Community walks to remember children lost to child abuse

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Cut-outs representing some of the 28 children who lost their lives to child abuse in Alabama in 2017 were carried on Wednesday’s Prayer Walk at the Cullman County Courthouse. (Nick Griffin for The Tribune)

CULLMAN – A small crowd came out to take part in this year’s Prayer Walk at the Cullman County Courthouse on Wednesday, walking to mourn for, and remember, the 28 children who lost their lives to child abuse in Alabama in 2017.

The event is spearheaded by the local nonprofit Cullman Caring for Kids. Its director, Javon Daniel, talked about the walk.

“This year we decided instead of doing all the bows throughout town, we’re doing pinwheels. The pinwheels represent prevention so that’s why we’re calling it ‘Pinwheels for Prevention,’” Daniel said. “The Prayer Walk today is for the children that have died, the children that are still being abused and for those that have been abused and trying to deal with that scar in their life. We’re also going to be praying for law enforcement, for the judges and all the people here in the courthouse that have to make decisions every day about what happens to a child’s life.”

Before the walk began, Cullman County Sheriff Matt Gentry spoke briefly on the steps of the courthouse and started out by bragging on the people of Cullman and some local organizations for their continued support of children in the community.

“I tell this to the other 66 sheriffs: we live in the greatest county in the state of Alabama and it’s because of our citizens, it’s because of our people. One of the things that I get the most excited about is seeing the support that we have from our community, our law enforcement, Brooks’ Place, the Department of Human Resources, Cullman Caring for Kids; we have a lot of people that care about our children,” said Gentry.

“Our children are our most valuable resource. I tell anybody, if you want to scare me, talk to me about my kids, and it’s because they mean the world to us. The way we look at it and the way we feel about it is that our children are our foundation. Our children will be the next leaders in our community, and we want to be sure that they’re taken care of.”

Gentry said child abuse prevention and protecting Cullman County’s children are important to many people in the community, saying that’s why it’s so important for the community to tackle it together.

“We want to make sure that they have a good life, we want to make sure they’re not abused, that we don’t have someone that’s hurting our children, because when our children hurt, we hurt. As the sheriff and as a father and as a community, that’s our top priority, but it takes everybody working together as a whole to accomplish that,” he said. “We all play a part in the success of our community and I just can’t thank each one of you enough. I can’t thank Javon (Daniel) and Nancy (Bryant) and all these guys enough for day in, day out what they do for our children in our community. I just want y’all to know how much I love you and how much I appreciate you and support you and it’s just an honor to be here with you.”

Daniel touched on some of the different ways citizens can help out through Cullman Caring for Kids, whether through volunteer work or helping support children more directly through a special advocacy program.

“Of course, they can come to our office and volunteer and they can volunteer for the C.A.S.A program which is court-appointed special advocates, which are screened and trained volunteers that are assigned to a child in the court system that has been abused or neglected and they become an advocate for that child,” he said. “You can contact our office at 256-739-1111, you can talk to me or Nancy Bryant or Candace Lingo about the C.A.S.A program, and we need volunteers. Every child deserves to have a happy childhood.”

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