‘Pinwheels for Prevention’ draws attention to child abuse and neglect


By Jordyn Grzelewski

jgrzelewski@vindy.com

BOARDMAN

In Boardman Park, 1,652 blue and gray pinwheels spin gently with the breeze.

Across the country, millions more do the same.

Each one represents an abused or neglected child and the advocates who stand up for them.

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, which is highlighted across the country by the Pinwheels for Prevention awareness campaign. On Monday, Mahoning County Children Services and Akron Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley’s Child Advocacy Center hosted an awareness luncheon at the park’s Lariccia Family Community Center.

Keynote speaker Edward L. Gilbert, an Akron-area attorney, shared his own story of growing up in an abusive household and shuffling between group homes and foster care.

“Growing up in extreme poverty and the embarrassment of growing up what we called a ‘welfare kid,’ it kind of takes a toll,” said Gilbert, 66, who spent much of his childhood in an Indianapolis group home.

“If you’ve ever read ‘Oliver Twist,’ it’s right on point,” he said of the environment in which he grew up. “The hardest time was Christmas and the holidays. Birthdays were never celebrated for us. ... We got nothing.”

Despite his tough circumstances, Gilbert went on to graduate from Wooster College and then to earn a law degree from the University of Akron. Today, he is the head of his own law firm. He credits one of his aunts, who urged him to focus on his education, with saving his life.

“She was my advocate,” he said.

He urged those who attended the event to do the same.

“Be an advocate for a child, because believe me – believe me – you will make a difference,” he said.

Jennifer Kollar, public information officer for Mahoning County Children Services, said everyone in the community can do their part to prevent child abuse and neglect.

“If they see something suspicious, make that call. Make that report,” she said. “Be vigilant. One action, one report can make all the difference in a child’s life.”

To report suspected child abuse or neglect, contact children services at 330-941-8888.

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