VALDOSTA — There were 1,954 child abuse cases in and around Lowndes County in 2018.
Thursday morning, the 23rd Annual Child Abuse Awareness Kick-Off Breakfast was held at the City Hall Annex. The breakfast is done every year before April, which is Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Attendants included many Valdosta and Lowndes County organizations. After the breakfast, the attendants headed to City Hall, where they placed small blue and silver pinwheels on the front lawn.
Each pinwheel represents a child who has suffered from abuse. By the end of the event, the front lawn was covered in tiny, spinning pinwheels that drivers will see going by Central Avenue for the next month.
Beverley Blake, president of Prevent Child Abuse Lowndes County, said participants put the pinwheels outside City Hall to make the community more aware of child abuse.
Organizations against child abuse also go into the community to spread information about ways to deal with abuse.
For example, if a child is being abused by a guardian or parent, Blake said they offer alternative measures for punishing a child than physical violence, such as hitting or slapping.
The effects of using physical violence on a child is a decline in school performance and a withdrawal from personal interactions, she said.
“It has lingering impacts on the children,” Blake said. “The good thing is that we are all working together. We kind of throw the event in appreciation of the organizations that are working to rid us of this problem.”
One organization sticks out. Among the city and county officials and law enforcement personnel sat big men with handlebar mustaches, silver rings on every finger and leather jackets covered with motorcycle patches.
They are members of Bikers Against Child Abuse.
M. “Bugsy” Page is a member of BACA and said he and his organization work to empower children to not feel afraid.
He got involved in the group about six years ago after he saw a post on Facebook that tugged on his heart. When he was a kid, he would lay at night wondering what he wanted to be in life.
“I had no idea this was it,” he said. “When it showed up at my door, I opened it up.”
BACA members are unique from the other organizations that help children dealing with abuse, he said. Members show up whenever the child is in need, even at 3 a.m.
On call 24/7, BACA members will set up shop at a kid’s house to make sure they are protected, “Bugsy” said.
“We always hone in on empowering the child,” he said. “We don’t want them dependent. We want them independent. They need to be biker strong. They stand up, and they tell their story.”
For him and the other organizations at the event, raising awareness of abuse is important.
But more importantly, they hope to end child abuse.