Community gathers to memorialize children lost to violence

By RealWV staff,

Every year on the 4th Friday in April, communities across the nation gather to remember children whose lives were lost to violence and abuse over the past year. The Lewisburg office of Children’s Home Society of West Virginia, in collaboration with numerous local partners, hosted a memorial yesterday in front of the courthouse.

“All of our agencies are dedicate to preventing violence against children,” said Mary Carr in welcoming attendees. “I want to thank everyone who works every day to better the lives of children and families in our community.”

Attendees included judges, employees of the prosecutor’s office, families of children lost to violence, law enforcement, social service workers, child advocates, medical professionals, pastors, and community members.

Lewisburg Mayor Beverly White approached the microphone in tears, taking a moment to collect her thoughts, before reading a proclamation from the city. “The effects of child abuse are felt by whole communities, and needs to be addressed by the entire community. Effective prevention programs succeed because of partnerships,” she told the crowd. “I urge all citizens to memorialize the thousand of children across the country who die violently each year, and I call upon all citizens to increase their participation and efforts to prevent child abuse.”

Organizers honored two local women for being champions for children as part of the event. Jennifer Richmond was honored as an outstanding foster parent and the founder of NOAH (Now Our Angels Are in Heaven), a nonprofit she started after her child was killed which she uses to help other families enduring that same trauma. Lisa Snedegar was also honored for her dedicated career of service to children in the Family Resource Network, Communities in Schools, the Child Youth & Advocacy Center, and Greenbrier County Schools. She often serves as the connection between available resources and families in need across the county.

Rev. Stephen Baldwin provided the neynote address, beginning, “It is surreal to think a day such as this is even necessary, but today is absolutely necessary. A 14-year old died in Boone County last week after not eating for months before eventually dying of cardiac arrest. And since then, more children than we would care to count have been abused and neglected in our own communities.”

After sharing his condolences with family members of children in attendance, he thanked those who work behind the scenes in various roles, often behind the scenes. “Folks in the community can’t know about what you’re doing because you are working to protect the decency and dignity of a child’s past and perhaps more importantly their future.”

He then shared a message with the larger community, saying, “Protecting children is everyone’s responsibility. Not just law enforcement or judges or prosecutors or child protective workers. Everyone. Food service, bus drivers, pastors, nurses, mamaws, papaws, coaches, volunteers, Sunday School teachers, clerks, secretaries, contractors, cooks, everyone.”

He acknowledged the work as difficult and frustratingly slow, but urged the community to “never give up. We protect this generation as a way of saving the next generation.”

Jacqueline Brown was also in attendance, wearing a shirt with her great-grandson’s picture. He was killed in late 2023 in Greenbrier County. She said, “We can’t bring him back, but we can open people’s eyes. We all have a job to do.”

The Child Youth & Advocacy Center in Lewisburg provides training for mandatory reporters. If you or an organization you belong to would like to be trained and learn how to spot signs of abuse and how to report it properly, call them at 304-645-4668.

In West Virginia, all child abuse is reported through a central hotline. If you ever suspect child abuse, call 1-800-352-6513.

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