Contact: Thomas Hottman
Klamath Falls gathers to prevent child abuse
by COURTNEY ANDERSON
Herald and News Staff Reporter
Adults and kids alike held blue pinwheels as a symbol for child abuse prevention outside the Klamath County Government Center Friday afternoon to celebrate Day of Hope for Child Abuse Prevention Month.
"We've all grown up wanting a pinwheel when we were little for a number of generations. It's a symbol of children, happiness, hope, fun and playfulness," Susan Heitkamp, Klamath & Lake Community Action Services' family support and connection program specialist, said. "That's why it's the symbol for child abuse prevention because it brings us back to that place of happy times, and if we can stay there and keep our families there, it's a positive perspective on what can be and what it is most of the time."
About 30 people gathered for Day of Hope, which focuses on child abuse awareness and prevention by working with families and building relationships, and applauded for the family of six announced as the 2016 Family of the Year. Jessica and David Pinacho, Klamath Falls foster parents, said they were excited to receive the reward.
"We've been foster parents for about a year-and-a-half," Jessica said. "Sometimes you wish you could take them all, but you just don't have room."
The award was followed by speeches from local government officials and community leaders, and a performance from the Henley High School Choir.
Dr. Dan Peterson, chair of the communications department at Oregon Tech, spoke at the hour-long event and listed several things community members can do to prevent child abuse. A few included talking to neighbors, helping families under stress, reaching out to children in the community, being an active community member, keeping your neighborhood safe by getting to know each other and learning how to recognize signs of child abuse.
"We all want to live in a community that's prosperous, innovative and supports healthy development of children," Peterson said. "Let's commit today to the actions I have discussed in order to strengthen families and help future generations to prosper."
Klamath Falls organizations are hosting other events and campaigns in light of Child Abuse Prevention Month. Some of those events include planting the pinwheel garden at the Klamath County Fairgrounds, a coloring contest for children, the Children's Learning Fair April 16 at the Klamath County Fairgrounds, and an awareness campaign for Shaken Baby Syndrome.
Klamath-Lake County Child Abuse Response & Evaluation Services (CARES), a Sky Lakes department, will put on their annual event, "Don't Worry, Be Hippy" April 23 at Oregon Institute of Technology's College Union Building.
To report abuse and neglect of a child call the child abuse hotline at 541-883-5570.
PHOTO: Ken Morton, executive director of Klamath-Lake CARES, addresses the crowd at the Day of Hope celebration Friday, April 1, at the Klamath County Government Center.