District Attorney David F. Capeless, 2010 Downing Award Winner Erik Bruun, and Senator Ben Downing

The 7 th Annual Gerard D. Downing Service to Children Award was presented to Erik Bruun of Great Barrington on Monday, April 12, 2010, at a ceremony held at the Beacon Cinema in Pittsfield. Each April, in recognition of National Child Abuse Prevention Month, the Berkshire County Sexual Assault Intervention Network (SAIN) Team presents the Award in honor of the late Gerard D. Downing to an individual whose life exhibits a personal devotion to enhancing and enriching the lives of children in Berkshire County.

Gerard Downing's tragic, untimely death in December of 2003 left a void not only in our county but across the Commonwealth. Gerry served as Berkshire District Attorney for 13 years. Prior to his election Gerry served as an Assistant District Attorney for seven years. He selflessly dedicated his legal career to public service, protecting the community in which he was raised. He had an unwavering commitment to advancing the rights of victims, in particular those most vulnerable-children, seniors, and the disabled. Gerry also had a passion for community service and served Berkshire County not only as its chief law enforcement official but also as a coach, role model, and mentor and had a lasting, positive effect on the lives of a great many children.

District Attorney David F. Capeless was joined by Senator Benjamin Downing in presenting the award on behalf of the Berkshire County Sexual Assault Intervention Network (SAIN) Team.

Erik Bruun got involved in youth issues in 2000 when he attended the first board meeting of the Railroad Street Youth Project, a youth-empowerment group started by several teenagers. He became board chairman, a role he has held for 10 years. He has mentored all of the executive directors and many of the staff members of the RSYP, ensuring the organization's financial stability, and has raised community awareness of meaningful ways to support youth. He played major roles in starting the South Berkshire Youth Coalition, Berkshire Youth Development Project, and Project Native, a native-plant nursery launched as a project for RSYP. He has helped RSPY serve an entire generation of young people with vitally important services, with programs ranging from apprenticeship and mentoring to teen pregnancy and substance abuse counseling. Erik has been highly effective in asking town officials to listen to the voice of youth, in supporting youth to use their voices, and in standing up for youth rights in controversial matters. For the last three years he has also served as President of the Rudolf Steiner School Board of Trustees. Erik's focused and articulate dedication to young people in Berkshire County has made a positive difference in Berkshire County.

Erik lives in Great Barrington and has three children: Elizabeth (16), Andrew (14), and Rebecca (5).

Prior Award winners are: 2004, Robert Esposito; 2005, William A. McGovern; 2006, Matthew C. Stracuzzi; 2007, Cheryl Nolan-Wallah; 2008, Nancy J. Macauley; and 2009, Teri Cooper.