By Wil Crews
LEE COUNTY —
The staff and youth clients at Lee County Youth Development Center (LCYDC) marched in solidarity with child abuse victims Friday to kick off National Child Abuse Prevention Month on April 1.
Dubbed “Blue Friday”, the event started on the campus on LCYDC and saw the group of staff, clients, local police officers and community members march to the Respite House, where everyone gathered for an awareness ceremony to learn more about child abuse in America.
The event featured a presentation of child abuse facts, a poem reading, a song performance and a balloon release to commemorate victims of child abuse/neglect. Executive Director Laura Cooper gave the opening remarks.
“Wow, this is a beautiful and splendid day,” Cooper said. ” I want to give god a hand for this spectacular weather. April 1 starts Child Abuse Prevention Month, and it’s our pleasure to wear blue in honor of you … the most important people here … our children. Thank you for allowing us to serve you. We do not believe that child abuse will be stamped out in our lifetime but the things I have seen with my eyes, the things our officers have seen, would bring you to tears. What we can do is stop it in its tracks. We don’t have to recreate the abuse that we may have endured and we don’t have to perpetuate that abuse. So this is what we are about. We stomped down that street because we are trying to stomp out child abuse at Lee County Development Center in Lee County, in the state of Alabama and in this nation. Would you all join with me? Are you with me?”
Following the opening remarks, a youth client read off facts pertaining to child abuse.
“We are all here today to support the ending of child abuse and I hope these facts will help you think and realize the pain that children across the United States have to endure,” she said.
She cited that five children die every day across the U.S. due to child abuse — most under 4 years old; 3.6 million cases of child abuse occur every year; child abuse victims are more prone to practice unprotected sex; and 11,663 child abuse cases occur per year in Alabama, among other things.
Next, two clients performed a reading from the book “A Spoonful of Faith”, another gave a reading of the poem “IF” and a third (accompanied by Coordinator of Fiscal and Financial Resources Calandra Harris) engaged the crowd with a moving performance of the song “Rise Up” by Andra Day.
Before closing the event with the release of over 50 blue balloons as a tribute to those lives lost due to child abuse, Cooper thanked the crowd for its attendance and the clients for their hard work in creating signs and posters for the event. She also gave thanks on behalf of Deputy Director Wendy Birmingham who was not in attendance due to illness.
“[Birmingham] is here in spirit. She loves you; she loves every heart out there,” Cooper said. “Again I want to say thank you. We are going to celebrate 50 years of being at Lee County Development Center next year and I promise you we could not do it without our community. To all our community stakeholders, thank you. We can’t see about these children, we can’t do the things we do without you. Join us as we continue the rest of the month in finding ways to stomp out child abuse, hopefully in our lifetime, prayerfully, if not, that we don’t recreate the abuse that has happened to us.”
LCYDC is a not-for-profit, 501 (c3) agency with deep roots in our local community and an impact which reaches statewide. Founded in 1973 by the late Mrs. Jane C. Walker and the late Mrs. Cecil D. Moreman, from the beginning this agency was intent on making an impactful difference in the lives of those who are most vulnerable among us. Its main campus is located in Opelika on property donated by the George King family. It also operates off campus programming which includes Project Uplift — housed on the campus of Auburn University — its Transitional Living Home, Therapeutic Foster Care homes and Independent Living apartments.
LCYDC is governed by a Board of Directors who represent a broad spectrum of diverse community interests and specialties. From policies established and endorsed by its board, the agency’s workforce of more than 200 full, part-time and contracted employees set about establishing meaningful programming which meets the evolving needs of those they serve.
For more than 40 years, LCYDC has been entrusted with the privilege of improving the human condition one child … one family … and one situation at a time, according to its website. LCYDC’s mission is to be a place of service with offers hope to children and families and strengthens communities.