BUCKHANNON — Advocates for children throughout Upshur County joined together Thursday for a special luncheon recognizing their efforts to aid in the fight against child abuse.
The Children’s Memorial Flag Appreciation Luncheon took place at noon at Engle Hall in Chapel Hill United Methodist Church. The purpose of the luncheon was to thank those volunteers or employees who have tirelessly dedicated their lives to preventing child abuse or aiding in the fight against it.
“You are the superheroes who help our children!” was this year’s theme, executive director of the Upshur County Family Resource Network Lori Ulderich Harvey pointed out.
Ulderich Harvey welcomed participants and described the Children’s Memorial Flag, which is red and depicts a line of children holding hands and who are colored in blue, except for one empty outline of a child in the center, who remains red.
“Talking about the Children’s Memorial Flag, we’re here for all of these children today, but really, we’re here for the one that’s just the outline, because these are the children that pass away from abuse and neglect, and that’s what everyone in this room is doing their best to prevent,” Ulderich Harvey said. “Everyone can make a difference in one child’s life by doing one small thing.”
Ulderich Harvey told a story about an old man standing on a beach who kept throwing washed-up starfish back into the ocean. When a little boy approached him, informing him he couldn’t possibly save all the starfish the waves pushed ashore, the old man defiantly picked up yet another starfish, threw it back in the ocean and replied, “It made a difference to that one.”
“That’s kind of like what I tell people,” Ulderich Harvey said. “Sometimes, just the smallest thing can make a difference.”
One of the luncheon’s main goals was to honor two individuals who made a measurable difference in the lives of children over the past year — the Children’s Champion award winners. Ulderich Harvey named Cpl. Rocky Hebb of the Upshur County Sheriff’s Department as the community Children’s Champion award winner. Hebb, who is a Prevention Resources Office at Buckhannon-Upshur High School, was unable to attend Thursday’s luncheon because something had detained him at the high school.
“This year, we decided to do two Children’s Champions,” Ulderich Harvey said. “A Children’s Champion is someone who has shown how much they care for children by what they do and their actions. Rocky (Hebb) couldn’t come because he said something was on his desk that he couldn’t walk away from.”
Ulderich Harvey said that when she told Hebb he was one of two recipients of the Children’s Champion awards, he said hadn’t done enough to be worthy of the honor.
“He said ‘Oh no, I shouldn’t have gotten it,’” she recounted. “But I said, ‘Rocky, you’re doing something for one of the reasons why we chose you for this; you’re trying to make our schools safer.’”
Hebb makes a point of sitting down and conversing with students during their lunch hour, helping mitigate many problems that might otherwise have cropped up, Ulderich Harvey said.
“He gains their respect by just talking to them, and then they feel comfortable telling him things,” she said.
The second award went to adoption worker Patricia Harris, who has been employed with the state Department of Health and Human Resources for 21 years, kicking her career off as a CPS worker. Ulderich Harvey highlighted the fact that Harris has assisted with over 500 adoptions in West Virginia foster care, characterizing her as extremely devoted to her work as a highly effective case manager.
“We as a community are fortunate to have her dedication to the safety of children, the compassion she shows for families and her invaluable knowledge of the adoption process,” Ulderich Harvey said. “We want to show appreciation for all she has done and always being true to herself.”
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and the luncheon was sponsored by the Upshur County FRN and the Upshur County Partners in Prevention Team.