Weekend events highlight Child Abuse Prevention month

REED CITY — On a chilly Saturday morning, shiny blue pinwheels spun wildly as they were planted around the flag pole at GT Norman Elementary School in Reed City.

Their royal blue color stands for child abuse prevention.

One by one, the pinwheels were put in the ground to represent the child abuse victims and their families.

"The pinwheels represent the bright future every child deserves," said Shelly Scharlow, vice president of General Federation Of Women's Clubs in Reed City.

The pinwheels are the centerpiece of the Pinwheels for Prevention campaign, which was started in April 2008, by Prevent Child Abuse America. Since 2008, it has distributed more than 3.5 million pinwheels nationwide.

In 2012 the state of Michigan had 89,367 investigations of child abuse and neglect. Mecosta County had 548 and Osceola was involved in 388 investigations, according documents submitted from the Meceola Children’s Council.

"We want to be active in our community and want concerned citizens to rally around this childlike symbol to help put an end to abuse and neglect in our communities," Scharlow said.

This is the first year the Reed City chapter of GFWC has planted pinwheels in the community for Child Abuse Prevention month. In Mecosta and Osceola counties, the pinwheel planting is one of several events planned in April to raise awareness about child abuse.

In Morley, a Millions March Against Child Abuse took place at Kinney Park. Walk organizer, Vicki Culvahouse choses a different city each year to hold the march in.

"I always take my walks to small rural communities because large communities usually have resources in place to make people aware about abuse," Culvahouse said. "Approximately 40 other states participated with similar walks on Saturday. The walks kick-off the month long awareness campaign."

A crowd of supporters turned out on Saturday for the walk event and to raise the awareness of child abuse and sexual assaults in the community.

"We're out here to support child abuse prevention month and sexual assault awareness month and to raise awareness in small communities about the issues and the trauma that some community members face," Culvahouse said.

Culvahouse also researches communities for numbers of reported abuse or registered sex offenders before bringing her walk to a rural community.

"There are five registered offenders in the area of this park," Culvahouse said. "It's very sad and terrifying to know this happens in our communities. We gave out a lot of informational materials to people on Saturday. We had a good turn out for our walk."

The walk began in Kinney Park and winded through the main street of Morley before going back to the park. A mother and grandmother, Culvahouse believes children are everyone's responsibility when dealing with abuse.

"It takes just one person to stand up against abuse and save a child's life," Culvahouse said. "I organize a walk every year for the children. It's something I do for them."

After the walk, 50 blue balloons were released into the air, each with a child's name on it that has died from neglect or abuse.

"The balloons have the names of children from all over the world," Culvahouse said. "I just want to people to be aware. It's all about making people aware of what they can do to put a stop to child abuse in their own community."