Stranger helps raise $40,000 for North Augusta mother who left child in park while she was at work

Saturday, July 26, 2014 4:59 PM
Last updated Sunday, July 27, 2014 12:42 PM
  • Follow Crime & courts

A thousand miles didn’t stop a New Hampshire woman from extending a helping hand to a local mother accused of leaving her 9-year-old daughter at a park while she worked her shift at a fast-food restaurant.

Back | Next
Clair Ryan, of New Hampshire, said she felt compelled to help North Augusta Debra Harrell after reading her story published by "New York Magazine." "Even though I've never been in a situation like that, and I probably never will be, I just thought it was wrong," Ryan said.  SPECIAL
SPECIAL
Clair Ryan, of New Hampshire, said she felt compelled to help North Augusta Debra Harrell after reading her story published by "New York Magazine." "Even though I've never been in a situation like that, and I probably never will be, I just thought it was wrong," Ryan said.

Clair Ryan, a 31-year-old from Nashua, N.H., has connected people across the nation who contributed $10, $50 or, in some instances, several hundred dollars to Debra Harrell, a North Augusta single mother who works at McDonald’s.

An online fundraiser has raised nearly $40,000 for Harrell, who was arrested July 1 and charged with unlawful conduct toward a child. Police say she left her daughter, Regina, at North Augusta’s Summerfield Park.

Harrell, 47, was released on a $5,000 bond the day after her arrest, and the Department of Social Services returned Regina to her mother about 15 days later.

Harrell, who was home Friday with Regina, said the generosity of strangers who contributed to the fund has astonished her.

“I was so amazed. I thank each and every last one of them. I thank them so much. They just don’t know. The ordeal I went through was tragic,” she said.

Harrell said she had never spent a night apart from her daughter.

“Every night, I would cry. I would sleep in her bed because I was missing my baby so much,” she said.

Ryan, who is married but has no children, said Harrell’s arrest was a “cruel injustice” toward a single mother earning a minimum-wage and trying to provide for her child.

“By arresting her and taking her child away, society told her she couldn’t afford to work because she couldn’t afford day care,” Ryan said in a phone interview Wednesday.

Harrell’s arrest has gained attention of media outlets and bloggers across the nation. Many connected Harrell’s story to the national debate on the minimum wage.

McDonald’s denied last week that Harrell was fired, and the mother said she will return to her job Monday for the first time since she was arrested.

Ryan, who works for an environmental nonprofit organization, learned about Harrell’s arrest from a story in New York Magazine that her husband posted on Facebook. She felt compelled to help Harrell, and started the campaign on youcaring.com.

“Even though I’ve never been in a situation like that, and I probably never will be, I just thought it was wrong,” she said.

Ryan said she is more concerned with raising money for Harrell’s immediate financial needs than stirring the debate about living wages. The money raised will be placed in a financial trust managed by an attorney, she said.

Earlier this year, an online fundraiser raised $115,000 for a homeless mother in Arizona who left her children in a hot car while she interviewed for a job. Shanesha Taylor agreed last week to a plea deal in which prosecutors dismissed charges if she completes parenting and substance-abuse classes and creates child care trusts for her three children, according to various news outlets.

Harrell said her work schedule normally coincides with Regina’s school day. This summer, Harrell had brought her daughter to work, where she used a laptop until it was stolen. On the day of her arrest, she left her daughter at a nearby park with a cellphone. A woman noticed Regina without an adult and called police.

Harrell wouldn’t talk about her decision to leave her daughter at the park, saying her attorney instructed her not to speak to the media about the case.

A portion of money from the fundraiser will be used to replace the family’s stolen laptop and television, Harrell said. The remainder will go toward child care and education for Regina, who is an honor roll student, her mother said.

The fundraiser reached an initial $10,000 goal in 36 hours, Ryan said. Donations totaled $39,360 on Saturday.

“It’s a huge amount and is really going to make a change in her life and Debra’s daughter’s life,” Ryan said.

WANT TO HELP?

Clair Ryan, of Nashua, N.H., has set up an online fundraiser to benefit North Augusta resident Debra Harrell. As of Saturday afternoon, donors had contributed $39,360. Go to youcaring.com to make a donation and learn more about Harrell’s story and the people reaching out to help her.

Comments (55) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
fedex227
11187
Points
fedex227 07/26/14 - 07:32 pm
14
2
What a gracious thing to do.
Unpublished

Kudos to Ms. Ryan.

redapples
660
Points
redapples 07/26/14 - 08:26 pm
15
9
I'm a strong believer in

I'm a strong believer in philanthropy, but I am concerned that this act of generosity could serve to encourage bad behavior by some just for the hope of receiving money.

fedex227
11187
Points
fedex227 07/26/14 - 09:00 pm
9
11
Bad behavior such as ...
Unpublished

working to stay off the public dole; providing a nurturing environment for your child; instilling the value of an education and raising an honor-roll student? Talk about cynicism.

corgimom
33150
Points
corgimom 07/26/14 - 09:36 pm
8
4
redapples, I thought the same

redapples, I thought the same thing.

There are some really evil people out there.

FedEx, no, that's not what redapples meant, she meant like the people that fake cancer to get donations, that somebody would do that just to get money.

jrsc429
381
Points
jrsc429 07/26/14 - 10:45 pm
3
12
Waa

Charity begins at home. Claire, I am sure that there are those in New Hampshire that needs you. Just curious about how much of the 40k raised was from the Augusta area. I understand using the money to replace the stolen laptop, but was the tv also stolen? (No mention of it in the story). Don't mean to sound callous, but I think this story just got blown all out of proportion.

redapples
660
Points
redapples 07/26/14 - 11:11 pm
9
0
Yes, Corgi, thanks for

Yes, Corgi, thanks for clarifying. That's exactly what I meant!

dichotomy
33487
Points
dichotomy 07/26/14 - 11:43 pm
10
9
Gee, I'm amazed. Woman in a

Gee, I'm amazed. Woman in a bad situation does a dumb thing and gets detained. Woman gets lots of financial help and encouragement without any government taxpayer money being spent.

Hey New Hampshire do-gooder liberal lady.....there's 60,000 South American kids down in Texas and Arizona that need your help.

raul
5011
Points
raul 07/27/14 - 12:09 am
10
2
I wonder if Ms. Harrell is

I wonder if Ms. Harrell is receiving child support from the child's father? If not, she should be.

KSL
131213
Points
KSL 07/27/14 - 03:59 am
11
2
raul

That is the true problem. The sperm donors are too easily let off the hook. Back when women lost their welfare benies if they became pregnant or a male was found living with them, they were a whole lot careful not to get pregnant.

nocnoc
43392
Points
nocnoc 07/27/14 - 07:20 am
13
5
Angel covering for Neglect

Despite, Clair Ryan, of New Hampshire being a person with a heart like an Angel. It does not negate the fact Debra Harrell left her 9 y/o child running free for hours in a public play ground, unattended but with a cell phone, where any pervert could have done as they pleased.

Checking Some Facts and wondering about others
According to various Papers:

Since the mother is now 47 according to the paper she had this 9 y/o child at around age 37 or 38.

While found ALONE Harrell's daughter had a cell phone with her.
Does this mean her mother also had one and she had 2 Cell phones on Min Wage? Does that mean 1 must be a Pay As You Go and the other a Obama-phone with 200 mins?

While many papers avoid addressing the fact, it seems there is no daddy to be accounted for or to step in.

Since she is 47 (according to the AC) Does she have any grown up children that could of or should helped?

Why not just leave the child at home or with a cousin or G-Mom?

SOME ADDED FACTS
A Picture of the where she worked vs. where she left her kid.
http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2014/07/23/article-0-1FE8365200000578-596...
In other words, she did not leave the kid in a Mickey's Playground within feet of where she worked, it was over a mile away in a car and 1/2 mile if you cut through some fences and wooded areas behind Wally World.

The 9 y/o was found ALONE on the North Augusta playground.

The Temp w/o Heat Index was 89.1 degrees. With Heat Index added it was 91 degrees (Google Augusta GA weather history)

What was the 9 y/o child drinking and eating while mommy worked?

There is just TOO MUCH being skimmed over, for the sake of a Human Interest / Min Wage story.

 
 
BTW:
She is Internationally famous as even European Papers are carrying her story and picture.

Her Work Picture
http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2014/07/23/article-0-1FE8366400000578-940...

Her Booking Photo
http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2014/07/23/article-0-1FE8367000000578-647...

hoptoad
10866
Points
hoptoad 07/27/14 - 08:46 am
11
2
The minimum wage was not the

The minimum wage was not the problem. Going back to school, getting more experience or exhibiting the initiative at her current job to advance would have enabled this woman to get a better paying job. She probably qualifies for grants and could even get an on-line education to better her financial situation. Receiving government benefits temporarilly while going to school is an option to be considered.

I agree, the child would have been better off at home (unless it was in a crack neighborhood) or with a relative. At 38, approximate age of giving birth to this child, she should have known better than to have unprotected sex. And if she knows the daddy, she needs to provide his name to authorities and file for child support.

hoptoad
10866
Points
hoptoad 07/27/14 - 08:53 am
7
1
My previous post said, I do

My previous post said, I do think Mrs. Ryan from New Hampshire is an example of the generosity of Americans. If government got out of the way of giving our money away indiscriminately, we would gladly help the needy. Americans have always rallied around a worthy cause.

People like Ms. Harrel would be less likely to put themselves in the position she is in.

happychimer
17973
Points
happychimer 07/27/14 - 09:49 am
9
2
Some women who file for child

Some women who file for child support do not get child support, or they get very little, with payments coming in every 5 or 6 months. The sorry fathers get paid under the table to get out of paying. The courts need to be looked at because they are not making dead beat fathers pay child support.

happychimer
17973
Points
happychimer 07/27/14 - 09:53 am
3
7
It is good to hear that the

It is good to hear that the money will be spent on childcare and education. As for why the mother had a child in her late 30s is nobody's business.

clairryan
36
Points
clairryan 07/27/14 - 10:20 am
15
1
A few responses

Hi all - Just to clarify, this is Clair Ryan the fundraiser starter. Thanks for your comments on this, both supportive and not so much. I don't expect everyone to agree with what I'm doing. It's refreshing to see people discuss without flaming!

FedEx227 - Thank you!

Redapples & Corgimom - Yes, there are bad people out there. One thing that's definitely a fact is that when a news story and fundraiser gets big like this, the press starts digging into every aspect of your life and story. If something in the water wasn't clean, I think it would come to light pretty quickly, but you might disagree.

JRSC429 - I don't disagree. While I donate to a lot of local causes, I haven't been intimately involved in them. This experience has changed me in a big way and I do plan to get involved in local organizations that provide support and childcare to struggling families in the fall when the work of the fundraiser is done. Unfortunately, I can't tell you what proportion of the funds are from locals - location isn't something that donors have to share. Debra's house was robbed, so basically all of their valuables and electronics were taken.

Raul, KSL - The details about where Regina's father are have not been made public, and I don't know either - to me, it's not all that terribly important. But it's interesting how everyone assumes the worst.

Iaaffg - LOL. Clearly true that I'm a northerner. I doubt I'm as much as a kumbayaher as you think. I'm kind of just a normal person who spends her free time in sweats on the couch or out shopping, watching movies. 99% of what I've done in life has been for my own gain, but Debra's story touched me and I felt I had to do something. I actually blame the situation mostly on peoples' paranoia. Straight up fact: kids are more likely to be molested or murdered at home or in childcare than by a stranger. Sad but true. Source: https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/ojjdp/196465.pdf

Nocnoc - there's a lot here. First, thanks for your kind words - I do what I can. A few of your facts are a little skewed. Debra's daughter wasn't truly alone at the park. It's a very, very busy park. But she wasn't under the direct supervision of an adult. Debra gives her cell phone to her daughter all the time to call her friends, etc. Debra was at work and had a work# for emergencies - they didn't both have one. Debra's nine year old daughter is her only child (as per Debra herself). Debra isn't originally from North Augusta/Augusta area so she may not have family nearby to help. A couple of other things on your added facts - it was hot but Summerfield park has a giant sprinkler/splash pad for cooling off. There is a program that provides breakfast and lunch to kids in the park who need it (per https://dss.sc.gov/content/customers/food/sfsp/index.aspx), and Debra's daughter often had a few bucks to run and get foot at the McDonalds.

hoptoad - Personally, I don't feel myself in a position to judge the particular circumstances of Debra's life. But a lot can change in 10 years. Sadly, most everyone in this country knows of a person or family who was financially stable before 2008 and then lost it in a big way in this recession. I can't speak to Debra's neighborhood, but her house was broken into not long before the arrest, so I can see why she wouldn't want to leave her kid there! Plus it's boring! I don't see why it's bad for kids to be out in their neighborhoods playing. People keep saying "the perverts, the perverts," but as I responded to Iaaffg, the man hiding in the bushes is largely a myth created by Law and Order. There are perverts out there, but they are people we know. They are, for the most part, moms, dads, aunts, uncles, teachers, doctors, babysitters, childcare workers, little league coaches, neighbors, and family friends. Jerry Sandusky, anyone? It's scary and it makes the problem much harder to deal with...but we'll never solve the problem unless we can be honest about it.

Whew, sorry this got so long. Enjoy the rest of your weekends.

722
Points
Barry Paschal 07/27/14 - 10:21 am
16
0
Generous spirit

Mrs. Ryan: Thank you for your generous spirit and kind example, including your measured response to the commenters on this story.

jimmymac
41080
Points
jimmymac 07/27/14 - 10:44 am
1
0
MS. Ryan
Unpublished

Your kindness is indeed something to be applauded instead of derided. This is something that Americans do more than any other country in the world. Ask any server in any foreign country and they'll tell you that Americans are always the best tippers. I hope the woman you helped gets herself a new job and can be a productive citizen for her child. I and many others chided her for a poor decision in leaving her child in a park but at least the mother was working not out bar hopping. You being from up North riles some of the people down here but kindness shouldn't be questioned just because some are still fighting the civil war.

tali212
10
Points
tali212 07/27/14 - 11:23 am
8
3
Thank you Claire for raising

Thank you Claire for raising these funds. Thank you also for having compassion for Debra and bringing light to her story. My thoughts are - Why did that woman call the police? If she was so concerned for her, why didn't she keep an eye on her till her mom showed up. Clearly there were park attendants supervising the breakfast/lunch distribution.
Also is it so bad to give children some autonomy. Isn't it silly to give them no room for independence and suddenly at 16 or 18 suddenly expect them to drive a car, get a job, think for themselves. Independence and good judgement are qualities that must be nurtured and taught to children so that they can one day raise children of their own. This reminds me of the outcry when an NYC mom let her 9 year old child ride the subway alone. He was ready for the responsibility and she gave it to him. Great parenting in my mind.

This is a single mom, who has a job, is raising an honors role student. She is doing everything right - she isn't free-loading, taking drugs, raising a truant child. Yet she is arrested. Give women a break for heavens sake.

I am glad there is a lot of media on this issue, it is ridiculous that hard working good moms are getting arrested
!

allhans
23759
Points
allhans 07/27/14 - 11:39 am
3
1
According to the article the

According to the article the donated money will be placed in a trust fund. When we get all the facts regarding her actual income and the care of the child, then we will know if this is an issue.

clairryan
36
Points
clairryan 07/27/14 - 11:56 am
8
3
income

Allhans - Clair again. I have no intention of asking Debra her actual income. Just the way I was raised, it would be rude to do so. But according to GlassDoor.com, a person holding her title (shift manager at McDonalds) makes, on average, $9.65 an hour. If a person makes that wage and works 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year (no vacation), the annual income would be $20,072 a year before taxes. It gives me major anxiety to think of raising a child on that income. I understand the cost of living is more moderate in North Augusta than up here in the north, but it isn't that low! As stated earlier, I don't know if there's any alimony or paternal child support in addition to Debra's wage, but doesn't effect my feelings about whether or not this was a good thing to do either way.

pottsville
166
Points
pottsville 07/27/14 - 12:36 pm
8
0
Mrs Riyan

Mrs Ryan: This is America, where we enjoy Freedom of Speech, and also the Freedom to donate our dollars to
assist someone in need.

Mike Toreno
45
Points
Mike Toreno 07/27/14 - 03:09 pm
5
8
Sisyphean Task

Ms. Ryan, you are going to have to content yourself with the good you wrought in Ms. Harrell's and her daughter's life; you are not going to be able to persuade your hate-filled detractors. These people are concerned only with seeing Ms. Harrell as inferior to themselves and finding fault with her. No matter how patiently you point out that Ms. Harrell did nothing wrong, they will cling to their views, because their views are based not on reality, but on a need to distract themselves from their own squalid and degraded condition by throwing mud on others. What happened in this case was the invention of a crime. The authorities created a rule out of whole cloth that allowing one's child to play in a park constituted neglect, and many people in the community took that as an opportunity to begin a pecking party. Now people raise specters of phantom strangers and others disparage Ms. Harrell for having a child - not because there is anything wrong with anything Ms. Harrell has done, but simply to allow her detractors to divert her attention from the misery of their lives, and the misery they spread to others.

You did a marvelous work here, but as for changing the opinions of many people in that morally blighted community, you are like the sower who cast his seed upon stones.

puppydog
227
Points
puppydog 07/27/14 - 04:44 pm
6
4
Thank you Clair

Clair, you have a heart of gold and I applaud your compassion and efforts to help this mother. I agree, the park was the safer option than leaving her child at her home that had recently been broken into and robbed. I also agree with you in that the majority of child molesters are family members, family friends, trusted clergy, teachers, coaches, etc. There was just a segment on the news about that very subject recently. The stats and facts overwhelmingly show that to be the case about 90% of the time. It also sounds like there was some supervision at the park since it was mentioned that breakfast and lunch was provided to the kids. There are several parks here in Augusta who do provide those meals in the summer when school is out, since breakfast and lunch are provided at our public schools here free of charge to all students during the school year. Please excuse our rude naysayers and critics; there will always be people who try to find the worst in a situation instead of having empathy and understanding. Since it was stated that this mother had no family in the area, she did not have the option that many people use for childcare, such as a grandmother or family member. On her wages, after taxes, I'm sure there was not much left of her paycheck and childcare is very expensive. You did a very good thing for this mother who was trying to work to provide for her child. Some of you negative people should be glad she wasn't sitting home collecting welfare. You are the same ones who usually complain about that too. A lot of us down here in Augusta really appreciate what you are doing Clair to try to give a helping hand to a mother in need, all the way up in NH! We need more people like you in the world!! Don't let the haters get you down. It is they who should be ashamed of themselves for being selfish and heartless. They need some of your selfless compassion and effort. Thank you Clair!

Gage Creed
17375
Points
Gage Creed 07/27/14 - 05:03 pm
3
4
Venemous Rantings

Mike Toreno's comments sound much like the venemous rantings of a former King of Corinth..

Mr. Toreno.. is postulating that a law was "made up" just to punish Ms. Harrell.. Really?

Not worry though... I'm sure the erethral Mike Toreno will gone as quickly as he appeared.. BLESS HIS HEART

SRD
441
Points
SRD 07/27/14 - 05:24 pm
6
1
Pray I can do the same

I applaud your generosity and concern and wish there were more folks like you. It is so much easier to give to a large organization with heavy over-heads high paid VIPS and very little dollars actually reaching those in need. I was a single mother for 12 years with a dead beat dad (ex-husband) who moved from job to job to avoid paying child support and if it were not for my family we would have starved. There are many others out there than need a helping hand up out of their situation but can't see the light for the trees. I don't know if you are a person of faith but as a person of faith myself I'm sure you will be blessed.

Mike Toreno
45
Points
Mike Toreno 07/27/14 - 06:37 pm
4
5
Something I forgot

One can see the attitudes of the depraved community in which it is Ms. Harrell's misfortune to live by the comment above stating that "Charity depends at home" and asking how many people from the area contributed - as if that made a difference. If few people from the local area contributed, that reflects badly on the local community, not on Ms. Ryan or Ms. Harrell. The commenter is (like the community itself) seeking to make up new rules on the fly to govern the conduct of others. The commenter's statement that the story was "blown out of all proportion" is meaningless. What is the correct proportion? People who say things like that are only stating that they would prefer that less attention be paid to an event (usually because they come off badly). They are engaging in a clumsy and dishonest slight of hand to disguise their preference as moral norms.

As for this:

"Mr. Toreno.. is postulating that a law was "made up" just to punish Ms. Harrell.. Really?"

The commenter lacks basic language comprehension. I didn't say that a law was made up, I said that a crime was invented. There is a law against child neglect, but Ms. Harrell's conduct didn't constitute neglect, so the representatives of the morally debased community instantly invented a rule (in their imaginations) equating letting one's child play in a park as neglect. Ms. Harrell was apparently supposed to take into account every fear that could be imagined by a member of the community. It's true that there were dangers. Her daughter could have been crushed by a charging rhinoceros. Bitten by an ostrich. Drowned. Eaten by sharks. Injured in a skydiving accident. Lost in a cave. Caught in quicksand. Struck by a falling satellite. Buried in an avalanche. Dragged away by wild horses. All those dangers are real, but Ms. Harrell apparently estimated that the risk was low. Parents make such judgments all the time, but unfortunately, Ms. Harrell lives in a community whose members see fit to make judgments for others without the intellectual or moral capacity to make judgments even for themselves.

hoptoad
10866
Points
hoptoad 07/27/14 - 06:47 pm
5
2
Okay. I must be one of those

Okay. I must be one of those "detractors" because while I admire Ms Ryan's generosity, we have had a rash of single mothers leaving their children in harm's way lately.

Just last week we had a young lady leave her 2-week old in a car while she was in school taking a test. Luckily, the child was okay. A few weeks ago, a male left his or his girlfriend's child in a vehicle, I don't know for sure, but i believe that child died. Another man left his 22 month old in a hot car all day - so far, it looks like it was done purposely and the child passed away. Also, last week there was the mother who gave her baby to the police 2 HOURS after she gave birth claiming she found the child in back of a church.

We have cases of boyfriends babysitting a child that ends up dead or physically injured.

Charity is a noble deed, and we should help those who truly need it, with circumstances beyond their control. Not those who knowingly put their children in danger or break the law.

I hope Ms Harrel realizes how lucky she is that her child is safe and she has a fresh start with this monetary gift.

Dixieman
15290
Points
Dixieman 07/27/14 - 09:27 pm
7
3
Balanced view.

Generous spirit? Sure. Kudos for that.
Best and wisest use of these funds? Probably not, as they will just encourage more of the same irresponsible behavior that led to the problem in the first place. This is like being generous by sending tons of surplus food to Africa or wherever; it alleviates the short-term problem, but puts farmers and food merchants out of business so dependency becomes a long-term condition.
Final verdict: Mixed. Full marks for desire to help and good intentions, not so sure about practical effect. Liberals like to judge programs by their intentions; conservatives by their results. Choose your political philosophy and judge accordingly.

Gage Creed
17375
Points
Gage Creed 07/27/14 - 08:07 pm
1
5
Another Diatribe From GTA

Mike... you surely are a piece of work... But Haters gonna Hate.

That was really sweet how you managed to disrespect the entire population of 2 two states, including the person(s) you pretend to support.

Given your discrimatory views, it's not difficult to understand who has a lack of basic comprehension and communication skills.

Bless your heart...

itsanotherday1
43685
Points
itsanotherday1 07/27/14 - 08:51 pm
4
1
I'm on the side of giving Ms

I'm on the side of giving Ms Harrell the benefit of the doubt. Would I leave my 9 yo in the park alone? No, but in her world it may have been the best of available poor choices. This woman seems to be doing the best she can aside from this one incident. I applaud any single parent who works instead of welfare, and has honor roll children. That says to me that she is involved in the child's life and leading her down a good path.

Back to Top

Top headlines

Developer fined by Georgia EPD

The developer of a Grovetown subdivision has been fined by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division for failing to control erosion and other water quality control violations.
Search Augusta jobs