Representatives from various organizations were on hand at the Department of Health and Human Resources office Friday to ring in the 2006 Child Abuse Prevention Campaign by remembering and celebrating what made last year’s venture a success.

Celi Van Dyke, coordinator of Just For Kids and team leader of the campaign, said she wanted to give local residents an opportunity to see what the campaign is doing to prevent child abuse in Fayette and Raleigh counties.

Van Dyke applauded the work that Shelli Wood, who oversees the Newspapers in Education (NIE) initiative for Beckley Newspapers, has done to literally bring home a message of love and family unity to area homes.

According to Wood, NIE last year made sure that every student — from kindergarten to 12th grade — in every school in Fayette and Raleigh counties received a copy of the Child Protection Alliance’s (CPA) newspaper insert, which is full of fun activities and helpful information on child abuse.

“We try to coordinate and collect activities happening in those two counties that promote a nurturing family environment or promote a fun time with the family,” said Van Dyke.

“We put those all in one place on one calendar, and we promote these activities that encourage positive family interaction.”

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, and Van Dyke is hoping to once again provide local students and parents with ideas for fun and healthy activities they can enjoy together during the month of April. For Van Dyke, the month’s dedication toward a preventative measure speaks volumes to its importance.

“While other months raise awareness of different things, April encourages prevention — something you can do, or a behavior you can change, that can prevent child abuse. Reaching out to children and families is one of the top five ways that people can make a difference, according to Prevent Child Abuse America.”

Claytina Shepperd, a first-grade teacher at Maxwell Hill Elementary School, was presented with CPA’s first Gold Star Award for someone who demonstrates a dedication to preventing child abuse. Shepperd was nominated for the honor by the students who know her best.

“This decision was very easy and unanimous. One student wrote, ‘The best thing she (Shepperd) ever said to me is I love you,’” Van Dyke exclaimed, as she presented Shepperd with the plaque.

“Thank you for this honor,” the teacher said.

The Child Protection Alliance is a voluntary collaboration of organizations that are committed to preventing child abuse in Fayette and Raleigh counties, Van Dyke explained. The network has grown since its inception in 2003 as a handful of organizations that work directly with children and families.

“It’s interesting to see what’s happened,” she said. “This has expanded to include media, religious organizations, schools, parents, volunteers and students. It’s been great to see it diversify into that.”

For anyone interested in having a family-oriented event featured in NIE’s April calendar, contact Van Dyke at 304-640-4834 by March 15.

The Child Protection Alliance will meet next at 2 p.m. Feb. 28 at the Raleigh County Department of Health and Human Resources office on Neville Street, Beckley.

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