Nobel Peace Prize Nominees Sara O’Meara and Yvonne Fedderson
have dedicated their lives to helping children in need
MERCED - The
University of California,
Merced, has awarded this year’s Alice and Clifford Spendlove
Prize in Social Justice, Diplomacy and Tolerance to
O’Meara and Yvonne Fedderson for their lifelong commitment to
helping children in need.
The award comes from an endowment to the university from
Merced native Sherrie Spendlove, given in honor of her parents to
recognize a scholar, author, artist, or citizen whose work
exemplifies the delivery of social justice, diplomacy and tolerance
in local and global society.
“Sara O’Meara and Yvonne Fedderson are the social justice
champions of children everywhere,” Spendlove said. “They have
demonstrated that two people working together with much will and
determination can positively change the lives of millions of people.”
CEO Sara O’Meara and President Yvonne Fedderson started
Childhelp as International Orphans Inc. (IOI) in 1959. The two
women were young actresses participating in a goodwill tour of
Asian countries when they discovered the plight of orphans on the
streets of Tokyo. Their efforts to help these children evolved into
an organization, which for 15 years operated four orphanages in
Japan, plus five orphanages, a children’s hospital and a school in
Vietnam. During the fall of Saigon, IOI helped organize “Operation
Baby Lift,” which brought Vietnamese orphans to the United States
In the mid-1970s, O’Meara and Fedderson turned their focus to
the problem of child abuse in America and the organization
subsequently was renamed Childhelp. They established the leading
national non-profit organization to help victims of child abuse and
those at-risk of such crimes. Childhelp’s approach focuses on
advocacy, prevention, treatment and community outreach and its
programs include the
Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline(1-800-4-A-CHILD),
Good Touch/Bad Touchand more.
They were instrumental in establishing Childhelp’s
National Day of Hope, which mobilizes people across the U.S.
each April during National Child Abuse Prevention Month to join the
fight against child abuse.
O’Meara and Fedderson have built residential treatment villages
in California and Virginia, and children’s advocacy centers in
Arizona, California, Colorado, Michigan, Tennessee and Virginia
outside of Washington, D.C. They pioneered the use of animal
therapy in treating abused children and also revolutionized the use
of art therapy in dealing with traumatized children. They have
worked tirelessly with the U.S. Congress to sponsor, ensure
passage, and help fund legislation that created a national registry
of substantiated cases of child abuse. The bipartisan effort they
led was signed into law in May 2007 as part of a comprehensive bill
entitled “The Child Safety Act.”
“We are extremely honored to receive this award because the
underlying principles signify all that we strive for on a daily
basis to help and heal the innocent children who are being
sexually, physically or emotionally abused,” O’Meara said. “We also
honor Alice and Clifford Spendlove and Sherrie Spendlove for
establishing this award as true visionaries,” O’Meara said.
The pair has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in honor
of their extraordinary mission.
“We accept the Spendlove Prize on behalf of children around the
world, who are our greatest resource to create a future filled with
justice, tolerance and diplomacy for all mankind,” Fedderson said.
“We are deeply appreciative of the Spendloves for bestowing this
tribute upon us, and most importantly, Childhelp and the children
O’Meara and Fedderson will serve as role models for students,
staff and faculty and the community surrounding UC Merced.
Recipients of this award are expected to produce or provide a
legacy that would be retained at UC Merced, such as a publication
or an artistic production.
The selection committee is chaired by the dean of the School
of Social Sciences, Humanities
and Arts, and is made up of a representative from the Spendlove
family or designee; an undergraduate student; a graduate student; a
faculty member; and representatives from the UC Merced community.
“This year’s recipients embody the spirit of the Alice and
Clifford Spendlove Prize. They have dedicated most of their lives
to helping children in need and are an inspiration to us all,” said
Hans Björnsson, UC Merced’s interim dean of the School of
Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts. “Our students can learn from
the example they’ve set as founders of one of the oldest and
largest national nonprofit organizations.”
The first award, given at campus opening in 2005,
Charles J. Ogletree Jr., a Merced native who is now a law
professor and the founding executive director of the Charles
Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard
University. In 2007, the prize was awarded to
John Y. Tateishi, an activist for civil rights. Tateishi has
been involved with Asian-American communities for nearly 30 years,
gaining national prominence in 1978 when he launched a national
campaign to seek redress for Japanese Americans interned in U.S.
detention camps during World War II.
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