For many Central Oregonians, the last week of March signifies Spring Break; a break from school, more time with our children, the potential for Spring to miraculously appear this side of the Cascades. But for KIDS Center and MountainStar, the last week of March signifies last-minute preparations, following distribution maps, and handing out blue ribbons left and right in anticipation of April 1st, the beginning of National Child Abuse Prevention Month and Central Oregon’s participation in the Blue Ribbon Campaign. A campaign that started 31 years ago in 1989. For Bonnie Finney, 1989 will forever be the year that life “turned into physical and mental chaos.”
It was spring. A time of year when buds of dormant flowers begin to make their appearances and animal life suddenly flourishes back into existence. Spring is the time of new life and of hope for the warmer weather of summer months. But it was one spring in Virginia when Bonnie Finney’s 16-month-old granddaughter was brought into the hospital after experiencing severe abuse, including broken bones and burns on her hands. It was then that people began searching, questioning after the whereabouts of Michael, who hadn’t been seen for three months. Bonnie’s 3-year-old grandson, Michael, was tragically found at the bottom of a swamp. What’s distressing is this wasn’t the first time the well-being of her grandchildren had been called into question, nor the first time they had been taken to the hospital for injuries. Both children experienced abuse at the hands of Bonnie’s daughter’s partner.
Bonnie decided to channel her grief into a plea to stop abuse and to fight for children. She began by tying a blue ribbon to the antenna of her car. This seemingly simple symbol reminded her of the injuries her grandchildren had received. People in her community noticed and began to ask questions. Soon, restaurants, businesses, radio stations, and the police department all joined in the movement and started supporting Bonnie’s grassroots campaign.
For Bonnie, the blue ribbon was more than a reminder of what her grandchildren had suffered, it was a call to action. She wanted people to know that they had the power and the means to potentially save a child’s life! She didn’t want the ribbons to simply represent children that had experienced abuse, but she wanted them to be a symbol of the power and choice given to each one of us to speak up for the safety of children in our own community.
KIDS Center joined in the Blue Ribbon campaign in 1998 and it’s been a tri-county effort since 2005. We take time every year to increase opportunities for prevention education with the goal of raising awareness throughout Central Oregon that it is our responsibility as adults to make sure each and every child has the chance to be a kid and enjoy all that spring has to offer.
Our next installment of this blog will discuss ways in which you can help prevent child abuse, whether for your own children, their friends, or any child that lives in our community. There is hope and there is help. KIDS Center is here and will continue to persist, to support each family and child in Central Oregon.