Flag memorial displays scope of child abuse problem in the U.S.
Jul 29, 2019 03:54PM
● By Jordan Hafford
Flags commemorating child abuse-related deaths in the United States at Veteran’s Memorial Park (Reed Sharman/West Jordan Exchange Club Secretary Treasurer)
By Jordan Hafford | [email protected]
At Veteran’s Memorial Park this June, the West Jordan Exchange Club installed the Field of Flags, paying tribute to the approximately 1,500 children that die nationally as the result of child abuse each year.
“Seeing the Field of Flags for the first time years ago caused me to become interested in the Exchange Club,” said Gwen Knight, president of the West Jordan Exchange Club. “It was the year after Sierra Newbold from our own community had been kidnapped and murdered, so our city was especially aware of the importance of keeping children safe.”
The West Jordan Exchange Club is an affiliate of the National Exchange Club, a service organization whose core values include country, community and family. The national project for the Exchange Club is child abuse prevention.
As an effort to raise awareness in the community regarding how many children die each year as a result of child abuse injuries, the West Jordan Exchange Club for the past several years plants a field of 1,000 flags honoring the children who die annually in the United States because of child abuse. In 2017, the number had climbed to 1,720 child fatalities nationwide.
According to the Center for Disease Control, there are four common types of child abuse and neglect: physical, sexual, emotional and neglect. More information on child abuse can be found at www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/childabuseandneglect.
Everyone in the State of Utah 18 years and older is required by law to report child abuse if they have witnessed it, suspect it or have received a disclosure. The Utah Division of Child and Family Services has a hotline number for reporting as well: (855) 323-3237.
“I believe that we as adults have the responsibility to be the protectors of children and to make a report if we suspect abuse,” said Knight. “The club spends an entire Saturday every February, washing and repairing the flags and retiring ones that have become worn. I have often heard feedback from passersby that it is a beautiful, inspiring sight to see all the flags displayed for children.”
Other projects the club is involved in regarding children include supporting the Children's Justice Center and planting a pinwheel garden in front of the City offices in April to commemorate Child Abuse Prevention Month. In addition, along with the Dannon Company, the group recognizes and awards scholarships to four area high school students who are nominated for its ACE (Accepting the Challenge of Excellence Award) in March.
The Field of Flags is only one of many community-oriented projects in which the Exchange Club is involved. Exchange Club leaders are always looking for new members. If residents would like to know more, they can contact Jay Thomas at [email protected] and follow the group on Facebook at West Jordan Exchange Club.
The flag display at the park not only honors but serves as a poignant reminder to how vulnerable our youngest residents are, and how, as Knight put it, it is our responsibility as adults to protect our most precious assets: the children.
Upon visiting the vast field of flags representing these innocent victims, the profound question posed to in the popular thriller film “A Quiet Place” echoes, “Who are we if we can’t protect them?”