UC Merced Awards Spendlove Prize to Childhelp Founders

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 Childhelpfounders Sara 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 for adoption.

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 we serve."

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, went to 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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