by Moira Cullings
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — It’s a simple child’s toy — a wheel of plastic curls connected to a small blue stick.
But each blue pinwheel that lined the lawn outside the Catholic Church Offices in Kansas City, Kansas, on April 3 held a mighty meaning.
“The blue pinwheel is a national symbol for child abuse prevention, which represents childhood hope and happiness,” said Sandy Vielhauer, protection compliance administrator for the archdiocesan office for protection and care.
The office planted the pinwheels on the chancery lawn in honor of National Child Abuse Prevention Month, which is observed each April.
The archdiocese wanted passersby to know how seriously it takes its mission to protect God’s children.
“We are called through Scripture and teaching to protect the life and dignity of the human person,” said Vielhauer.
“Throughout the year, and especially in April, all are asked to increase awareness and to educate ourselves and the community,” she said.
Pinwheels represent the innocence of children and the healthy, safe childhood they deserve.
“We believe that people respond positively to pinwheels, which represent childlike whimsy and lightheartedness and our vision for a world where all children grow up happy, healthy and prepared to succeed in supportive families and communities,” said Jenifer Valenti, director of the office for protection and care.
Vielhauer said the archdiocese’s pinwheel “garden” serves as a visual reminder of how important it is to protect all children.
“We want to ‘cultivate’ cultures of protection and healing in our church,” she said. “Everyone can make a difference simply by being aware and being a part of the efforts throughout the year.
“The more people are aware of warning signs and steps to be taken when someone poses a threat to children, the stronger our safety net becomes.”
Both Valenti and Vielhauer emphasized how vital it is to raise awareness about abuse.
“Statistics show that in communities where they talk about and are aware of sexual abuse prevention, there is a lower incident rate,” said Vielhauer.
Valenti also stressed the essential role survivors who have stepped forward to share their stories have played in the archdiocese’s efforts to prevent future abuse.
“Survivors often advocate for strengthening our prevention efforts because they don’t want anyone else to suffer as they have,” she said. “We have learned so much about prevention from the brave survivors who have shared their experience with us.
“This month reminds us how important it is to keep our resolve to prevent abuse and to respond to abuse with care, dedication and respect.”
To learn more about the office for protection and care and its efforts to prevent abuse and walk with survivors on their healing journey, go online to: archkck.org/protection-and-care/office.