Happy New Year from Lauren’s Kids

Growing up, New Years was never my favorite holiday – so many expectations, so much to look back on and, as a victim of child sexual abuse, so many dark secrets bringing me fear, shame and guilt.

While I haven’t always been so happy to look back on the past, I have been able to enjoy look at the future and imagine ways to make my reality brighter, shinier and most importantly safer and healthier.

“This new year, I will be kinder to myself.”

“This year, I will stop allowing others to dictate my decisions.”

“This year, I will stop allowing myself to be a victim. I will take hold of my survivorship.”

This year at Lauren’s Kids, we are reflecting on a BIG year. We are thinking about the tens of thousands of Floridians and thousands of survivors we have connected with during Lauren’s annual 1,500-mile Walk in My Shoes walk across the state. We are thinking of all of the names in our Warrior and Survivor jars, the victims we have seen transition to survivors and thrivers who are getting their GEDs, graduating from college, getting married, having children and creating healthy and whole lives for themselves. We are in awe of their strength, their determination, their power. We are thinking of the 16,000 teachers and guidance counselors who brought our Safer, Smarter Kids curriculum into their classrooms and the 300,000+ children more we have educated and empowered with vital safety lessons.

We are thinking of all of the new partnerships formed, the wrongs we have helped to right. And we are so very grateful for all of the tremendous opportunities afforded to us in 2013.

As we begin to plan for 2014, we are looking back at how far we’ve come and where we want to go this next year. We’ve got a brand new team of movers and shakers who are ready to make this our biggest and best year yet. As our team sat down together this week tying bracelets and butterflies for the Florida Charity Day at Bloomingdale’s stores across Florida in January, we began to talk about goals for the New Year. On this last day of 2013, we’d like to share some of our personal goals with you and those we’ve made for the Lauren’s Kids foundation:



“This year, I’m going to really focus on asking myself ‘What can I do today to make Lauren happy?’ 2014 is going to be my year of self-care and self-renewal. I am going to set boundaries and stick to them, and not be so worried about other people’s opinions about what I do or how I do it.”

– Lauren Book, M.S. Ed, Founder and CEO

Coming from a background in social work, I have a tendency to think of others first and put their needs in front of my own. My goal this year is to be kinder to myself and not be so hard on myself. Here’s to 2014 and a happier, healthier Cristin!”

– Cristin Smith, MSW, Executive Director

My big personal goal this year is to really and fully transition to South Florida and build a life here, as I just recently relocated from Tallahassee. I can also be a little bit of a people-pleaser so I am working finding my ‘I mean business voice,’ and learning to say ‘no’ when things just aren’t right for me.”

– Claire VanSusteren, Communications Director


For the Foundation…

As a team, we would like to be more focused and resolute in our mission to end child sexual abuse and help heal survivors, and ensure that all of our projects and actions tie back to awareness, education and prevention.

In 2014 we want to really focus on education to prevent children from enduring abuse – expanding our Safer, Smarter Kids curriculum into new grades and new locations. First up: New York!

We are honored to be working with the Florida Legislature to advocate for the passage of laws to protect children and families from sexual predators through our state’s civil commitment centers.

This year, we’d like to work to create new opportunities for supporters to get even more involved. We love it when you come out to walk with us…and we want to get volunteers involved year-round!

Finally, an organizational goal personal to Lauren: As I’ve grown with Lauren’s Kids, my deepest, darkest fear has always been that this organization, this cause that means so much to me, my family and the survivors we work with, would die. I have had to constantly legitimize who I am as a survivor, who I am as an advocate and what we are as a foundation. Because of our tireless efforts, the change we’ve created and frankly, the magnitude of the issue of child sexual abuse, we’ve become an organization that can truly stand on its own two feet. My goal is to continue to grow to ensure Lauren’s Kids creates positive, sustainable change not just in Florida, but in our nation and in the world.

This New Years Even, consider: Are you happy where you are? Are you being honest with yourself? Let’s go into 2014 ready to live fearless, healthy and free lives.