The River Bridge fundraiser |

The River Bridge fundraiser

The Carbondale/Aspen Glen Rotary club hosted “Life Upon the Wicked Stage,” which starred veteran Hollywood actors Joyce Bulifant and Roger Perry Friday and Saturday night at the Thunder River Theatre in Carbondale.

The River Bridge Child Advocacy Center is a nonprofit project that will respond to the vital needs of abused and neglected children in the area.

The benefits from the elegant gala and champagne reception go toward the $110,000 start-up fund needed to build a house for the center near Valley View Hospital.

Garfield County reports more than 350 cases of child abuse each year, and nationally, that figure jumps to more than 3 million. National advocacy groups place the actual number as more than three times that figure.

While those statistics, considered epidemic in proportion, present a challenge for any city, volunteers find raising awareness here is just as hard.

“People don’t want to talk about it,” Sue Coyle said. She said those who live in the Roaring Fork Valley perceive it as paradise and forget that there is a “dark underside,” as Jean Katkov calls it.

River Bridge is unique because it allows the children a place to heal. Usually when kids leave an abusive situation, they must go to different agencies as part of the investigation.

“Now all the existing agencies will come to the child,” said Melissa English.

Materials such as a forensic camera means that a child will have to tell the story once, not seven or eight times.

English said that it lessens the traumatic experience for the child and also makes prosecution of the perpetrators quicker.

The Carbondale and Aspen Glen Rotary, of which Bulifant is a member, raised more than $40,000 and last week’s events brought them close to half their goal.

Bulifant’s theatre production “Life Upon the Wicked Stage,” which was also part of the event, smartly wove 50 years of her show business career that included an enduring friendship with theatre actress Helen Hayes, memorable dances with Fred Astaire and a dozen other stories with the likes of Bill Cosby, Joan Crawford, and Walt Disney. Her lighthearted humor and moments of heartbreak on and off the stage worked silently but brilliantly with her cause. Bulifant’s life as an actress and that as an advocate for abused and neglected children mirrored the same truth.

We don’t always get to choose our roles.

Sometimes they choose us.

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