Cub Scout Pack #33 and members of the community plant pinwheels at the Children’s Memorial Flag Day event on the lawn of the Pocahontas County Courthouse. S. Stewart photo

Suzanne Stewart
Staff Writer

Members of the community gathered at the Pocahontas County Courthouse Thursday to commemorate Children’s Memorial Flag Day, a day to remember children who suffer from abuse and neglect.

The event included two speakers, awards, a flag raising, pinwheel garden and balloon release.

Community Care of West Virginia Dr. Jennifer Rose shared statistics about child abuse and neglect in Pocahontas County, as well as ways to identify if a child is a victim.

“Child abuse is the third leading cause of death in children ages one to four,” Rose said. “Back in 2008, the number of child abuse fatalities was actually six times higher than deaths due to the influenza virus. In 2012, here in Pocahontas County, we had the third highest rate of child abuse and neglect cases per one thousand children in the state of West Virginia.”

While the statistics are eye-opening and hard to imagine, Child and Youth Advocacy Center executive director Kat Thompson said that the community has and continues to help children in need.

“Our community is incredible in so many ways, but I think that we can all recognize that we face some legitimate issues,” Thompson said. “Child abuse and neglect is certainly one of those issues. Domestic violence, substance abuse rank in our state higher than they’ve ever been before. These are the issues that we all work to address every day.”

CYAC, along with other organizations including CASA and the Family Refuge Center work together to combat child abuse and neglect and help children live a happy, healthy and safe life.

“We all are extremely busy people,” Thompson said. “We all bring different types of expertise to the table, but we all work together. I just want to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you for what you do to keep children in our community safe. We may not always see it, and we may not always feel it, but we are making a difference in children’s lives here in Pocahontas County. It’s because we all believe that every kid deserves to grow up in a safe, supportive and loving environment.”

Several Champion of Children awards were presented to businesses and individuals in the community who are dedicated to helping the children of Pocahontas County and supporting the organizations involved with their care.

Kinetic Connections provider Missy Keatley presented the business award to Mitchell Chevrolet, represented by owner, Sam Mitchell.

“Mitchell Chevrolet, always, always, no matter what the fundraiser, the cause, the event, the sport, it does not matter, if you call Mitchell Chevrolet, they’re going to help you,” Keatley said.

Keatley enlisted the assistance of Cub Scout Pack #33 assistant leader Brad Dunz to present the individual award.

“The person receiving this award is a good friend of mine who is really, truly a good man, has a great heart, loves the kids,” Dunz said. He’s always there for the kids. I can’t say enough good things about him.”

The award was presented to Dunz’s fellow scout leader Sam Gibson.

“I try to do everything I can, and I always think it’s not about the role, it’s all about the goal,” Gibson said, graciously accepting the award. “It really does take everything, a whole community, to do this kind of thing.”

To Keatley’s surprise, co-worker Jenny Cassell presented her with the Champion for Children award.

“It’s very hard to nominate someone that’s on the committee,” Cassell said. “I feel that this Champion for Children only knows one speed and that speed is above and beyond. I feel that Missy is a true asset to this community. She is a valued member to our team and no one is more deserving.”

Keatley accepted the award stating that when she began working in this field, she didn’t know what she was doing, but with the help of her co-workers and the community, she has found where she belongs.

The event culminated with the planting of the pinwheel garden, a flag raising conducted by Cub Scout Pack #33, and a balloon release.

Keatley explained that the pinwheels are a sign of innocence and childhood and are a reminder of the children who have been lost to abuse and neglect.

The flag, which will fly below the U.S. and West Virginia flags, has six paper doll figures, all blue except one, which is an outline symbolizing the children who fell victim to abuse and neglect.