Sunday, May 26, 2024

‘Planting’ the town blue

Hood County plants 780 pinwheels for Child Abuse Prevention Month

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Hewlett Park is now a sea of blue and silver after Paluxy River Children’s Advocacy Center’s annual kite flying and pinwheel planting event Thursday, April 4.

The PRCAC hosts the event every year to honor and pay tribute to child abuse victims during the month of April, also known as Child Abuse Prevention Month.

While the kite flying portion of the event is always popular among children, the planting of pinwheels is an activity that symbolizes something much more than just planting a whimsical children’s toy into the ground.

During the event, community volunteers planted 780 pinwheels at Hewlett Park — with each pinwheel representing a different story. Every pinwheel planted April 4 symbolizes a separate child abuse report made in Hood County in 2023.

“There are three ways that reports happen,” Traci Cooper-Ives, former director of community education and engagement at PRCAC, previously told the Hood County News. “Either someone witnesses abuse and then reports it, someone suspects abuse and they report it, or a child actually tells someone that they were abused and someone reports it.”

To symbolize the importance of child abuse prevention, Hood County Judge Ron Massingill read a proclamation during the event, proclaiming the month of April Child Abuse Prevention Month in Hood County.

“Child abuse prevention is a community responsibility, and finding solutions depends on involvement involving all,” Massingill said, reading the proclamation. “Communities must make every effort to promote programs that benefit children and their families.”

The proclamation also encourages all citizens to work together to significantly reduce child abuse and neglect in the years to come.

Cynthia Pigg, community education specialist, then educated the public about the history of Child Abuse Prevention Month. She explained that in 1989, a Virginia grandmother, Bonnie Finney, tied a blue ribbon to the antennae of her car in memory of her grandson who died at the hands of an abuser.

"Every time someone saw the blue ribbon, they would ask her about it," Pigg said. "Pretty soon the whole town was tying blue ribbons and then it spread throughout the state of Virginia, and they adopted it as Child Abuse Awareness Month. Of course, we know that spread across the United States and even now, it's celebrated as an international day of child abuse awareness."

In 2008, Prevent Child Abuse America introduced the Pinwheels for Prevention® campaign, as research showed that people responded positively to pinwheels, which represent childlike whimsy and lightheartedness.

“Pinwheels are a wonderful symbol of what a child should be like: fun, carefree and who doesn't like to swing that pinwheel and make it go around?” Pigg said. “While we have the blue ribbon as the awareness, we have the pinwheels as the prevention.”

Pigg also compared the pinwheel campaign to a starfish analogy in which a person is walking along the shore and notices that a tide has left thousands of starfish stranded on a beach.

“You reach down, pick up one starfish and throw it back to the ocean, and then some people say, ‘You will never be able to save all the starfish. What does it matter?’ And you throw another one in, and you say, ‘It matters to this one,’ and then that person picks up the starfish and throws it into the ocean as well. Then a whole beach of people starts throwing starfish back,” Pigg said. “Well, that's kind of how it is in our community. Every time you plant a pinwheel tonight, you can think of those starfish and how it matters to one — and that spreads just like Bonnie Finney’s story did with her blue ribbon.”

Every year during the pinwheel planting, the Hood County Child Protective Services board of directors recognizes the recipient of the Patsy Hewlett Award.

In honor of Patsy Hewlett — who served as a secretary/treasurer of the Hood County Child Welfare Board in the ‘80s and early ‘90s — the award serves as an annual recognition of a person who has made an exemplary contribution to the abused and neglected children of Hood County.

“There are some people here who have received the Patsy Hewlett Award in the past,” Celia Wittman, principal officer of the Hood County Child Protective Services Board, said during the event. “One is Jean Cate (CASA program director for Mission Granbury) Brigitte Eichler with the Rainbow Room, and another one is Mary Flores, (Salvation Army GAP director) who received it last year. So many great people have received this award who have done great things in the community to help with advocacy of children — and this year, the recipient is no different.”

Wittman presented the 2024 Patsy Hewlett Award to former PRCAC employee and current program director for Many Mansions Traci Cooper-Ives for “acknowledgement and appreciation for all the years of dedication and service to the abused and neglected children in Hood County, Texas.”

"Many of you know her very, very well, as she used to be part of this child advocacy center and now, she's on to a new venture,” Wittman said. “We wanted to honor her for all that she does in Hood County and I'm sure all of you know what she has done but one of them was being part of the children's advocacy center this year."

"I honestly just feel very grateful because standing up for children is very important to me,” Cooper-Ives said, tearing up with emotion. “And all of y'all that do not work for the children's advocacy center are part of the team . . . Every single person that's here, we all are a part of the solution. You are standing up for children, whether you work for any of the agencies, or volunteer at Mission Granbury, Rainbow Room, Hood County Children's Charity Fund, Christmas for Children — every single one of y'all whether you're exactly working with child abuse or not, you are standing up for kids because we're all part of that puzzle that helps with prevention and helps promote positive parenting."

For more information about the Paluxy River Children’s Advocacy Center, visit paluxyrivercac.org online.