Caring Place presents Helen Carrocci Award

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WINTERSVILLE — Two presentations at A Caring Place Child Advocacy Center’s annual fundraiser banquet made the Saturday evening event one of appreciation and inspiration.

Bobbyjon Bauman, president of the Ohio Valley Youth Network, was presented the Helen Carrocci Award at the event held at St. Florian Hall. The award is named after the woman who co-founded the agency and served as its first board president when it opened in 2002.

And, motivational speaker Derek Clark’s presentation to the theme “Resilience and Redemption” gave audience members a hard-to-hear story of child abuse, but a victim-to-victor message of hope.

Jean-Philippe “J.P.” Rigaud, A Caring Place board member, was joined by Teresa Blackburn, Carrocci’s granddaughter, in presenting the Helen Carrocci Award to Bauman in recognition of his work through the OVYN.

“The past years we have expanded our efforts to recognize those who have performed the work of advocating for our children, seeking to recognize those often in the limelight or in the trenches,” Rigaud said.

Past recipients have included Dr. Stephen Mascio; the late MaryAnn Donnelly, the center’s longtime director; Starkdale Presbyterian Church; Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla; Capt. Susan Bell; Rigaud; and Glenda Jones and Joe DeSantis of the Jefferson County Department of Job and Family Services, Children Services Division.

Bauman, he said “has been instrumental in advocating for our youth with events such as the Valley’s Got Talent, iServe Day of community service, Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Sonshine Bible Club to name just a few. Bobbyjon’s encouraging spirit and tireless efforts display his commitment to the development and welfare of Ohio Valley children,” Rigaud said.

Other nominees were Judge John Mascio, who Rigaud said “compassionately works with drug-addicted mothers, the homeless women prostituting themselves or the parent who can’t keep a healthy home. He has a gift of understanding and commitment, and it’s not just for families but it also is to ensure the safety of our prized citizens — the children of Steubenville. Judge Mascio has taken stands on human trafficking and practices. He practices his rare gift of listening to not only the prosecution and defense but to the agencies like us who serve those children,” Rigaud said.

Samanda Pepperling, a former attorney, also was a nominee. “Known as Mandy, she is a native of Jefferson County and identified by many as a woman of faith and a true blessing to those she encounters,” according to Rigaud, who said Pepperling serves as a counselor at Edison High School. She is an “advocate for students through the difficult moments,” according to Rigaud, and “enthusiastically embraces the challenges encountered as her students become engaged in court-related matters.”

The guest speaker, a native of the San Francisco Bay Area, was introduced by Shari Jo Watkins, board vice president. Clark is a “trauma-informed motivational speaker;” the author of seven books, including “Disable the Label,” “Never Limit Your Life” and the “I Will Never Give Up” series; and a viral video sensation for his “Rapping Dad” videos that have generated more than 200 million views.

“I speak all over the world, sharing a message of resilience, a message of redemption,” Clark began his presentation. “I stand here not today as a victim, but as a victor because I had to learn how to divorce my story. I had to find that power within to not let the inner me become the enemy any longer. You get to see the end of the movie by me standing here. You get to see the positive outcome basically of a lot of people rallying around a kid, and hopefully that kid turns out all right and does something great with his life as an adult,” Clark said.

Clark said the two most common messages he gets are “Will you be my rapping dad?” and “I am thinking about killing myself — how did you make it?”

“I try to answer every single person,” he said. “I come up with generally something like this — the meaning of life is to give your life meaning.”

Seven months pregnant with him, Clark’s mother was brutally beaten, kicked and stomped on by his father in a fit of rage. He said his father had told his mother to have an abortion or else “I’ll kill the kid myself.”

When he was 3, Clark said he and his mother and older sister “finally” ran from his abusive father. They lived in a park with other homeless people, then a one-car garage, then with a man who had money, a man who would become his abusive stepfather.

“I have scars all over me from brutal child abuse, is what it states in my records,” Clark told the audience, sharing two stories of abuse that “changed my life for many years.”

His 200-pound stepfather “would take the back of my head and slam my face to the bottom of the toilet bowl,” he said. “This happened a lot,” he added, noting one time, he was held underwater so long, his mother screamed he was being held down too long.

Clark said there was nothing he could do, but then he felt “the most excruciating pain. My mom had grabbed my wrist and pulled my arm backward the wrong way, where it ripped my arm from my shoulder, and it just hung there, and she never took me to the hospital to get it fixed.”

When he was 5, his inebriated mother held his hand under scalding water.

“I screamed for my life, and when she finally let me go, I will never forget this, that all the skin on top of my hand came off in one big clump in that sink, and not only did she burn my hand, she burned into my heart, my soul, my spirit, my mind that I was a bad kid, that I had no value,” Clark said.

In the ensuing months, his stepfather and mother turned him over to a psychiatric hospital.

“They never came back,” said Clark, who would spend 13 years in the foster care system. “Growing up I always felt like a reject, that the good kids got to stay with mom, and bad kids got thrown away. That’s a tough way to live. You don’t have a lot of self-value,” he said.

Eventually, a combination of positive influences would help rescue him — the help of a special social worker; foster parents who were both teachers who believed that somewhere inside the angry boy was a happy one; and even a chicken named Wilbur on the farm where he lived.

“It was an animal that helped me learn to love again, and it took a long time for me to get to this point that I could speak to you and be an example for you and let you know I have four children I am passing on generational blessings to them and not generational curses,” Clark said.

“It would take years for me to find this microphone, this voice, to share my message,” he said. “Everybody is broken and has a story, and here is what I learned — that God has a way of taking broken pieces and turning them into masterpieces. You are victors in God’s eyes, you can rise above.”

In high school he found acceptance and love from an African-American family and a voice through “rap battles,” what he discovered was a way to express himself and release anger and pain.

“It is poetry in motion, to me a taxi to my spirit, the master key to the lock on my soul, a creative way to express myself and get the inside crap out,” he said, demonstrating for the audience to a standing ovation.

“I learned that what’s happened to me, those scars are not nearly as important as what happened inside me,” Clark said. “For so long I was letting the inner me become the enemy. I was sabotaging myself. Then I realized you become aware that you will not let your parents’ mistakes confine you, define you, but let them refine you, that I was never going to let my parents’ weakness destroy my greatness. Everyone of you is born with greatness, and you get a choice to do what you want with your life. But greatness is contagious, hope is contagious, and that’s why I am here tonight, because A Caring Place cares about children, and they’re the heroes, just like I had a few heroes who never gave up on me, who believed in me, and A Caring Place Child Advocacy Center is trying to protect the children in your community,” he said in imploring audience members to financially support the work of the nonprofit.

For information on A Caring Place Child Advocacy Center, call (740) 266-3988 or visit