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Coffee Creek Correctional Facility adults in custody spend the weekend doing crafts with their children, cutting their hair and grabbing school supplies.

PMG PHOTO: SHANE HOFFMANN - Unlike past iterations, this year's event allowed loved ones inside the facility and gave them a chance to see the conditions their mothers live in.

This article has been updated from its original version.

After a two-plus year hiatus, the Through A Child's Eyes program returned to Coffee Creek Correctional Facility with a new format on Aug. 13-14.

Over 80 families and 250 children participated in person over the weekend.

The event, run through the Rotary Club of Wilsonville, reunites adults in custody at the women's prison in Wilsonville with their children and families. Previously, the event took on the form of a carnival, featuring an outdoor barbecue.

This year, the rotary reintroduced the program as a back-to-school event.

Families rotated through three stations. In the facility's chapel, families grabbed backpacks and stocked them with school supplies. In the cosmetology room, adults in custody involved in the prison's 18-month cosmetology program gave their loved ones haircuts using their newfound skills. And in the visitation room, families enjoyed Italian sodas and desserts while getting their pictures taken, catching up and doing crafts. PMG PHOTO: SHANE HOFFMANN - Over 80 families and 250 children participated in person over the weekend.

"I'm very lucky they get to come visit and support," adult in custody Sarah Martin said. "And this is just a way to reward them back and say, 'we love you for loving us.'"

She added: "It's more fun, more interactive than what I've seen before. This is the first time they've ever let families and friends come into your part of the world."

Martin spent most of her time in the visitation room, flanked by her mother Erica Watson and 17-year-old daughter Jordyn.

"We stay connected," Martin said. "I love to send her art and cards and photos. Just like a good teenage mom, I like to pick on her and she picks on me back."

Volunteer Danielle Leckband, a West Linn preschool teacher of 20 years, found out about the event on the Canby Now Facebook group. She had to be a part of it. And as much as the event was about the families, she was profoundly impacted herself. PMG PHOTO: SHANE HOFFMANN - Children of all ages attended Coffee Creek Correctional Facility's Through A Child's Eyes event.

"I was scared when I first came, and nervous, and now I'm just in awe of what they provide to these women … I'm humbled by it all," she said.

The event was a full-circle moment for many, especially Lisa Edgemon. Edgemon spent 21 months in Coffee Creek a decade ago. Then, her children were 7, 11 and 16 years old. She remembers how hard it was to go so long without seeing them.

She returned for the weekend as a volunteer and brought her eldest, Beth Brumbaugh, along with her.

"I remember how bad I wanted to see my mom when she was gone," said Brumbaugh, who saw her mother once or twice per month while she was incarcerated.

As much as Edgemon said her heart broke for the people without visitors or outside contact, she appreciated the return.

"Back to school, things like this, it's just huge for the kids," Edgemon said, "And for the moms, it's a pretty big deal because you're still their mom and this is a way that you can do that while being incarcerated."

In the cosmetology studio, Tammy Perry relished the chance to showcase her newfound skills to her 14-year-old son Aidyn and 11-year-old daughter Addyson.PMG PHOTO: SHANE HOFFMANN - One of the event's biggest draws was the cosmetology studio. The 20-plus inmates involved in the program were offered the chance to showcase their newfound skills to their loved ones.

While Aidyn stood to the side, Addyson let her mother wash and cut her hair. She wanted a wolf cut, a trending haircut seen on Tik Tok.

Perry waited five years to get into the program. She'd heard about it when in county jail and had wanted to study cosmetology even before being incarcerated.

"It's an amazing experience, not just for me, but … I feel like it's about the kids and the experiences that they get from it," she said. "And to know that they can have these experiences with us even though we're in here."

Coffee Creek Superintendent Nichole Brown said staff try to describe the prison conditions to families and others. But nothing beats seeing it for themselves. That's what made the weekend so special. As opposed to an outdoor event, families got to see their loved ones in action.

"(It's hard to) not know, 'Where is mom going to be?'" she said. "We can help fill that gap and dispel children's fears and let them know their moms are in a really humane space. The Oregon way is about normalizing and humanizing the experience for both the inmates and the staff; that's really just a different way to approach incarceration."PMG PHOTO: SHANE HOFFMANN - Over 100 children who couldn't make the event in-person were still packed a backpack full of school supplies by their mothers.

Brown admitted that planning this year's event was tricky, as shifting COVID-19 guidelines put it in doubt on several occasions. But after nearly six months of planning and recruiting volunteers, the event went as smoothly as possible, she said.

And despite the stress, as children filed in, often running into their mother's arms, Brown received reminder after reminder of why it was all worth it.


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