Does Hogwarts Really Exist?

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Does Hogwarts Really Exist?

Last year I fulfilled a childhood dream of mine – I visited Hogwarts at Christmas time!

Like every 90’s kid I loved Harry Potter. I dreamt of the day I’d get my own Hogwarts letter and begin my journey. Unfortunately, I never received that letter and my magical powers are limited to finding my husband’s keys.

I learned to live in the Muggle world and accepted the fact that Hogwarts wasn’t real and I’d never be able to do anything magical…or at least that’s what I thought until I started working at the Children’s Advocacy Center of North and Northwest Cook County (CAC). Recently it dawned on me - maybe magic does exist, just not in the way that I originally thought. Maybe Hogwarts is right here at the CAC!

Harry Potter opens with a glimpse into Harry’s abysmal living situation. He’s kept in a closet, hardly given any food and suffers constant physical and emotional abuse from his cousin Dudley. Each day is worse than the last until the day Harry gets his letter. Hogwarts becomes Harry’s safe haven where he learns the skills he needs to help him grow and defeat the worst of his abusers, Lord Voldemort. In the end it’s Harry’s support system that ultimately gives him the strength to triumph over Voldemort.

The children who come to CAC are from all houses: Slytherins, Hufflepuffs, Ravenclaws, and yes, even Gryffindors. We offer services free of charge in both English and Spanish, because as Dumbledore says, “Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open.” Despite different backgrounds, family situations and upbringings, these children are all similar to Harry Potter. Each one of them has suffered abuse, and all they’re looking for is somewhere safe to grow and learn.

If CAC really is Hogwarts then our Dumbledore would have to be Executive Director Mark Parr. His 19 years at CAC have given him the skills and wisdom to guide our team of therapists, forensic interviewers and family adovcates. Both Mark and Dumbledore dedicate their days to ensuring children have a safe and nurturing environment to heal. Like Dumbledore, Mark reminds us all that, “Happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”

Our light bringers may not be McGonagall, Flitwick, or Sprout, but we have Master’s-level therapists who personalize therapy sessions to meet each child’s needs. Our therapists teach children ways to handle the hurt they are feeling, how to feel safe again after abuse, and how to find the power within them to face life unafraid. They don’t flick wands and teach the correct pronunciation of “wingardium leviosa” but the transformation of the children they work with is truly magic.

There were a million amazing things the wizarding world had that I wish the CAC could have too. One of my favorites is the pensieve. The pensieve allows a person to pull memory out of their head for others to view through their eyes. CAC doesn’t quite have this magic, but we do conduct and record forensic interviews for ongoing court cases our children are involved in. These interviews are recorded and can be used in court, and by police and lawyers. This ensures that the child only needs to tell their story once. Before the existence of CAC children were asked to recount their stories many times, and even testify in court. This forced them to relive their worst experiences over and over and over again. They would have to tell the stories in front of strangers and even in front of their abusers in court. Our forensic interviews may not be pensieve -level magic, but they are close.

We may just be Muggles but I think the CAC is pretty close to being our own Hogwarts. Children arrive lost, hurt and scared. They’ve spent so long staring into the ugliness and evil of the world, and it takes highly educated and motivated therapists to bring them back into the light. It takes a little bit of magic to show these kids that there is life beyond Privett Drive; that they won’t always be the kid shoved under the stairs.

We don’t charge tuition for our Hogwarts. That’s why we’re asking for a hand in bringing a little magic back into the lives of children who have lost so much. Help us send these children into the future with their heads held high and their wands at the ready.

Donate today and help make the world a little more magical.

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