Advocates honored for efforts to fight child abuse

Apr 10 2012 - 9:12pm

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John Gullo
John Gullo

OGDEN -- When asked how he would like to be remembered, John Gullo's response came without hesitation.

"As someone who cared about saving a child," Gullo answered.

Gullo was one of many honored at an awards ceremony for Prevent Child Abuse Utah on Tuesday morning

The founder of the American Dream Foundation said he liquidated his fast-food empire because it was taking too much time away from his work with children.

Gullo and his wife, Karen, have been instrumental in the success of Prevent Child Abuse Utah, said Doug Anderson, a member of the board who presented Gullo with the Child Advocate of the Year award.

"Not only have they provided financial support, they have spent countless hours dedicated to improving the lives of children," he said.

The award's ceremony, held at the Eccles Conference Center, marks 30 years in business for the nonprofit organization committed to breaking the cycle of child abuse.

"We proudly celebrate our accomplishments over the years, but realize none of it would be possible without the wonderful support of friends, volunteers, sponsors and donors," said Suzanne Leonelli, executive director of Prevent Child Abuse Utah.

Also receiving the Child Advocate of the Year award was Youth Impact Executive Director Robb Hall; Blake and Susan Andersen, of Bountiful; South Jordan detective Scott Russell; and the South Valley Sex Abuse Team.

"I just celebrated my 17th birthday, and that's the truth. My birthday is Feb. 29, so I can truly say that Robb Hall has been a mentor to me," said Gullo, who presented Hall's award to him. "Robb's dedication to the kids at Youth Impact has been absolutely unbelievable. He knows every one of those kids and, let me tell you, many children are walking proud today because of his influence."

Visionary Leader recognition went to Fred Riley, Tony and Cynthia Divino, Roger and Anita Dutson, Doug and Cari Fullerton, John and Karen Gullo and Tony Kaye. Champion Foundation awards went to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, The Sisters of St. Benedict and St. Benedict's Foundation and the Ruth Eleanor Bamberger and John Ernest Bamberger Memorial Foundation.

Salt Lake City resident Preston Jenson told his personal story of sexual abuse he endured as a child. He credited Russell and Prevent Child Abuse Utah with much of his recovery. His abuser was sentenced to prison last December.

"So many wonderful people crossed my path to help me get through my abuse," Jensen said. "The statistics for sexual abuse are not in our favor, and I want to try and help change those numbers. I want to let other kids know there is hope, and they are not alone."

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