While a group of child advocates planted shiny silver and blue pinwheels in a section of downtown, motorists passing through stared out their windows as the colorful vanes twirled in the wind.
To raise awareness during Child Abuse Prevention Month, more than 500 pinwheels were planted Monday near downtown’s “Milling Around” art piece. The purpose of the April observance is to acknowledge the importance of families and communities working together to protect children.
Sampson County Department of Social Services (DSS) and the Child Advocacy Center sponsored the the activity. Sarah Bradshaw, director of Sampson County Social Services, was one of several volunteers who participated Monday.
“Every year, it appears that our community is growing closer as we unite to combat child abuse,” Bradshaw said. “We hope the 2016 Pinwheel Garden will demonstrate continued collective efforts to end the maltreatment of children in Sampson County and everywhere.”
Lynn Fields, DSS social work program manager, showed appreciation for the volunteers coming together for the cause.
“I’m just thankful they were willing to come out and help us plant (the pinwheel garden) as a representation of a happy childhood,” Fields said. “We’re hoping that when people see this, they think of childhood abuse prevention.”
In 2015, officials investigated more than 950 cases of children involving abuse, neglect or exploitation. From that group, over 700 were substantiated for abuse and neglect.
“It’s definitely a concern in Sampson County,” Fields said.
Participant Shannon Blanchard, director of the Sampson Child Advocacy Center, added that there were 125 sexually abused or severely physically abused children in Sampson County last year.
Jane Dudley, Children Protective Services Supervisor, implied how the campaign is bringing more awareness to the issue.
“This year, I think we had more interest in this issue than I’ve ever seen,” Dudley said. “It’s been good to bring awareness to the issue.”
Monday’s project with the pinwheels is one of several activities scheduled for April. Prevent Child Abuse America began the Pinwheels for Prevention in 2008 as the new national symbol for child abuse prevention. According to the organization, the pinwheel represents whimsy and childlike notions.
“I think it’s a wonderful visual,” said participant Tiffany Faircloth, about the sense of promoting healthy, happy and safe childhoods in Sampson County. “When they drive by, that’s what they’re going to see.”
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.