“Love — Our kids. Inspire — Our kids. Protect — Our kids.”
The call and response chants rang out from the Mountainlair green to the courthouse square on Thursday as dozens of advocates for child-abuse prevention walked down High Street in Morgantown.
Accompanied by the Morgantown Police Department for safety while flying blue balloons and waving blue pinwheels, both symbols of the effort, the group, led by Delegate Danielle Walker, drew many people to the doorways and windows of downtown businesses as they walked past.
Upon reaching the courthouse square, Walker addressed the group and read a proclamation from the Monongalia County Commission.
“Children are our present, our future, our yesterday, today, and all of our tomorrows,” she said.
In the proclamation, the commission expressed their commitment to “protecting our most vulnerable and ensuring our children grow up safe, healthy, educated, and prepared to reach their full potential.
“Every child is entitled to be loved, cared for, nurtured, feel secure, and be free from verbal, sexual, emotional, and physical abuse and neglect. All children deserve to have safe, stable, nurturing homes and communities in which they can thrive,” she read.
The proclamation declared the month of April 2022 to be Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Month in Mon County, joining the national effort to raise awareness by wearing blue ribbons and help prevent child abuse and neglect.
The awareness walk was organized by the United Way of Monongalia and Preston Counties Family Resource Network (FRN) and the CASA for Kids Program, as a joint effort between several Partners in Prevention agencies.
Throughout the day, representatives from several area family advocacy and health groups were available outside the courthouse to provide free information to the community.
“We wanted to do something that would bring the community together and we saw how successful the RDVIC walk went so we thought it would be a good thing to do, bring everybody together and just walk through one of the main streets of Morgantown and chant and wear blue and have a good time,” said Crissi Christy, executive director of CASA for Kids.
“In March, we had a meeting and I said, ‘let’s go big or go home.’ So I partnered up with Chrissi and we just threw everything together and invited everyone here,” FRN Manager Abbie Wallace said. “We are just hoping to get the word out to everybody.”
A few other organizations also showed their support by joining in the walk including an adorable group of children from the Presbyterian Child Development Center who were having a great time shaking blue pom-poms and flying their pinwheels.
Several members of the North Central West Virginia chapter of Bikers Against Child Abuse (BACA) also joined in the walk with BACA Sergeant at Arms Splinter riding his motorcycle alongside the walkers.
Splinter said BACA is an international nonprofit that exists with the intent to grant a safer environment for abused children. The group is a body of bikers working to empower children not to feel afraid of the world where they live and work in conjunction with established local and state officials already in place to protect children.
Christy said the group does amazing work with the kids at CASA.
Jackie Paine, an intern with United Way who is working to be a school social worker, joined in the walk as well and was happy to see child-abuse awareness getting some attention.
“I think more spotlight should go on child abuse or child neglect or just child hunger,” she said. “I am so happy that a whole month in April is just looking at child abuse.”
Concluding the commission’s proclamation, “It is the responsibility of every adult who comes in contact with a child to protect that child’s rights to a safe and nurturing childhood,” Walker read. “Community members are encouraged to join together to raise awareness for those children fallen victim to abuse and neglect throughout the month of April.”