Soroptimists donate to program |

Soroptimists donate to program

by Merrie Leininger

When Jaycee Lee Dugard was abducted in South Lake Tahoe in 1991, Soroptimists International of South Lake Tahoe decided to do something.

They developed a program for 5th graders called “A Fighting Chance,” that teaches children how to escape an abduction situation.

Soroptimists, in partnership with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and the Douglas County School District, has piloted the program in Kingsbury Middle School, Jacks Valley and Gardnerville elementary schools. They will be presenting the program for the third year this spring and are also working on a component of the class appropriate for 2nd graders.

Sheriff Ron Pierini said the 40-minute program is in two parts.

“One part is education about what is abduction and emphasizes the ways a student can be empowered. The second part is to give those kids some tools or techniques to break loose from the abductors,” Pierini said.

Now, with the help of Soroptimists, the department will purchase a car that will be used to show children techniques for escape.

Soroptimist Candy Rohr said the club developed the program to help other students know what to do so they won’t become a victim like 10-year-old Jaycee.

“She was abduced on her way to school. Her father saw it happen and they never found her or the abductor,” Rohr said. “Our goal is to empower the kids in our community not to put themselves in a position they could be abducted and give them tools to use if they should ever find themselves in an abduction situation.”

On Wednesday, Soroptimist donated $2,500 that will add a third component to the class. The money will be used to purchase a vehicle.

Rohr said the car is used to teach valuable lessons.

“The vehicle will be set up so they can see how they can break the window out or how to stop the vehicle by pulling out certain wires,” she said.

They will also learn how to get out if put in the trunk of a vehicle, she said.

The Soroptimist members are also learning how to teach the class, said Deputy Chris Griffith, who teaches the class now.

“Eventually, we want to cover the whole Valley. Now, we’re training Soroptimists who want to teach it. A lot of them are retired teachers, so they are used to being in classrooms,” Griffith said.

He said the kids are receptive to the idea of protecting themselves, especially in the charged atmosphere following school shootings last year.

“Kids worry about safety these days. They see a lot on television. Last year, they were right in tune with a lot of those school shootings. Especially at the Lake, they all know about the situation with the girl who was abducted up there and are real quick to ask questions,” Griffith said.

He said the goal is to mentally prepare them for survival in a crisis situation.

“First of all, we tell them to be aware of their surroundings and who is around them. We really want to teach things to do in self defense if someone grabs you,” he said. “The mental attitude is the best thing they can learn – you can survive if you want to survive, and you never stop thinking about a plan. It’s about mental toughness.”

Sheriff Pierini said the class also teaches students not to trust strangers just because they are adults.

“That’s probably one of the biggest things. If a stranger is talking to you, get as far away, as fast as you can so you’re not so easily abducted,” he said. “Even though we don’t have much problem with abduction, people all around us have had those situations.”

In addition to the money for a vehicle, Pierini said Soroptimist have also donated materials for the program.