"Bethesda needs us. The kids need us."
That was the message OU softball coach Patty Gasso sent loud and clear to the 200 people who attended Bethesda Inc's. second annual Champion's Luncheon at the National Weather Center on Tuesday.
Gasso knows a little bit about being a champion -- taking OU softball to the Women's College World Series nine times, winning the national championship four times and looking to compete for it again this year.
Gasso followed Caleigh Donaghe, a former Norman High School standout and also a Bethesda graduate, who discussed being sexually abused as a child.
"It was a secret that I held on to for so long," Donaghe said. "It was the most painful thing I had ever gone through."
Now a 22-year-old who already has two bachelor's degrees and is looking to add a Doctorate in Forensic Psychology, Donaghe said Bethesda has been an important asset in her life, and it is also important to others who had experiences like her.
"It was because of Bethesda that I was able to love myself again," she said. "By donating to Bethesda, you are helping children breathe a sigh of relief."
Bethesda Executive Director Travis Humphrey said all proceeds from the event will go into the organization's capital campaign to fund a new building.
"We've already found a nice piece of land located off Porter Avenue, near the Masonic lodge," he said. "We raised $40,000 during the inaugural event last year and are hoping to get that much again this year."
They were off to a good start, gaining more than $3,000 from two live auction items, which were an all-paid, one-week family vacation to Seacrest, Florida, and a painting donated by Norman artist Tim Kenney.
Other event gift items included: a white diamond necklace donated by Brockhaus Jewelry, one-month membership to the CycleBar, a Hal Smith Restaurant Group gift card and a football signed by OU Heisman Trophy winners Jason White, Steve Owens and Billy Sims, donated by Tinker Owens Insurance Agency.
Bethesda provides care for Oklahoma children, ages 3 to 18, who have experienced sexual abuse or trauma. They are a United Way of Norman partner.
Humphrey said the organization served 646 clients last year through its treatment program and 21,508 students through its through education program.
For more information, call 364-0333 or visit bethesdaok.org.