Shannon Miller is a 7-time Olympic medalist in gymnastics.
Originally from Oklahoma, she now lives in Ortega, is the mother of two young children, and is also a member of the Monique Burr Foundation for Children board of directors.
Miller came to Ponte Vedra Beach Dec. 3 to greet and take pictures with customers at Scout & Molly’s boutique in Sawgrass Village to support the Jacksonville-based foundation’s cause and spotlight its successful programs.
“Monique Burr really struck me as such a unique program,” Miller said at the “Sip and Shop” event. “It’s the only evidence-based, comprehensive, abuse-prevention education for children in the United States, and it’s right here in Jacksonville.” After reading story after story about bullying and abuse of children in our nation, Miller said she realized, “As a mom of two young children, it was one of those moments for me to see what I could do to help.”
Emily Rhodin, owner of Scout & Molly’s, said she was excited to host Miller at the event. Rhodin and Lynn Layton, president and CEO of the Monique Burr Foundation, are friends. This was the third year Scout & Molly’s held a Sip and Shop to benefit the foundation.
“It’s a great foundation that does great things for kids,” Rhodin said. “I’m a Jacksonville native. I have kids. I like to give back to kids.”
The foundation was founded in 1996 by Ed Burr after his wife, Monique, was killed in a car accident. Put together as a legacy to her, Layton said the charity now provides bullying and child abuse prevention education across Florida, 22 states and three countries.
“They have educated over three million children just in Florida,” Miller said. “It’s a little gem. It’s an incredible program. My kids are going through it in school and it also helps parents by including them in the conversation.”
A brochure given out at the Sip and Shop highlighted and explained some of the foundation’s programs. In age appropriate ways, children learn safety rules and strategies to help them prevent, recognize and respond appropriately to bullying, cyberbullying, four types of child abuse (physical, emotional, sexual, neglect) as well as exploitation and digital dangers. Five safety rules they learn are: know what’s up; spot red flags; make a move; talk it up and no blame, no shame.
“Ninety-five percent of child abuse can be prevented through education,” Miller said. “This needs to be talked about, so we are talking about it.”
Layton added that it is especially important to draw attention to it during the holidays, a time when people not normally in a child’s home may be visiting. If anything happens that makes a child uncomfortable, “they need to be able to speak up.”
The foundation’s programs teach kids how to identify safe adults, Layton said. “It’s important for them to be able to have that.”