How It All Began...
Defenders For Children Grassroot Organization - Founded in 2010
Toni Clark was deeply disturbed to learn about the prevalence of child abuse in Greenville and the Upstate at large. “Greenville has become my family’s home, and the more I learned about it (child abuse), the more convinced I became that someone needed to do something to stop it,” Toni says with conviction. Her Husband Ken Clark adds, “It wasn’t long before it became clear that we were that someone.” With support from Ken, his business associates and customers at Thermal Resources, and a handful of like-minded friends, Toni founded Defenders for Children (DFC), an organization that aims to prevent child abuse by raising community awareness and educating the public. Toni’s family are some of her biggest supporters. Ken, Kyle, and Anna all readily volunteer their time and talents for DFC. It is a continually evolving organization, launching many programs that reach different stakeholders in the community and supporting other non-profit organizations that provide services to victims of abuse. From Blankets of Hope, a program that has provided handmade blankets to over 1,300 children, to Cast Against Abuse, which took children from group homes on professional fishing excursions, as well as many others, DFC’s programs are varied and unique. Even so, they remain united in their purpose to provide the community ways to support victims of abuse.
It's not easy keeping an organization like this running. The programs are funded by donations from the community and Toni does not take a salary for her work. But even at times when finances for the Clark family were tight, Ken encouraged Toni to stay the course with DFC, and they all made the sacrifices necessary to keep the program going and expanding. "Ken always said we are doing the right thing by helping the children," Toni says.
The program that currently has Toni’s heart and the focus of DFC is their Electronic Detection K9 Project. DFC is raising funds to place electronic detection K9s with law enforcement agencies to aid in the investigation of crimes against children. Toni explains, “Criminals have moved away from transmitting images of child abuse and trafficking over the internet. Instead, they hide these images on storage devices such as SD cards and removable hard drives that are virtually impossible for law enforcement to locate. That’s where Electronic Detection
K9s can help. They can sniff out the devices that humans can’t find. Having those devices in hand gives law enforcement the evidence that they need to prosecute these criminals.” Toni is proud to say that Defenders for Children was able to make a gift of a K9 and handler training to the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office. “Queue,” an English Labrador Retriever, is an officer on the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, working alongside his handler, Sergeant Michael Rainey. Queue has assisted in 26 searches and located many devices that would have been missed by law enforcement. Those searches led to several arrests.
Seeing these incredible results urges Toni to make this program more widely available. In response, DFC is launching a new campaign, called 180 Turn-Around. The overall goal is to raise enough funds to place up to eight Electronic K9s throughout South Carolina. Donations of any amount are accepted, and there is even an opportunity for a company or individual to purchase and name a K9 to be placed with law enforcement. “Once donated, the K9 can work for over eight years with law enforcement. This program will bring positive results by prosecuting criminals and rescuing children for over eight years, which is amazing.”
Toni Encourages each of you to do your part in protecting the children and consider making a donation to help places the extraordinary Electronic Detection K9’s to help save children’s lives.