Gulf Coast Children’s Advocacy Center celebrates reopening of Therapy House more than 2 years after storm

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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB)–It was an exciting day for the Gulf Coast Children’s Advocacy Center on Friday as they celebrated a project more than two years in the making. The center officially got the keys to their brand new Therapy House; a place for child survivors to reclaim their power.

Like many other buildings in Downtown Panama City, the Gulf Coast Children’s Advocacy Center Therapy House suffered damage from Hurricane Michael.

“We knew that we needed to act, we knew that we needed to act quickly and we were able to put a team together and we’re just so proud that we’re here today,” said Lauren Book, the Founder and CEO of Lauren’s Kids Foundation.

The storm also impacted the children they serve.

“After the hurricane, I did therapy with Tasha in her car in a Wicked Wheel parking lot for months,” said Ricky Keaton, a survivor of child sexual abuse.

After learning about the gap left in the community, non-profit Lauren’s Kids and the AshBritt foundation pooled their resources. They pulled off a rebuild totaling more than $800,000.

“It is overwhelming to me to provide a safe space for these thriving survivors to do their work,” Brook said.

The new center offers 8 rooms for therapy as well as areas for children to relax.

“For them to feel safe is the most important thing. This is a place that they need to feel like they can open up and be vulnerable and safely share their experiences,” said Erika Blakely, a survivor of child sexual abuse.

The reopening was celebrated by members of the community as well as state and local leaders.

“To see all the support and everyone involved is amazing. We couldn’t have done it without them,” said Lindsey Townsend, a Program Coordinator for the Center.

The Gulf Coast Children’s Advocacy Center serves more than 7,000 local victims of child sexual abuse each year.

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