Pickwick pinwheel garden

Pickwick students admire the pinwheel garden they planted Monday to help kick of Child Abuse Prevention Month.

OTTUMWA — The Pickwick preschoolers were fascinated by the pinwheels they were planting as they spun with the wind. The garden, though, has a deeper meaning.

“The pinwheel is a national symbol for Previent Child Abuse America,” said Pat McReynolds, chair of Wapello County Children’s Alliance.

Members of the organization were on hand at Pickwick Early Childhood Center Monday to kick off Child Abuse Awareness Month.

“Our focus is more on prevention than on the children who have been abused,” McReynolds said.

The alliance has made an effort to expand its awareness campaign. Last year, McReynolds said pinwheel gardens were planted only in Central Park and at the YMCA. This year, they will be planted at all Ottumwa elementary schools as well as major day care centers. “We’ve developed a better partnership in getting information to the teachers and students as well,” she said.

Pickwick was the first school in the campaign.

As part of the effort, A Stewards of Children class was held at the school. McReynolds said the classes are open to all members of the community and focus on sexual abuse prevention.

As the class finished up, Mayor Tom Lazio was invited to the front of the room. As he prepared to read a proclamation on the topic, he noted that he spent 45 years in the field of child welfare work before entering city politics in retirement. He thanked those in the room for their service, as well.

“You’re really working with our children, and they’re our future,” he said. He stated that children are our most valuable — and most vulnerable — resource and deserve to enjoy a healthy, trusting family bond.

“I urge all to partner in the effort to participate in child abuse and neglect prevention,” he said.

“Every child deserves a happy and healthy life,” McReynolds added. “I don’t think people understand it’s the little and simple things that provide a healthy environment for a child. That is the first step to prevent abuse.”

Features Editor Tracy Goldizen can be reached via email at tgoldizen@ottumwacourier.com or followed on Twitter @CourierTracy.