Campaign aims to prevent child abuse

URBANA — When you see all those blue pinwheels that have sprouted up across Champaign-Urbana this month, think of the children, a local child advocate asks.

The neglected children, the abused children, "all these kids need our help," says Rush Record, executive director of the Champaign County Court Appointed Special Advocate program, or CASA, the not-for-profit organization that advocates for abused and neglected children through the court system.

The blue pinwheel has become the symbol of abused and neglected children, and there are more blue pinwheels displayed around the community than ever this year for Child Abuse Prevention Month.

In years past, there have been just over 400 pinwheels displayed, one for each child being served by CASA in Champaign County, Record said. This year, the United Way of Champaign County purchased more pinwheels, and there are about 2,000 of them on display, he said.

The additional pinwheels were purchased with part of the money from the legal settlement between the University of Illinois and the Big Ten in the Jerry Sandusky case.

The United Way divided the bulk of the money among four local agencies helping children in abuse, neglect and crises situations, among them CASA, with a small portion set aside for child abuse awareness and education, said United Way President and CEO Sue Grey.

This year, the blue pinwheel campaign is being further expanded as a fund-raiser for CASA, with the help of Prairie Gardens.

The Champaign store at 3000 W. Springfield Ave. has blue pinwheels for sale for $3 apiece, and people can display them in their own yards. All proceeds from those sales will go to CASA, said Steve Brown of Prairie Gardens. CASA will use the money raised to help support its program, Record said.

There are two other ways to donate to CASA at Prairie Gardens this month: People can pass on the pinwheels and simply donate money in a donation box at the store, or they can donate directly to CASA through Prairie Gardens' cash registers.

CASA volunteers are currently advocating for 431 abused or neglected children in Champaign County, Record said, and more volunteers are needed. The next training class starts April 22, and anyone interested in applying can contact the local CASA office or visit the website at casa4kids.org.

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