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Birthday Blast for the Children’s Law Center
Braiden Sunshine joined the Dan River Girls on stage for the 2016 Birthday Blast for the Children’s Law Center of Central North Carolina. The season nine contestant on popular television show “The Voice” shares the same happy last name as the CLC executive director, and he volunteered his time and talent to help out his aunt, Iris Sunshine, in her effort to raise awareness of the effects of domestic violence on children.
“Tonight’s theme is A Voice for Children because that speaks to who we are and what we do,” said Iris Sunshine. “We want people to be aware that domestic violence is everywhere. Approximately 15 percent or more of the victims of child abuse grow up to be child abusers themselves, and 70 percent of children who grow up in homes where there is domestic violence have significant problems, many abusing drugs or alcohol.
“My adorable nephew was on “The Voice” this time last year, making it all the way through eight of nine rounds,” Sunshine continued. “He has a huge fan base here in North Carolina and when the board decided that we wanted to have a signature event, I asked my family if Braiden would sing. They didn’t hesitate to help.”
“We’re glad Braiden has the opportunity to serve his fellow citizens,” David Sunshine said. “I’m incredibly proud of him and of my sister. Even when she was growing up, she was very kind and always had a sense for justice.”
When asked about competing on “The Voice,” Braiden said that Gwen Stefani “was like a second mother to me” and that he spent a lot of time talking with Adam Levine.
“I’m a car geek and I told Adam that I loved his car,” Braiden said. “He said he’d take me for a ride and that ‘it wouldn’t be slow.’ He’s a great guy.”
The board also recognized three key supporters as part of the evening’s festivities. Karl Yena received the Visionary Mentor award, and William Blancato and Clifford Ong received Pro Bono Attorney awards.
“I used to be a prosecutor and I have seen a lot of victims of domestic violence,” Ong said. “When I became a stay-at-home dad, I decided to stay involved in efforts that help protect kids.”
“When parents get into disputes, children are often used as pawns,” Blancato said. “It is important for someone to come in and look at what is best for the children and help protect their interests.”
Yena said that he was grateful to have witnessed the growth at the Children’s Law Center. He added that the founders’ commitment to the mission was integral to the organization’s success.
“The demand for services far outstripped the financial resources and volunteer assistance for a while,” Yena said. “But the passion and moxie of the founders helped them achieve what needed to be done for financial sustainability.”
Ron Locke and Lorraine Mortis were among the attendees, as were Brenna Gilmore, Adrienne Livengood, Debbie Furr and Teresa Hicks. Martha Murphy visited with Shona Simpson, mom to the Dan River Girls, and Kelsey Urgo and Susan Giles Conley spent time with Kristie Wallis.
Back in the “green room” of the Millennium Center, the Sunshine family enjoyed a quick bite before Braiden’s performance. Although the teenager’s fame continues to rise and he is soon to release a new EP and then full album, his mother, Liz Sunshine, said the best thing about his experience is how it is shaping his future.
“We are incredibly proud of him and what he has accomplished, but what he has walked away with is to be very grateful and thankful,” she said. “From doing events like this to talking to other kids about following their dreams, he is giving back to others, and that’s a wonderful thing.”