LEXINGTON, S.C. – At a recent ceremony at the Broad River Road Complex, the S.C. Department of Juvenile Justice presented the City of Cayce Police Department with a “Healing Tree” – a metal tree conceived and created by the youth at S.C. DJJ.
The tree is a symbol of growth, peace, love, forgiveness, and regrowth to comfort victims of crime in our community with the pain and hurt in today’s world. The original tree was created in 2018 and was displayed during Victims’ Rights Week at the South Carolina Victims Assistance annual conference. It was shown again during 2019 at the VRW conference and will return to the in-person conference this year. The rest of the time it remains at DJJ. This second tree is the first one to be created and donated to a local organization for their use.
“We are grateful and excited to partner with the city of Cayce Police department to extend our support for crime victims in their continued recovery process to build their lives,” said Angela Kelly, victim services manager, Division of Community Services, at DJJ. “We believe strongly in building support with local, statewide and national victim service professionals to ensure a comprehensive network of services for our victims.”
Kelly coordinated with Juana Saavedra, a former DJJ employee instrumental in the original tree project four years ago and is now the victim advocacy and community outreach coordinator for the City of Cayce Police Department.
“We thank Juana for her efforts with this tree and the original tree which was dedicated in April 2018,” Kelly said.
“Thank you so much for this tree,” said Chris Cowan, police chief for the city of Cayce. “This gives us a huge opportunity to broaden our horizons when it comes to victim services by reminding our victims how important they are to us and to the city.”
With the direction of their welding instructor, Jeremy Lee, the youth at DJJ were able to design and the create the replica tree, which hopefully will mean so much to so many.
Different colored ribbons are affixed to the tree which give it “life.” Both victims and survivors are given the opportunity to write a short message, or their loved ones name on a ribbon, and then tie it to the tree.
The hope is that the Healing Tree will allow everyone a chance to leave behind a hurtful memory and take with them a seed of hope and forgiveness.
“This will go in a very prominent place out in front of our office,” Cowan said. “Juana is organizing an event where we are inviting victims to a ceremony to hopefully help them heal and bring closure and realize that we are not going to forget them.”
“We are committed to as an agency to responding to the needs of victims so we’re happy to donate a replica of the SC DJJ ‘Healing Tree’ to the city of Cayce PD,” said Kelly. “This tree serves as symbol of healing and hope to South Carolina crime victims.”