Balloon Release Brings Awareness

CIS balloon release at East Ward for child abuse awareness
By: Todd Martin
At times somber and serious, while hopeful of a brighter future, families from around East Ward Elementary School gathered for an annual reminder of the reality of child abuse.
Frequently citing the need to work together, leaders from Killeen ISD joined non-profit organizations and city leaders with the children outside East Ward Friday to release a wave of balloons as a calm, visual reminder.
Communities in Schools Site Director David Woodberry, a Child Welfare Board representative on several levels, read off the unsettling numbers, while also pointing out reasons to hope.
In the past year, he said, 211 children died from abuse in the state of Texas and 1 of those came from Bell County.
In the balloon release, a single white balloon represented the child in Bell County lost to abuse and the other blue balloons represented the more than 400 children currently in foster care in this county. April is National Child Abuse Awareness Month.
Hope comes in a community that cares and continues to seek assistance for families in need.
Systems in place to care for children labor to keep young ones in custody of close relatives rather than place them in foster care, Woodberry said.
Killeen ISD Superintendent John Craft offered praise for CIS and other organizations that provide services for families in need and expressed his desire for a day when such an awareness effort would be unnecessary.
Abuse and neglect are never the problem of one person, he said, but indication of a larger issue. “It’s never a ‘their problem,’” he said. “It’s always a ‘we’ problem,” pointing out the need for the whole community to contribute to helping when a child is in danger.
Participants in the awareness event pointed out that East Ward Elementary School is soon to close its doors, with students and staff moving to the new Maude Moore Wood Elementary School for two years until a new school is completed on Rancier Avenue.
During that interval, Woodberry said, services to families will continue, while students attend school across town and when the new school is built on the current East Ward site.
As part of the ceremony, CIS Student of the Year Avetta Madere read the poem “If Teddy Bears Could Talk,” an anonymously-authored piece, poignantly communicating a child’s need for love.
Following the balloon release, children and family members toured the Connections building at the rear of East Ward Elementary School, with numerous photos and trophies from the CIS program’s years at the campus.
The public is welcome to celebrate with East Ward Elementary School during a 66-year birthday celebration at the school on 1608 East Rancier Avenue in Killeen scheduled at 5 p.m. May 2.