It all started in 1991 with a young girl in a yellow dress. She had matted brown hair, and the tear stains on her cheeks gave testimony to the tears she'd been crying. She looked a bit sad, a bit lonely, a bit out of place. As Chief of Police Bill Hegarty walked through the Grand Rapids Police Department that day, that little girl caught his eye. And as he looked at her, he saw something that many of the others rushing past her that day missed. He saw more than that she simply looked out of place. He saw that she looked scared.
When Chief Hegarty discovered that she was there to be interviewed as part of an investigation into child sexual abuse, he thought about that scared look in her eyes. And he knew that something must be done.
That night he went home and sat down with a pen and a legal pad, pages of which he covered with his thoughts about how that little girl should have been treated. How she should have had a place to go where she felt welcomed. A place that would have adults who knew how to interview children and help them heal from their abuse. A place like the Children’s Assessment Center. And then he gathered together a group of people who made it happen.