Lynn Layton is the president and CEO of the Monique Burr Foundation for Children and a longtime resident of Ponte Vedra.
Can you please briefly tell us about your background?
I’m from Lakeland, Georgia. I went to college at Valdosta State, where I received a degree in criminal justice with a minor in sociology. I moved to Jacksonville in 1985, and I was a banker for 25 years. I left the banking world and started a consulting business and did that for a while. When the market tanked in 2008, this job came open with the Monique Burr Foundation. I’ve been here ever since.
For those who are unfamiliar, what’s the story of the Monique Burr Foundation?
It’s a love story really. Monique was a strong, passionate advocate for kids. She was fierce when it came to whatever it took to protect children. She and Ed had been married for 10 years. They were on their 10-year wedding anniversary trip in California when they were in a terrible accident. Monique was killed instantly, and Ed was badly hurt. It was just devastating. A year to the day of when she was killed, Ed started the Monique Burr Foundation for Children. His mission was to make this a legacy for her to continue her work and make their sons proud. Austin is on our board now, and I expect Garrison to join soon. It’s been a long time, and obviously the foundation has grown tremendously, but Monique is still a very real part of what we do.
How has the nonprofit grown since you’ve been in your position?
When I started, the foundation was primarily based on the First Coast. They were reaching about 16,000 students a year, with a program focused on child sexual abuse called Good Touch Bad Touch. At that point in time, it was a true foundation — it raised money and gave away grants — and it also had a program that they ran in the local school system. Fast forward to today, we have reached a little over 3 million children in Florida. We have programs in 18 other states and the Cayman Islands. We have the only comprehensive, evidence-based program in the country for the prevention of child abuse and bullying for children.
What are some of the specific programs offered by the foundation?
Overall, our commitment, our mission, our focus, our goal, is to train as many children as possible with prevention education. That goal is necessary because 95 percent of abuse is preventable through education. Currently, we have MBF Child Safety Matters for kindergarten through fifth grade, MBF Teen Safety Matters for sixth through eighth grade and we’re launching in late spring or early fall MBF Teen Safety Matters for high school. The programs advance each year so that the appropriate topics are covered for that particular age group of a child. We also include bullying, cyber-bullying and digital safety in our program, because the research says that if a child is victimized in one way, they are much more likely to be victimized in another. So, it’s much more important to teach a child what to do, how to stay safe, regardless of the situation they may be in. Our programs focus on two things: five safety rules and teaching kids how to identify safe adults. Our newest program is MBF Athletes Safety Matters, which we developed as a result of what happened with USA Gymnastics. The program is very age appropriate and very fun.
One of MBF’s biggest fundraising events, A Night at Roy’s, is coming up on Tuesday. What makes that event so special?
There is something magical about that night. I can’t put my finger on it. People come to that event, and they see people they haven’t seen since last year’s event. There’s a joy and a magic about seeing old friends. The weather is always great. The music is fantastic. We have incredible sponsors. It’s like a reunion. Chef Roy Yamaguchi comes every year from Hawaii. The staff at Roy’s is phenomenal. Everybody comes together for one thing. It is such a joy to be able to look across the crowd and to see people who are having fun and supporting MBF. They’re people who genuinely understand why we do what we do, and they show up every year. It’s more than just an event.
How can people help MBF and get involved?
They can help us with our events. We have two events every year, A Night at Roy’s and the golf tournament in December. Both of those events are very volunteer-intensive. We can always use help around the office. People can also help by sharing our posts on social media and spreading the word; helping with making sure our program is in their child or grandchild’s school; and learning themselves. We have four professional development courses that are free, one-hour classes online. If they become educated, then they have a much better chance of protecting kids, and that’s what we’re all about.
What do you enjoy most about living in Ponte Vedra?
I love the area because it feels like home. We have everything there. We have the beach, which is my happy place, and the Intracoastal Waterway, which has so much life with boats, dolphin, manatee, etc. It’s all right there. People have to go see that stuff, and we have it right there. It really is a special place.
Visit https://www.mbfpreventioneducation.org/ for more information on the Monique Burr Foundation for Children.
Edited by Jon Blauvelt