The local fight against child abuse got a major boost this year when the Leadership Tomorrow class decided to make it this year’s class project.

That added 28 high-energy people to the cause, which was great news for the Grand Island chapter of the Association for Child Abuse Prevention.

The members of the Leadership Tomorrow class have been busy leading the battle against child abuse and neglect.

Those efforts include setting up pinwheel gardens and tying blue ribbons to poles.

Next Friday, everyone is encouraged to wear blue as a reminder to prevent child abuse. The members of Leadership Tomorrow are having a contest in conjunction with Blue Day. The message they’re conveying is “You have the power to protect children.”

Brenna Poindexter, one of the members of Leadership Tomorrow, says child abuse occurs every day all across the state of Nebraska.

“The impact of abuse and neglect on children is lifelong,” Poindexter said. The trauma causes changes in brain structure and affects the victims’ overall lives. It changes their behavior and how they do in school.

The kids need a voice — people who will not turn a blind eye if they see something wrong, she said.

People should have ready access to the Adult and Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline, Poindexter said. That number is 1-800-652-1999.

ACAP members say you should call that number if a neighbor kid has been left home alone the last four nights, or if a child isn’t being fed consistently.

You should also be concerned if a student hasn’t been able to change his clothes from day to day, or if a child has strange bruises.

It’s also worth reporting if a child is involved in more accidents than usual or is terrified of adults.

“We’re talking about breaking cycles,” said Poindexter, who is executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Nebraska. She is also on the ACAP board.

Kids who’ve been abused often have a dull, dead look in their eyes, said Verna Haberman, a member of the ACAP board.

“It’s not somebody else’s problem. You need to be the voice for young people,” Haberman said.

“It’s not that you’re trying to catch someone doing something wrong,” Poindexter said. The goal is just to pay attention to your surroundings, connecting to your community and looking out for one another.

Cole Larsen, another member of Leadership Tomorrow, started thinking about child abuse from the standpoint that strong families make strong communities.

If nothing else, Leadership Tomorrow’s 28 members will become more aware of child abuse, said Larsen, who works at Chief Buildings.

Also as part of Child Abuse Prevention Month, ACAP is selling daisy bouquets. Some marquees in Grand Island carry the message “You have the power to protect a child.”

The mayor and the public school boards are proclaiming April as Child Abuse Prevention Month.

On April 30, ACAP members will gather at Grand Island Cemetery for the annual remembrance of Little Diana Molina.

The daisies are sold in memory of Little Diana and all abused children.

The “For the Love of Children” banquet will be April 25 at Riverside Golf Club.

The banquet is hosted by ACAP, in collaboration with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Nebraska, Boys Town, the Central Nebraska Child Advocacy Center, the Crisis Center and Heartland CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates).

A social hour and raffle basket preview will begin at 5:30 p.m., followed by dinner and the program at 6:30. Tickets are available for $25 each at local Five Points Bank locations and from any hosting organization.

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