Pinwheels for Prevention

Becky Vargo • Apr 11, 2018 at 10:00 AM

Pinwheel gardens are sprouting up across Ottawa County this week in an effort to raise awareness, and promote prevention of child abuse.

Pinwheels for Prevention is a campaign that’s been running for 10 years in Michigan and eight years in Ottawa County, noted Stephanie Williams, coalition coordinator for Arbor Circle.

Representatives of different organizations that collectively are the Stop Child Abuse and Neglect (SCAN) Council gathered at Ottawa County’s Fillmore Street Complex early Tuesday afternoon for a ceremonial planting of the pinwheels at the building entrance.

“More than 71 children a day experience abuse or neglect in Michigan,” said Leigh Moerdyke, SCAN Council facilitator for Arbor Circle.

“Fifteen percent of Ottawa County residents have had four or more adverse childhood experiences,” Moerdyke said. “Five of those are physical or emotional abuse or neglect, or sexual violence.”

The facilitator encouraged everyone attending to plant a pinwheel and to take action to help prevent child abuse.

Undersheriff Valerie Weiss noted that it takes the whole community to protect children. 

“What you are doing is righteous,” she told the group gathered in the chilly April sunshine. “Protect those children who can’t protect themselves.” 

Community Mental Health Director Lynne Doyle said children who are abused are at high risk for mental illness, developmental delays, substance abuse and are also high risk for suicide.

She encouraged people to seek mental health counseling and to learn the proper parenting skills.

Children’s Advocacy Director Darcy Komejan said she travels all over the country making site visits for advocacy centers.

“What we have in this county is very, very rare, and very unusual,” she said, referencing the impact of the area agencies collaborating.

The #MeToo movement and the impact statements from the Larry Nassar victims have helped encourage more people to come forward, she added.

“Our numbers have increased in one year 46 percent,” Komejan said.

The director noted they had to add staff and change staff around to accommodate the increase.

“What we do at the CAC works, and we can’t stop,” she said.

Komejan said that pinwheels are the symbol of a happy, healthy childhood.

“Just because they have had something bad happen doesn’t mean they can’t get it back,” she said.

To learn more about the SCAN Council and how to take part in preventing child abuse and neglect, call Arbor Circle at 616-396-2301, or email [email protected].

Anyone interested in planting a pinwheel garden — $60 pays for a sign and 60 pinwheels — can contact Stephanie Williams by email at [email protected]

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