Field of flags commemorates and seeks to prevent deaths from child abuse
Jun 11, 2018 02:14PM
● By Ruth Hendricks
Volunteers have fun while helping to place flags on the field. (Reed Scharman/West Jordan Exchange Club)
By Ruth Hendricks | [email protected]
Gwen Knight, a leader with the West Jordan Exchange Club, said last October in West Jordan, “A 13-day-old baby boy died as a result of child abuse. This sadly reminds us of the importance of child abuse awareness, prevention education and resources.”
Bright and early on Saturday morning, June 2, volunteers met at the Veterans Memorial Park near 7800 South 2200 West to set up around 1,000 American flags to remind people about preventing child abuse.
“Each year we have between 1,600 and 1,700 deaths in the United States from child abuse,” said Knight. “This field is commemorating all those kids that passed away.”
The annual event is sponsored by the West Jordan Exchange Club, which is a local chapter of the national service club. Many others helped as well. “We have some great volunteers here from Wells Fargo, some from JustServe, and we also have the fire department here helping us,” said Knight.
The Exchange Club has three core values: country, family, and community. Their national project is child abuse prevention. “During the year the club does different activities in these core areas. For instance, for ‘community’ we help with Comcast Cares day. We will do a flag raising ceremony on the 4th of July, and we have a float in the local parade for ‘country,’” said Knight.
The organization holds fundraisers during the year to help support their core values. This year they adopted a school, Columbia elementary, and they helped put up a pinwheel garden during the month of April, which is child abuse prevention month.
Reed Scharman recently retired after 35 years with the police and the West Jordan fire department. “Six years ago, Rick Davis, who was the former city manager, wanted to see some participation from the city in these groups, so the police and fire departments became members of the Exchange Club and just volunteered,” said Scharman.
Scharman explained that if an emergency call comes, members of the fire department leave to attend to that, but they help out at the field while they can. The fire department also allows the club to store the flags in a trailer at their station.
“The whole idea is just to get people to think about child abuse,” said Scharman. “Because we’re patriotic, American flags just seem natural, and people notice them. Part of stopping or helping to reduce child abuse is to get people talking about it.”
The Exchange Club also helps sponsor the Children’s Justice Center car show and supports South Valley Services, which is a domestic violence shelter located in West Jordan.
Last year was the first time the club posted a notice on the volunteer website JustServe.org, which lists volunteer projects. Anyone can go on the site, see what needs there are in their neighborhood, and just sign up or show up.
Knight works for Prevent Child Abuse Utah. Their website, pcautah.org, offers free resources. A 30-minute course teaches parents how to recognize child sexual abuse. Another course for adults who work with kids covers all four types of abuse.
“Kids that are most susceptible to fatalities are children under three, because they can’t talk or protect themselves,” said Knight. “Lots of times kids don’t report abuse because they are afraid they won’t be believed. One of the things we teach is that if you are abused, it’s not your fault, and that you should keep telling people until someone believes you. And we are telling adults to always believe a child and report, because research shows that few children lie about being abused.”
Knight said that everyone over the age of 18 in Utah is a mandated reporter, which means that if you suspect abuse, if a child reveals it to you, or if you witness abuse, you should call either child protective services or law enforcement. It’s a “good faith” law, meaning that if you report in good faith, you can’t be sued.
The field of flags stayed up for two weeks, until June 16, at which point the volunteers returned again to take down the display.
The West Jordan Exchange Club always welcomes new members ages 18 and older who like to serve in their community. The group has a Facebook page, or you can email Gwen Knight at [email protected] to learn more about the club.