors, and inappropriate sexual behavior.

Marjorie Dana is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Marjorie? Email her at marjorie.dana@yahoo.com.

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