COOS COUNTY — Each April, in recognition of National Child Abuse Prevention Month, Bay Area Hospital’s Kids’ HOPE Center places pinwheels all over the community to raise awareness.
Several businesses and organizations throughout the community purchase pinwheel gardens from the Kids’ HOPE Center, with the proceeds going toward funding the center's operations.
So far the center has plans to place around 2,000 pinwheels across Coos Bay, North Bend and Bandon.
“Not only is it a fundraiser for the Kids’ HOPE Center, but it’s a way for us to spread awareness throughout the community,” Kids’ HOPE Center director Ashley Matsui said. “And it’s beautiful to drive through town and see these pinwheels everywhere.”
This year the Kids’ HOPE Center had a caseload of 350 kids for 2018, which was down from 412 in 2017. So far in 2019 the center has worked on 120 cases.
“What we know from statistics that came out in the beginning of 2019 is that Coos County still ranks as one of the highest counties in the state per capita for rates of abuse,” Matsui said.
For every child that visited the center over the past year, a pinwheel will be placed on the grounds of the center in recognition.
Bandon is addressing awareness in many ways.
On April 1, Mayor Mary Schamehorn made a proclamation at the City Council meeting that April is Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness month in Bandon. Community partners were present.
The City of Bandon also partnered with Kids HOPE Center. They have been joined by others working on this cause, including the Bandon Police Department, Umpqua Bank, Bandon Rotary and many local businesses and churches.
On Thursday, April 4, Pinwheels for Prevention will be planted around Bandon. Pinwheel gardens are representative of child victims. By planting these pinwheels, it is hoped community awareness will be raised about this serious and important issue. Anyone would like to order pinwheels and “prevent child abuse" signs can call the Bandon Umpqua Bank for information at 541-347-2403.
On Sunday, April 7, First Presbyterian Church of Bandon will plant their Pinwheel for Prevention garden as a congregation.
Continuing its efforts to raise awareness this month, the Kids HOPE Center will also be hosting a free Family Fun Day on April 27 at John Topits Park. The day begins with a one mile fun run/walk at 9 a.m., and follows up with a barbecue and other activities in the park from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Matsui said that the best way to help prevent child abuse is through education.
“Child abuse, and child sexual abuse, really lives in a place of secrecy. It’s not something fun that people in the community like to talk about, but it has to be something that we talk about as a community, as families and as educators,” Matsui said.
Around a year ago the Kids’ HOPE Center began developing age appropriate curriculum for all grade levels in Coos County schools, in order to educate children on what abuse is and how to spot it. This curriculum stems from Erin’s Law, which recently passed in Oregon and requires public schools provide students with sex abuse education.
“Most of our schools that accepted our curriculum just started a couple of months ago, and we’ve seen a direct correspondence with that. We’re getting referrals that say after this child received this education they came forward and talked to their teacher,” Matsui said.
Every month, the center also offers its Darkness to Light Stewards of Children sexual abuse prevention training. The training talks about things that can be done to help prevent child abuse, and how to be supportive of children going through abuse.
“We want to be a county that sticks up and stands up to this and says nope, not in our county,” Matsui said.