Pennies and pinwheels will adorn Vogel Plaza at a lunchtime rally in Medford today designed to raise awareness about child abuse around the county.
The annual "Take a Stand for Children" rally, from noon to 1 p.m. at Vogel Plaza, at the corner of Main Street and Central Avenue, is organized by the Jackson County Child Abuse Network.
The coalition of groups, including United Way, is working to end child abuse in Jackson County.
Organizers hope to attract at least 810 people to represent the number of local children who were victims of mental injury, neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse and threat of harm during 2011, according to statistics from the 2011 Child Welfare Data Book released in October 2012.
The first year of the event, 760 pennies glinted on the ground. This year the count is up by 50 cases, said Dee Anne Everson, executive director of United Way of Jackson County and the driving force behind the formation of the county's Child Abuse Network.
"This is the fifth year we will gather in Vogel Plaza to hear the stories of real children and adults who suffered at the hands of perpetrators," Everson said. "By sharing stories in a town square, we bring the issue into the open and provide opportunities for others to do the same."
Last year, CASA volunteer Kathy Bauer spoke from the perspective of her 30 years of experience helping children. Bauer spoke about a child who was adopted at age 8, along with a sibling, into a family where she was quickly made to realize she was not "the favorite."
Eventually locked out of the family home and forced into a trailer, the child struggled with her feelings of abandonment and anger, which were exacerbated by her mental illness.
" 'All I wanted was to be loved by my family,' " Bauer read from the girl's story.
The fact that the community gathers at noon — in a public square — to speak openly about the horrors of child abuse means our community has come a long way from the days when the topic was taboo, Bauer said, but added that Jackson County still has a long, long way to go.
This year, District Attorney Beth Heckert and others, including Medford police Chief Tim George; Teresa Sayre, superintendent of the Phoenix-Talent School District; and Dr. Kerri Hecox, a forensic pediatrician; will be reading true-life survivor stories of some of the victims.
Heckert said the day offers an opportunity to talk about, recognize and remember victims.
"This is happening right here in Jackson County," Heckert said. "We are fighting the good fight. But there are new cases all the time."
Rally participants are asked to wear blue as a statement of unity. The copper pennies represent the 810 cases of child abuse. The pinwheels, the national child abuse prevention symbol, will be given away, along with cards to write words of hope for victims and survivors, Everson said.
It is the responsibility of the entire community to keep all our children safe, Everson said.
Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.