Crook County kicks off child abuse prevention month

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The Blue Ribbon Campaign symbolizes the color of bruises caused by child abuse

by: JASON CHANEY/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Participants in the April 2 Blue Ribbon ceremony pose for a picture at the conclusion of the event. Pictured above are Daina Vitolins, Mindi Tolmsoff, Gundel Hedden, Shelly Smith, Barb Lundquist, Donna Hamlin, Janet Roberts, Linvia Kaumanns, Rachael Wente-Chaney, Jill Bonnano, and Jonathan Lent.

April is child abuse prevention month and some local organizations are teaming up to provide events to raise awareness in Crook County.
   In 2009, the KIDS Center, a regional children's advocacy group, conducted medical evaluations on 66 Crook County children who were suspected victims of child abuse. Sadly, KIDS Center-Crook County chair Barb Lundquist suspects the problem is worse than the numbers indicate. "It's probably twice as many, because a lot of them are not reported," Lundquist said.
   Child Abuse Prevention month kicked off Friday morning with a Blue Ribbon ceremony at the Crook County Courthouse. According to ceremony speaker Daina Vitolins, the Blue Ribbon campaign originated in 1989 when a Virginia woman Bonnie Finley lost her grandson Michael Dickenson to child abuse.
   "The three-year-old died at the hands of her daughter's abusive boyfriend," Vitolins said at the ceremony. "Bonnie tied a blue ribbon to her car symbolizing the blue of her grandson's bruises and encouraged her community to do the same."
   From then on, blue ribbons came to symbolize child abuse prevention, and in Central Oregon, more than 50,000 ribbons are distributed each year.
   Later this month, families will have two opportunities to enjoy a free movie. For the Children, a local non-profit group dedicated to child abuse prevention, is offering free movies for kids on consecutive Saturday mornings at the Pine Theater.
   For the Children chair Terri Andreasen said the free movie event originated last year as a better way to reach out to families and educate them about child abuse.
   "When we bring in a speaker, you reach more of the professional community," Andreasen explained. "We wanted to reach out to kids and families."
   During the event, Andreasen said that For the Children makes a point of handing out information regarding child abuse prevention for the parents. "It brings awareness to the community," she said. "We want to get as much information out there as we can."
   During the week, between the free movie dates, is a fundraiser concert at Crook County High School called Cowboys 4 Kids. The first-time event will benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters, KIDS Center, Saving Grace, and SMART. The event will include a country western concert, silent auction and raffle for two tickets to a Tim McGraw and Lady Antebellum concert. Like the movie nights, audience members will be entertained, but educated as well.
   "At the event, each of the groups will get to tell the (audience) about themselves and what they do," Lundquist explained.
   Along with the other events scheduled this month, Darkness to Light is highlighting their sexual abuse prevention program. The program trains adults in sexual abuse prevention, and this month trainings will be offering every Thursday afternoon at the Family Resource Center in Prineville.
   Whatever the event, the goal for Child Abuse Prevention Month is clear.
   "Our children are our future," Vitolins said. "We must honor them. We must do all that we can to prevent child abuse. Through education and awareness, child abuse is discouraged. Each one of us can make a difference."
   Free movie nights will take place at Pine Theater on Saturday April 17 and 24 at 10 a.m. The event is first-come, first-served.
   Cowboys 4 Kids will take place at the Crook County High School Auditorium on Thursday, April 22, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Performers include Shannon Bex, Cowboy Swingdancers Paige and James Gustaveson, the Bunkhouse Orchestra, and cowboy poet and author Jay Snider.
   Darkness to Light trainings will take place from 1 to 4 p.m. each Thursday in April at the Family Resource Center in Prineville. For more information call Donna or Jonathan at 541-447-5165.