SAGAMIHARA FAMILY HOUSING AREA, Japan (April 26, 2021) – Members of the U.S. Army Garrison Japan community observed National Child Abuse Prevention Month at the library here April 23 with a lively festival aimed at raising awareness.
“Today is a coming together of the community to celebrate children and remind ourselves how precious our children are, but also to send a strong message to commit to preventing and ending child abuse,” said Marissa Ayag-Garcia, manager of the Family Advocacy Program at U.S. Army Garrison Japan’s Army Community Service and an organizer of the event.
Many children attended because they had the day off from school due to a teachers’ training day, and the event included live music from the U.S. Army Japan Band, a proclamation reading, a pinwheel planting, free popcorn and much more.
Prevent Child Abuse America, a nonprofit organization, introduced the “Pinwheels for Prevention” campaign in 2008, and since then, child advocates throughout the United States have organized blue pinwheel plantings during April to raise awareness.
The idea behind the pinwheel planting is that when the wind blows and the pinwheels turn, they send out the message of child abuse prevention to the community, Ayag-Garcia said. Personnel from the Camp Zama Arts and Crafts Center also led children in creating pinwheels they could take home with them.
In addition, Lucinda Ward, Relocation Readiness Program and volunteer manager at ACS, dressed as “Clowndia the Clown Fairy” and read “Pinwheel Promise” by Cindy Lee Morita, and illustrated by Melody Dix. Members of the band chimed in on cue with sound effects during the story.
Jennifer Partridge, director of USAG Japan ACS, read the Installation Commanders Proclamation for National Child Abuse Prevention Month that Col. Thomas Matelski, USAG Japan commander, and USAG Japan Command Sgt. Maj. Justin Turner signed at the beginning of the month.
“Any time an Army family member suffers from abuse we fall short of our goals for readiness,” Partridge read. “I’m calling on all of us, military and civilian, parents and nonparents, to unite for a common goal to end child abuse.”
The proclamation also calls on community members to learn about child abuse prevention, build their parenting skills, be attentive and provide consistent care and supervision to help children thrive.
“Caring words and small actions make a big difference,” Partridge read. “Child abuse prevention is not a one-month assignment. It goes on every day of every year.”
ACS also had information available about their programs that help families, and those who attended the event said they enjoyed it.
Alfonza Mills, Jr., said he attended with his children Noah, 9, and Ivy, 6, because there was no school that day and he wanted to show support.
“I knew their friends were going to be here, so that’s one thing we wanted to do, and we’re having a good time,” Mills said. “Of course we love the music and free snacks for the kids. Kids love popcorn. [We enjoy] just seeing everybody and getting to dance and just having fun.”
Organizers encouraged attendees to wear blue; Noah said he was glad to see so many people dressed in blue because it is his favorite color. He also appreciated that he got to see some of his friends, listen to the music and plant a pinwheel.
“I like to make the world a better place,” Noah said.
His sister Ivy, meanwhile, said she really enjoyed seeing the blue pinwheels and hearing the reading of the pinwheel story.
Danielle Carmona attended with her children Camden, 8, and Kaia, 5, and said they also especially enjoyed Clowndia’s story reading as well.
“I think the kids really, really loved it,” Carmona said. “She is so hilarious and so funny.”
Holding the event at the library was also a good idea, Carmona said.
“It’s a double dose of fun,” Carmona said. “The kids love to come here to get books all the time.”
Community members can learn about the signs of child abuse and more by calling the FAP through ACS at (DSN) 315-263-4357 or (COMM) 046-407-4357.