NORFOLK, VA (WVEC-TV) -- For Carolyn LaCroy, it was like a dream. In 2008, CNN chose her as one of its top ten Heroes of the Year. And now, this Sunday, the owner of Charlie's Cafe in Norfolk wants to help her continue the work that got her international attention.
Carolyn started a non-profit called "The Message Project". She travels to correctional facilities and allows inmates to videotape messages to their children while they're behind bars -- away from home.
"Truly, truly these children are the silent victims of their parents' crime," Carolyn said. "They have done nothing wrong, but they're feeling the brunt of what happened."
"We need to work with these children," Carolyn said. "And let them know it's not their fault and help them get on a good path."
Carolyn believes maintaining that parent-child bond is part of getting the children on that good path. She also believes it helps society because some research shows many children of incarcerated parents end up in the criminal justice system, themselves.
It isn't something she just read about.
"I went to prison here in Virginia for 14 months (for possession of marijuana and intent to distribute) and when I came home in 1996, I wanted to do something," Carolyn said. "I wanted to do something to help. I wanted to do something to make a difference. One of the things I saw when I was incarcerated was women who never got visits from their children -- they were depressed, they were angry, they were very unhappy. I thought about this and said if they're this angry, unhappy and depressed, what about the children?"
"Through the messages, many of the parents who do them, talk to their children and tell them look this is not your fault," she said.
She started this in 1999 and has filmed close to 20,000 messages from parents to their children.
Since "The Message Project" is a non-profit, they rely on donations to keep it going. This Sunday afternoon, the owner of "Charlie's Cafe" in Norfolk is hosting a benefit for Carolyn. They'll sell artwork by chefs at many Hampton Roads restaurants and turn it into a party and celebration.
Carolyn is thankful for the support because she says it will help her continue to help children and families.
Charlie's Cafe is located at 4024 Granby Street -- on the corner of Granby and 41st Streets near the Virginia Zoo in Norfolk.