Stepping up: Prayer walk remembers children lost to abuse

Sheriff Matt Gentry and Police Chief Kenny Culpepper led the prayer walk around the Cullman County Courthouse Thursday. (W.C. Mann for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – Community leaders and concerned citizens on Thursday joined Cullman Caring for Kids (CCK) on the front steps of the Cullman County Courthouse for a prayer walk to promote child abuse awareness and prevention.  CCK Executive Director Javon Daniel and Assistant Director Nancy Bryant, Sheriff Matt Gentry, Police Chief Kenny Culpepper and Circuit Judge Martha Williams led the group around the courthouse and placed pinwheels on the lawn. To close the event, participants went to the top of the Cullman Savings Bank parking deck to release 25 blue balloons in memory of the 25 Alabama children whose deaths in 2018 were positively linked to child abuse.  Five white balloons were also released to honor those whose abuse remains unknown, and those who are still suffering.

Culpepper addressed the group, saying, “I remember walking into the Cullman Police Department to do my internship and working with Javon when he was in investigation with the Cullman Police Department.  And I remember getting hired in 1978, and I remember the first call that I went on that involved the death of a child, that turned out to be because of abuse.

“And we came a long way, because I remember when we didn’t have Cullman Caring for Kids.  We’re so fortunate that we’ve got an organization and a group of dedicated people to help get the message out, to try to help stop the deaths, to try to help stop the child abuse.

“I remember when we didn’t have mandatory reporting, when we suspected things but we didn’t know for sure.  Now, we have a law that allows- or mandates- that law enforcement, teachers, educators, medical nurses, doctors report it.

“I remember when we didn’t have a lot of things.  We came a long way. But, most of all, I remember that first child, and I remember that second child, and I remember everyone in between for the last 41 years.  We’ve got a long way to go, and we need to keep them in our memory, and we need to keep remembering that. We need to push everyone to report- how important it is- if you see something, say something, because that might be a better memory: that child abuse that we stop, instead of the one that we fail to stop.”

Said Gentry, “I look at the 25 names, and it really tells you the evil that’s in the world, when you have people that will hurt and kill 25 innocent children.  But then it gives me hope when I see the crosses, because I know that good people stop evil. I know that, if we work together, we can reduce these 25 names. And that’s really what it’s about: it’s about us coming together, working together as a community to stop the evil that’s in the world.  And we can do it together.”

Daniel told the crowd, which was smaller than he had hoped, “I want you to look around today; I really want you to look around.  I want you to think about how many people are here to help stop child abuse. We shouldn’t be able to have traffic on 31 Highway today for the crowd.  It’s time we stop sticking our head in the sand and making everything about us, and start making it about the children. I’m not talking about spoiling them; I’m just talking about saving their life from abuse.”

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month.  To find out what you can do, visit

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Walkers released balloons from the top of the Cullman Savings Bank parking deck in memory of 25 Alabama children who died as a result of abuse in 2018. (W.C. Mann for The Cullman Tribune)

W.C. Mann