By Marissa Willman
When Mika Moulton’s 10-year-old son didn’t come home from his bike ride in 1995, she feared every mother’s worst nightmare. Eight days later, the police came to her door at 3 a.m. to confirm her fears. Her son, Christopher, had been abducted, brutalized and murdered by a recently released convicted murderer.
“It was very surreal. I was going through days and months in an almost zombie-like state,” Moulton said. “I had this feeling that I had to do something, and maybe it was a way to find answers or make sense of it.”
Aug. 7th will mark the 17th anniversary of Christopher’s death. Just six weeks after Christopher’s murder, Moulton began pushing for legislation in Washington D.C. to protect other children from a similar fate. She hasn’t stopped lobbying for children since.
Moulton is the founder of Christopher’s Clubhouse, a non-profit that provides children with the training they need to protect themselves in dangerous situations. Moulton started the local organization five years ago when she moved to the Coachella Valley from Illinois, but has lobbied for laws and put on programs for children for almost two decades since losing Christopher.
Just a few weeks before her son’s abduction, Moulton watched an episode of “Oprah” that touched on the reality of child abductions. The show set up a simulation where “strangers” would approach children on a playground to see if they could trick the children into going with them. The parents were sure their children knew better than to leave with a stranger.
“Every parent said their kid wouldn’t go off with a stranger,” Moulton said, “but every single child did.”
Moulton immediately talked to her children to warn them about ever going off with a stranger.
“I told them but I never taught them what they need to actually do if somebody grabbed them,” Moulton said.
After losing Christopher, Moulton dedicated her life to educating and empowering other children to prevent such a tragedy from devastating other families. Knowing what to do and being able to instinctively react, rather than freeze up, can mean the difference between being abducted or making it to safety, Moulton said.
“I’m very lucky that I was strong enough to do this,” Moulton said. “There are too many parents who can’t get out of the paralysis.”
A large part of Christopher’s Clubhouse’s educational efforts is its radKIDS program, which is a 10-hour course that teaches children safety and life skills. “Rad” stands for “Resisting Aggression Defensively.” From resisting abduction or an unwanted touch to learning gun safety and bullying prevention, children are empowered to stay safe in a variety of situations.
While the subject material is heavy, children enjoy the various physical activities—such as running across the room to dial 911 on a toy phone or crawling on all fours as one would to avoid smoke inhalation—and, by the end of the program, are able to demonstrate what they’ve learned on an instructor masquerading as a “bad guy.” Moulton said the simulation is important for getting children to understand that they are able to protect themselves.
“If a kid can fight and make enough of a scene, they know how to get away,” Moulton said. “It’s all about making sure the bad guy lets go and run, and not freezing up or being complacent.”
Classes are $50 plus $25 for each additional sibling, but Moulton said no child is ever turned away for inability to pay. Christopher’s Clubhouse also offers a Family Internet Safety program, adult education programs and RAD for Women, a rape aggression defense class that teaches women how to fend off an attacker.
“It’s for girls from 13 to 113,” Moulton said. “A 70-year-old was able to do everything in the last class and was amazed what she could do if someone tried to do something.”
Moulton hopes to offer classes on a regular monthly basis once signups increase. Last month, Moulton decided to rent a space so her programs would have a permanent home.
“We decided to go to the next level and rent space, and now we need to be able to cover the rent,” Moulton said.
On Saturday, Christopher’s Clubhouse will host its 2nd Annual Poker Tournament and Hoedown at Spotlight 29 casino. For a $50 entry fee, guests will receive $2,500 in chips to try their hand at winning a three-day, two-night stay in Las Vegas and an assortment of other prizes. People who don’t want to play but still want to have a good time can join the fun for $25 and participate in country line dance lessons and the raffle drawing.
On July 28th, Moulton will hold a volunteer training from 10 a.m. to noon at the new Palm Desert location. Volunteers are needed to help facilitate the classes and programs.
“If people want to help out, I’m going to teach them what they need to know to help out,” Moulton said. “I need more people there to help me.”
The all-volunteer organization is also searching for a web designer who can help Moulton build a more versatile website for Christopher’s Clubhouse, as well as financial contributions that will help ensure programs can continue to be offered.
People have often asked Moulton if her work bothers her. She knows she can’t change what happened to her son but the ability to give another child a fighting chance makes her work more than worthwhile.
“Every time I hear about a child who’s been abducted or sexually assaulted, I have to relive my nightmare,” Moulton said. “I’d rather train as many kids as possible and give this gift to as many families as I can.”
The next radKIDS class will be held from July 30th to Aug. 3rd from 4-6 p.m. For information about volunteering with Christopher’s Clubhouse or to sign up for a program or this weekend’s poker tournament, call Mika Moulton at 866-546-7464. For more information about the organization or to sign up for their newsletter, visit ChristophersClubhouse.org.
74854 Velie Way, Ste. 6, Palm Desert