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CELEBRITIES, AUTOGRAPHS, GAMES HIGHLIGHT CHARITY DRIVE

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Friday, June 11, 2010— Chicago’s professional athletes, sports teams and other celebrities are rallying together to support a Saturday charity event to raise money for a scholarship created in memory of a little girl from the northwest suburbs who was brutally beaten to death in her home three years ago.

Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart is partnering with the girls basketball team at Whitney M. Young Magnet High School to celebrate “Melanie’s Ball” from
1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday June 12 at the Whitney Young school gymnasium, 211 S. Laflin St.     


Carnival games, silent auctions, raffles and celebrity appearances are set for the celebration, built around the centerpiece event, a charity basketball game between sheriff’s police officers and the nationally-ranked Dolphins basketball team.

Additionally, thanks to support from Chicago White Sox pitcher John Danks and first baseman Paul Konerko, attendees will be able to bid on numerous autographed bats, jerseys, caps and balls from several White Sox players. Also set to be auctioned off are a game-used jersey and shoes from Charlotte Bobcats guard Raymond Felton, along with an autographed football from Bo Jackson, while members of the Chicago Sky WNBA team will be in attendance to sign autographs on site. Additionally, there will be a raffle for two round-trip tickets to anywhere in the continental United States, provided by American Airlines.

It’s all aimed at creating a fun-filled day with the kind of memorable activities Melanie Beltran would have loved to have enjoyed during her short life.
“What happened to Melanie is something that touched this department to its core,” said Dart, who had taken office just weeks before handling a case he described as the worst case of child abuse he’d ever seen. “I’m honored to be able to be part of such a special event that will allow her spirit to live on.”

The event is named in honor of Melanie Beltran, a 5-year-old girl from the unincorporated area near Des Plaines who was beaten to death by her mother in March 2007. An investigation by Cook County Sheriff’s Police detectives determined Melanie’s parents had beaten and tortured her throughout her life.

She had been scalded, burned and beaten, while also being tied up, forced to eat hot peppers and drink from a toilet. The day Melanie was taken to a hospital, her mother beat her for vomiting. Her mother forced Melanie’s siblings to clean their home before authorities were notified.

The next day, Melanie was declared dead from multiple injuries, including blunt force trauma.

The case touched all of those involved with it, including a sheriff’s police officer who named his K9 after Melanie, another who arranged a Make-A-Wish donation drive in her name and the department’s sketch artist, who provided a pencil drawing of Melanie, whose parents never had her picture taken. That sketch remains next to Sheriff Dart’s personal desk.

Melanie’s parents, Carlos Beltran and Mila Petrov, were both arrested, charged and ultimately pleaded guilty to their roles in their daughter’s beatings. Beltran is now serving 20 years in prison for aggravated battery to a child, while Petrov is serving 39 years in prison for murder.

Media coverage of Petrov’s December sentencing was noticed by Corry Irvin, head coach of the Whitney Young girls’ basketball team. She reached out to sheriff’s officials, indicating she wanted her team to do something to carry on Melanie’s memory.

“We wanted to develop a scholarship fund which would allow for Melanie’s spirit to continue on through giving other children hope and the possibility of reaching their dreams,” Irvin said. “It was important to my team and I that we take on the responsibility to bring awareness not just to Melanie, but to other children who may be being abused. We hope that Melanie’s Ball will give families a day to enjoy being with each other.”

“Melanie’s Ball” is free to children under 13, while admission for high school students is $10 and adults are $15. Tickets can be purchased at the door of the event.

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