DOBSON — The only thing louder than the laughter of children and the band’s music at the Building Healthy Families event Friday at the Old Surry County courthouse on Crutchfield Street was the moment of silence following the names of 24 victims read by County Child Protection Team member Becky Johnson. She said this number of young lives claimed by violence was an increase over last year’s statewide total of 19.
Johnson estimated the amount of children participating in the activities Friday at 1,000 students, with the addition of two schools. She said around 800 students participated in activities last year.
“We encouraged them to come back later in the afternoon with their parents,” said Johnson. “The main thing is they get the information and get it home to parents We want to continue as a community to carry on this conversation we have had all week in classrooms about child abuse and its prevention.”
She noted the T-shirts designed for this year’s effort are about children: Telling others what is happening that makes them frightened, Asking a trusted adult to help, Listening to their suggestions and Keeping on with this until someone listens and acts (TALK).
Mountain Park and Rockford school counselor Amy Hutto said children had come forward to talk about things happening at home. She explained children must have the confidence to keep talking with people until someone listens. Hutto said following the child abuse prevention lessons in class, one student talked with a classmate who told their parent. The parent next brought the situation to the attention of authorities and a bad situation was prevented from getting worse.
“We even helped them to practice using 911 (in child abuse situations),” said Hutto. “Change can happen. Kids need to know what a healthy home is.”
Johnson prefaced the moment of silence by telling the crowd the importance of standing together to talk as a community.
“In lessons learned this week (in class) we have learned to TALK,” said Johnson. “By being here today we are telling the county we stand up for children. What can we do to keep children out of harms way? This is certainly worth a conversation.”
Sheriff Graham Atkinson read a proclamation declaring April as Child Abuse Prevention Month. This measure was signed by Chairman of the Board of Commissioners Eddie Harris. Judge Spencer Key also was present for the proclamation. Atkinson read from the proclamation stating children are vital to the state’s future success, prosperity and quality of life.
“All children deserve to have the safe, stable, nurturing homes and communities they need to foster their healthy growth and development,” read Atkinson. “Child abuse and neglect is a community responsibility affecting both the current and future quality of life of a community.”
The measure also noted that effective child abuse prevention strategies succeed because of partnerships among citizens, human service agencies, schools, faith communities, health-care providers, law enforcement, civic organizations and businesses.
Mount Airy Chick-fil-A Operator Chad Tidd also spoke at the event. Johnson said Tidd’s restaurant has printed up special coupons for participants in recognition of Child Abuse Prevention Month. Tidd told the audience he had found business principles represent values in a community.
“I consider it a huge privilege to be a part of this community. Communication is key in business and for community,” said Tidd. “That is why I chose to be a Chick-fil-A operator five years ago. It all began with S. Truett Cathy’s small grill in Atlanta where he believed all customers should be treated with honor, respect and dignity.”
He said business and community success all goes back to treating people with these three principles. He told the group he believes character is vital as well as chemistry with other people and a person’s ability to become confident of control over the things that make us succeed.
“Child abuse is real. It’s out there,” said Tidd. He then thanked the Child Protection Team for helping to rally for this issue through the educational system.
Reach David Broyles at email@example.com or 719-1952.