RANCHO MIRAGE - On what would have been Frank Sinatra's 98th birthday, his widow cheers' in his name with a glass of champagne. "Happy birthday sweetheart,” says Barbara Sinatra.
But she also cheers for another reason and that's a new garden in the Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center. A ribbon cutting ceremony was held to open it and Sinatra cut the ribbon.
She says it allows abused kids to use gardening as a tool for therapy. They will grow strawberries, tomatoes and various flowers. "A lot of these children are below poverty level children and they really don't have enough to eat. It gives them an active interest in growing and watching things grow,” says Sinatra.
Sinatra says the more than 700 children that pass through come with a range of abuse. "Physically, emotionally, sexually-- all kinds of abuse,” says Sinatra.
CEO of the center John Thoreson says catching patterns of abuse early on is key to stopping the cycle. "Children that have been abused have a tendency to abuse later in life if they don't get therapy and help-- so what we're really trying to do is help those children that have suffered the trauma of abuse or neglect or have been witness to violence,” says Thoreson.
The children's center was created back in 1986 with the help of Frank Sinatra and other well-known Coachella Valley residents. "He had my back the whole way. I'm the one who really wanted to start this,” says Sinatra.
She says she felt him in the air during the ribbon cutting and adds her late husband would have been proud of the center's progress. “You have to help them. They have no one to speak for them. They need someone with a voice,” adds Sinatra.