HICKORY – Last year, 32 children ages seven days to 17-years-old died in North Carolina because of abuse or neglect.
On Tuesday, the community of Catawba County gathered at Union Square in Hickory for the 10th annual Children’s Advocacy & Protection Center (CAPC) vigil to remember those lost lives.
“It recognizes children across the state of North Carolina so this year one of those kids is a Catawba County child, so we’ll be recognizing one of our own,” CAPC Community Education and Outreach Coordinator Kate Landry said. “It’s also a reminder that each one of us has a responsibility in protecting kids. One of the statistics I say a lot is an adult we’ll impact the lives of ten children at some point.
“During our time with them, either as a mentor or a teacher or a coach or pastor, we have an opportunity to observe and speak with them and recognize if they are in any kind of trouble, if they need any help.”
The CAPC exists to build a community dedicated to the prevention of and the coordinated response to child abuse and neglect, the CAPC website says.
Landry added it’s every adult’s responsibility to make sure kids are safe.
The vigil started with members of the community presenting flowers for the children lost. Catawba County Manager Mick Berry then read all 32 names as t-shirts made in honor of each child were hung. It was the eighth year Hickory High students in Tereza Bentley’s art class volunteered their time to create the art for each shirt. The shirts also had the names and age of each victim.
“There are 11 more names on the list than the previous year,” Bentley said in a Hickory Public Schools press release. “My students are talented and through this project, they have learned that art can shine a light on darkness. They also learned that art can help to heal as well as inform the community about an issue.”
The Hickory High vocal ensemble also sang “For the Sake of our Children”. They were accompanied by Western Piedmont Symphony violinist Diana Stone.
“I think the kids have really connected well with the song and the text is really very gripping,” HHS Choral Director Steve Clarke said. “It’s a prayer basically, just asking for God to bless the children of the world who are in danger.
“One of the things music does, more so than maybe a lot of other classes, you are singing music of different parts of the world, written by different people in different times, so you enter into that experience and become more sympathetic human beings.”
The ensemble’s choice of music resonated with Hickory High senior Darian Abernathy.
“I just think it’s really important that our song is called ‘For the Sake of our Children’, and the children are our future so we should try to encourage people to stop child abuse,” Abernathy said.
For fellow senior Shelby Peterson, the vigil helped to bring to life headlines of child abuse she’s seen in the news.
“It makes my heart hurt because these kids, they’ll never have a chance to be seniors like we are,” Peterson said. “Being able to be here and sing and participate in something that honors those kids and helps their memory live on, it’s really important to me.”
“I feel like a lot of people over look this," Abernathy added. "I know when I think of kids, I live in a world where kids don’t get hurt but when it does it really shocks you, I think it’s important to bring awareness to this.”
The event wrapped up with Lenoir-Rhyne University Assistant Professor Mindy Makant leading the gathering in a group prayer.
For information about the Children's Advocacy & Protection Center visit catawbacountycapc.org or call (828) 465-9296.