Reality RV on display Friday

The traveling Reality RV display will make its first appearance Friday at Brown's Ferry, according to Andrea Holt, executive director of Shoals Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA).

Any group or organization wishing to schedule the program should call the CASA office at 256-765-0041.

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The burden on Andrea Holt's heart for years has been to find a way to graphically show the reality of child abuse and neglect.

Statistics emphasize the seriousness of the problem in the Shoals area.

On any given day in Colbert and Lauderdale counties, an average of 250 children are in protective custody. 

Since January of this year, the Shoals Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) agency that Holt runs has worked with 28 children that were in homes where domestic violence was prevalent; 69 children who suffered from neglect; 14 children who were victims of physical abuse; 12 who were victims of sexual abuse; and 22 who were children of parents involved in substance abuse.

Those numbers, although shocking, can't paint a realistic picture of the heart-breaking circumstances that law enforcement and protection services officials encounter on a routine basis.

"We have a great community but people have to know that these atrocities still exist — the domestic violence, the substance abuse, poor housing, uncleanliness and bad decisions, it all affects the children," Holt said.

Holt now has a mobile camper unit that can offer viewers a real-life view of the problem.

The Reality RV depicts, through a fictional 9-year-old boy named Luke, the atrocities of abuse and neglect.

Groups can tour various scenes in the camper that tell Luke's story, which Holt says "is a realistic representation of the lives of so many children we work with."

Printed signs at stations throughout the camper explain each aspect of Luke's life — and that of his single, drug-addicted mother and his baby sister.

"This is raw, and it depicts real life for many," Holt said. "It's an immersive, emotional experience for anyone who goes through. We realize it can be overwhelming for various reasons for some, so we will always have staff on hand at every location where tours are given."

Holt said the experience is designed to be eye-opening, and is geared more for high school-aged individuals and older.

"Teachers, clergy, city and county leaders, companies and industry workers — there's no one who doesn't need to see this to know how so many precious children among us are forced to live," Holt said.

"The challenge will be debriefing people after this experience because there are ways to help. There are people and agencies to call who stand ready to help," she said.

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