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Returning Hearts Celebration Rescheduled for Saturday, March 28, 2009
Contact: Marie Guthrie, Senior Director of Ministry Communications, Awana, 630-540-4600, marieg@awana.org

STREAMWOOD, Ill., Sept. 9 /Christian Newswire/ -- The 2008 Returning Hearts Celebration(TM) at Louisiana State Penitentiary previously scheduled for September 13, 2008 is rescheduled for Saturday, March 28, 2009. The event runs from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. CST in Angola, Louisiana. It will be the nation's largest gathering of children and their inmate fathers.

An anticipated 1,200 children as well as over 800 volunteers were scheduled to attend the 2008 event at the largest maximum-security prison in the U.S. However, the prison was not able to accommodate due to the planning and response to Hurricanes Gustav and Ike. Warden Burl Cain's commitment to ensuring public safety, as well as his dedication to promoting recidivism and decreasing future violence and victimization remains evident in his decision to reset the date of this important event - one in which he publically states "is aimed at breaking the cycle of youth following in their inmate parents footsteps."

The event is a joint effort between the penitentiary and Chicago-based Awana, an international children's and youth ministry. About 730 children participated in last year’s Returning Hearts Celebration in Angola.

In addition to a fun-filled family day in a festive atmosphere, Returning Hearts Celebration is a time when fathers who may not have seen their children in years can ask for forgiveness and begin reconciliation with their daughters and sons, helping to break the cycle of crime. The hard truth is that children of an incarcerated parent are seven times more likely than their peers to end up in prison themselves.

"We look forward to moving forward with Returning Hearts on March 28, 2009. Many families are eagerly awaiting this memorable event," said Lyndon Azcuna, director of cross-cultural ministries for Awana. "This special day gives children an opportunity to experience God's love through the changed hearts of their fathers."

Awana Lifeline began in 2003 when Warden Cain invited Awana Co-Founder Art Rorheim and President/CEO Jack Eggar to speak to the prison's fellowship of Christian men. What Rorheim and Eggar found was surprising and inspiring: The inmates wanted to see an evangelism and discipleship program established for their children.

Because of the expertise Awana has in working with children, parents and churches, Cain invited the ministry to help meet this need. Shortly thereafter, the Awana Lifeline program was born.

In addition to programming, Awana also is responsible for coordinating hundreds of volunteers for the day to help with chaperoning, transportation, games, food service and other tasks. Last year Awana volunteers came from 21 states, including Alaska.

Awana is an international ministry that partners with parents and churches to raise kids to know, love and serve God. Each week, more than a million children and youth are involved in Awana through more than 17,000 churches in over 100 countries. Awana is the only organization with fully integrated evangelism and discipleship programs for kids from ages 2 to18 that actively involve parents, church leaders and mentors.

For more information about Awana Lifeline, visit
www.awana.org/lifeline.

For media credentials to attend the Returning Hearts Celebration, contact: Cathy Fontenot at 225.655.2897 or
cathyfontenot@corrections.state.la.us