116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Blue pinwheels are popping up all over Iowa for the month of April.
They can be found in front of businesses, hospitals and even government buildings, including the Cedar Rapids Police Department and the Linn County Sheriff’s Office.
The wind-powered toys are meant to spread awareness about child abuse prevention month, which started on April 1 and continues throughout the month.
“The blue pinwheel is a symbol of hope. It represents a happy, carefree childhood, and obviously that is the bright future we want for all of our children,” said Julie Kelly-Molander, the manager of St. Luke’s Child Protection Center.
Kelly-Molander said the goal of placing the pinwheels and doing other awareness activities is to bring people together to work toward a better community where children can be safe and protected.
“This month really recognizes the importance of families and communities working together to help families thrive,” Kelly-Molander said. “Families are simply stronger when they have things like stable housing, access to health care and transportation and steady employment. We need to really build these support systems to help families thrive.”
The Linn County Community Partnership for Protecting Children has been working with businesses to plant the pinwheels and provide information about child abuse prevention to community members who ask about the pinwheel gardens, according to Jeanette Shoop, the partnership’s grant coordinator.
“The more businesses, agencies, community members that we get involved, the more positive word we can get out there on how we all have an effect on making sure that our children have a happy childhood,” Shoop said. “I had my doubts when I started. Are pinwheels really going to make a difference? But then I realized it’s not just the pinwheel, it’s the interaction with the community and parents and agencies.”
Shoop said one of the biggest causes of child abuse and neglect is stress on the part of the parents, so the more support families and parents have, the less prevalent child abuse will be.
It’s important to educate community members about how to support families, Shoop said, and also to educate parents about how to create strong bonds with their children and seek help when they need it.
“I have yet to meet a parent who thinks that parenting is easy … All parents need help. It’s OK to ask for help, whether that’s getting help with substance use treatment or mental health support or food assistance or just having somebody you can ask questions to,” said Abby Patterson, the Child Abuse Prevention Program Director for Prevent Child Abuse Iowa.
In Johnson County, families are invited to spread awareness by participating in an annual event called Kites for Kids. The first Kites for Kids day this year was on April 2 in North Liberty, and there will be two more events, one on Saturday, April 16, in Tiffin and one on Saturday, April 23, in Iowa City.
Angela McConville, the former chair of Prevent Child Abuse — Johnson County, which hosts the events along with Johnson County Community Partnerships for Protecting Children, said kite-flying is a good way to get parents and kids playing together and connect community members who might not otherwise ever meet.
What: Free kite-flying event for parents and children in Iowa City and Tiffin. Kites are provided.
When: Saturday, April 16, at 10 a.m. in Tiffin; and Saturday, April 23, at noon in Iowa City
Where: Tiffin Soccer Fields (Tiffin) and Riverfront Crossing Park (Iowa City)
“The thought behind it is kites typically take two people to do. Someone needs to help launch and someone needs to hold it. So, you kind of force this interaction between parent and child. They play, they better their relationship through play, because it’s fun and everybody’s having a good time,” McConville said.
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