ELIZABETHTOWN — A cloudy sky that threatened rain couldn’t dampen the spirits and overall message of those who were part of the seventh annual Child Abuse Awareness event at the Bladen County Courthouse on Saturday.
Although there were plenty of activities going on around the Courthouse lawn — such as face-painting, finger-nail polishing, bounce house fun, music and more — the event officially kicked off at 1 p.m. at San Jose Mexican Restaurant, where about 40 people of all ages began a walk up West Broad Street to the Courthouse chanting “Stop child abuse.”
Once the group reached its destination, activities began in earnest, including music and dancing with a couple of Disney characters, performances by local youth through song and choreographed baton twirling, free hot dogs, dance teams and more.
“We want this to be a celebration of children and give families a chance to gather in an enjoyable, stress-free setting,” said Jill Sampson, the Child Protective Services supervisor in Bladen County.
She added that, in a rural county like Bladen, perhaps more than higher populated counties, the event is an important one.
“We don’t have as many resources here and there is deep poverty, which can have a big affect on the family’s stress level,” Sampson said. “We also see a lot of drug abuse and domestic violence that are big factors.”
Edward Jamison of Garland said he was shopping in the downtown area and saw the marchers come through, so he decided to see what was going on. He ended up having a hot-dog lunch and enjoying the afternoon.
“It was both fun and interesting,” he said. “People just don’t don’t think enough about our children and what’s happening to them in today’s world.
“I really enjoyed the entertainment and hope people will take the message about stopping child abuse to heart,” he added.
Later in the afternoon, several bicycles and tricycles were given away and, at the conclusion of the event, 32 balloons — each one representing the life of a child in North Carolina that lost its life because of child abuse or neglect. The child’s name was read aloud as that balloon was released.
“That’s always such a powerful event,” Sampson said.
A number of local churches provided visitors of the event with goody bags filled with helpful information, children’s toys, candy and more.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.