Boy Scout helps bring awareness to
HERRIN, IL – Carterville Boy Scout Gabriel Ballard is helping give child abuse a voice through his Eagle Scout project.
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and Franklin-Williamson Child Advocacy Center wants everyone to help spread the message.
“Abuse gets its power from silence. When you give it a voice, you stop it,” Leah Brown, executive director of Franklin-Williamson Child Advocacy Center, said.
When Ballard and his Boy Scout Troop visited Franklin-Williamson Child Advocacy Center, the goal was for the Scouts to learn more about the center and what it does, as well as how the Scouts could help the center.
Shortly after the visit, Ballard was trying to decide what to do for his Eagle Scout Project. His idea was to make Blue Kids, cutouts placed on a lawn, to help raise awareness of child abuse and neglect in Southern Illinois.
“I just thought about it and called to ask Mrs. Brown if we could do it,” Gabriel said.
Brown said Gabriel approached her about a year ago to see what he could do for the center. She approved.
Blue Kids represent abused and neglected children. They are designed to bring awareness to the problem of child abuse and neglect. It grew out of the Blue Ribbon Campaign, which began as one woman’s tribute to her grandson after he died at the hands of his mother’s abusive partner. The color blue symbolizes bruises on the victims of child abuse.
Gabriel designed the cutouts and developed a template. His original plan was to cut out the figures with a jig saw, but someone suggested he contact Mike Fleming, vocational teacher and department chair at Carterville High School.
“Mike Fleming at the high school allowed us to use the shop, so we ended up with 120 kids instead of 100,” Gabriel said.
Gabriel delivered the Blue Kids to the advocacy center Thursday afternoon with some help from his parents, Kelli Ballard and Steve Battiste, and friend and fellow Scout, Eric Pfeilschifter.
“What we’re hoping is that businesses will sponsor the children for the month of April,” Brown said.
Businesses and individuals can have a pair of Blue Kids (a boy and girl) in their yards with a sign that reads,” Prevent Child Abuse one child at a time. Child Advocacy Center, http://www.wcocac.org” for a $100 tax-deductible donation. The center will deliver signs April 1 and pick them up May 1.
“I think this is a wonderful message for Gabriel to take on a topic as child abuse at his age,” Brown said.
Franklin-Williamson Child Advocacy Center received referrals for 257 children in 2016. All of these children are residents of Franklin and Williamson counties. The center conducted 110 forensic interviews and 42 children and families received free counseling.
For more information, visit the center’s Facebook page, website www.wcocac.org or call 618-942-3800.