HEALDTON—Along Main Street in front of the Oilfield Museum in Healdton, 212 blue ribbons hang from the branches of a tree.
Each of those 212 ribbons represent a confirmed child abuse case in Carter County.
The ribbons were placed in the tree by 21 Healdton High School students and community leaders. The service was part of The Child Abuse Prevention Action Committee’s 9th Annual “Building a Blue Ribbon Tree for Kids,” campaign in recognition of Child Abuse Prevention Month, which is observed in April. The ribbons were made by Jessica Miller, with Healdton Hope, with the intention of serving as a reminder that the community has a responsibility to protect children. Blue is the international sign of child abuse prevention.
Miller said Healdton Hope contacted the Department of Human Services to obtain the number of confirmed child abuse cases in one fiscal year in order to create the visual representation.
“It brings it to life,” Miller said of the ribbons. “They’re actually seeing something that’s more concrete and they can see the number of children affected in Carter County.”
Many of the students helping place the ribbons are part of the Healdton FCCLA. Amy Worsham, Healdton FCCLA adviser, said she was contacted by Miller about placing the ribbons in the tree. Worsham said her class has been discussing child abuse in their curriculum, so she saw the opportunity to provide a learning experience and help a cause.
The students began placing the ribbons into the tree, one at a time. But the ribbons kept coming.
“It really struck the kids as they kept tying ribbons on,” Worsham said. “It was a powerful visual impact for them.”
In the class, the students had been doing a project that visually creates the impact of child abuse on lives. The students took pottery and broke them into pieces. Words and actions that are harmful to children were then written on the pieces. The students then taped the pottery back together, with the tape representing healing and positivity, though the stitched together pottery, even with the tape, didn’t look like the original pottery. The damage had already been done.
Worsham said many of the students have experienced abuse in their lives and understood the visual representation all too well. When the class helped hang the ribbons, another type of visual representation resonated.
“It brings everything in our world to reality,” she said. “It happens in our area and it happens in Carter County.”
Worsham said many of the students have had their parents drive by the tree to see the ribbons. The 212 blue ribbons will serve as a reminder to the community about the reality of child abuse, even in areas close to home. Worhsam said she ensured the students understood that the ribbons only represent confirmed cases, as many child abuse cases either aren’t reported or confirmed.
With many of the students Worsham teaches wanting to pursue careers in teaching, she said learning about the reality of child abuse has opened their eyes to a sector of the profession that isn’t always discussed. Worsham said even in a small community like Healdton, child abuse and neglect is a reality.
The ribbons, Miller and Worsham hope, will serve as a constant reminder to the community that child abuse is a real problem and that the community can help be the change for those children.