Tuesday, December 14, 2010, page 27

Dr. Michael Irving's monumental effort to raise awareness about child abuse.
by Phil Lameira

It has taken two decades, a heart attack, thousands of dollars, and countless tears, but Dr. Michael Irving now sees the light at the end of the tunnel. His 'Reaching Out' Child Abuse Monument may finally have a permanent home.

It was 20 years ago that Irving visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC and was struck by its power to heal, alleviate suffering and provide understanding for those who struggled with the overwhelming loss of lives during the Vietnam War. At the time, Irving, a psychotherapist, was working with people who had suffered from child abuse as part of an internship for his [doctoral] degree. Also an artist, Irving decided that a monument for survivors of child abuse should exist to provide a place of healing.

Irving started working on the monument in 1996 and after consulting with many [survivors, clinicians and artists] on what the final sculpture should look like. It is a vignette of two figures (10 fee high by 30 feet wide) with arms spread out and upward, the surface covered with nearly 300 squares with sculptured hands and personal messages, each created by a survivor of child abuse or someone who was affected by it. The monument is hollow, allowing for visitors to insert their own paper 'HandPrints' and messages.

After a mishap in which a foundry sand-casted and, in essence, ruined the original sculpture, the first figure was completed and Irving began looking for a place to display the final monument. It needed to be a public location with high visibility and easy access. It is currently in the driveway of his home on Rhodes Avenue near Gerrard Street East.

Irving has been negotiating with the Ontario government to have the monument displayed at the northwest corner of College Street and University Avenue.

"We're donating the monument and paying for the creation of a parkette," said Irving.

He is hoping the Minister of Infrastructure Bob Chiarelli will accept the monument and permit the building of the parkette. An online petition has been established for people to sign and let the Ontario government know how important it is that this monument be placed in a prominent location [www.childabusemonument.com]

Recently, Irving discovered that the second figure's moulds had been destroyed while in storage in Scarborough.

"I cried," said Irving. "It has been such a challenge to make this. I mean, there's been so many things. The one piece getting destroyed, the second figure getting destroyed." said Irving. But he is hopeful that soon the monument will be out in a public place. To child abuse survivors "a real memorial will say 'you're not cast aside, you are validated'," he said.

Irving estimates that $30,000 is needed to fix the moulds for the second figure and an additional $200.000.00 to complete [the figure]. He is also looking for a secure space to store the [moulds], hopefully in the Beach area or in the east end of the city so he can ride his bike from his home.

Most importantly, he needs people to sign the petition in order to find a permanent location for the monument.

For more information about the "Reaching Out" Child Abuse Monument visit [www.childabusemonument.com]. You can also follow future developments on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ChildAbuseMnumt.