BUTLER — Thirteen first-level students in Butler County Community College’s physical therapy assistant club are attempting to fill 100 Easter baskets with toys and candy for the Butler County Alliance for Children, which in 2017 assisted 325 children suspected of being physically or sexually abused, according to the nonprofit organization’s executive director.

First-level students in the club for those enrolled in BC3’s 69-credit associate degree program are collecting donations on campus and from the community in what has become over three years the only such Easter outreach effort to comfort the victimized children, said Denna Hays, the child advocacy center’s executive director.

“It has been phenomenal that the PTA Club created this program several years ago and that the tradition continues even as new members join the group,” Hays said. “We are very grateful for their project and the children it benefits through their efforts.”

The Butler County Alliance for Children, Hays said, is charged with the coordination of mandated investigators, such as law enforcement and children and youth services, throughout probes of suspected child abuse. “Most commonly, child sexual abuse,” Hays said.

Its services include providing a child-friendly location and trained forensic interviewers for young victims and their nonoffending caregivers.

The child advocacy center’s goal is to support child victims and their nonoffending caregivers as a means of reducing the amount of trauma caused by the investigative and prosecutorial processes, which, Hays says, “can be the start of the healing process.”

Rachel Fisher, Jessica Palascak, Andrea Ferko and Allison Castello were among 23 BC3 PTA Club members who in 2017 created 99 Easter baskets – roughly double the number of those made in 2016, Esplen estimates – and helped with distribution at the child advocacy center at 1015 E. Jefferson St., Butler.

Among the missions of the PTA Club is to provide community service, said Ashlee Esplen, the club’s adviser and a professor within BC3’s nursing and allied health division, adding that projects such as the Easter basket collection instill the values her program wants to inspire in her students.

Esplen is also challenging her first-level students to make one more basket than was created in 2017, to change one more child’s life this Easter.

Alena Brosky, of Brockway, is among BC3’s first-level PTA Club students who in late March will gather donations and fill Easter baskets with toys and candy for boys and girls ages 3 to 18.

“We will meet the goal of making 100 baskets this year by getting everyone involved and work as a team, with the thought of the children in mind,” Brosky said. “It is very rewarding knowing that my class and I will be putting smiles on the faces of children going through a difficult time. To me, we aren’t just giving these children an Easter basket. We are giving them the knowledge that their community cares about them.”

“Without the PTA Club’s collection, there would be 100 children that would otherwise not have an Easter basket on Easter morning,” Hays said.

The moment the BC3 students realized their efforts made a difference in the life of a child is, Hays said, “priceless to me.”

A collection point for BC3’s PTA Club is located in the PTA lab on the patio-level floor of the Business and Health Professions Building. Donations will be accepted through March 26. Distribution is tentatively set for 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. March 29, Hays said.

Easter is April 1.

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