The families of two Washington County children who died as a result of child abuse will join the Hancock Police Department's inaugural Walk to End Child Abuse on April 30.
The families of Justice Myers-Cannon and Bella Appel are scheduled to join Hancock Police Chief T.J. Buskirk and a few hundred other people who have signed up to take part in the walk along the Western Maryland Rail Trail. Registration on the day of the 2-mile walk begins at 8 a.m. in Joseph Hancock Park, with the walk beginning at 9 a.m., Buskirk said.
"This is about giving Bella and Justice a legacy; to keep their memories alive," said Dee Myers, Justice's maternal grandmother.
"It's good to leave a positive legacy for Bella and Justice so they can be remembered for something other than this tragedy," said Bella's mother, Jordan Appel. "If this can save one child in the future, it's a success."
Five-week-old Bella Appel of Hancock died in February 2010. Her father, Nicholas Ray McKee, was convicted last year of first-degree child abuse resulting in death and other charges. He was sentenced to 35 years in prison.
In January 2007, 4-month-old Justice Christopher Calvin Myers-Cannon of Hagerstown died. Floyd Edward Bingaman III was convicted of first-degree child abuse resulting in death and related charges. Bingaman is serving a 30-year prison sentence.
"People don't think it can happen to them, but it doesn't matter who you are or where you're from. It can happen," Myers said.
The goal of the walk is to make more people aware of child abuse and to get them involved in preventing it, Myers said.
The response of the community has exceeded the expectations of the victims' families, she said.
"We're just floored by the response," Myers said.
The number of people who preregistered exceeded 300, Appel said last week.
"We're still getting registration forms daily" at the police department, Buskirk said last week. "We're getting a lot of response, not just from Hancock, but Hagerstown, West Virginia and Pennsylvania."
A number of businesses are involved in sponsorship of the event, Buskirk said.
There is a $10 registration fee for the walk, with proceeds going to the Safe Place Child Advocacy Center of Washington County. The center has representatives from police departments, the Department of Social Services, the State's Attorney's Office, family advocates, therapists, pediatricians and nurses providing a variety of services aimed at reducing the trauma of abused children.
"We want to get the word out about what they do as well," Appel said of Safe Place.
Agencies involved in preventing child abuse and treating its victims will be represented and will be giving out information at the walk, Myers said.
The families of Justice and Bella would like the walk — which also features live music, food sales and a radio broadcast — to become an annual event, Myers said.
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
For more information or to download a registration form, go to www.hancockmd.com/walkforchildabuse.htm.
If you go...
What: Walk to End Child Abuse
When: Saturday, April 30. Registration, 8 a.m.; walk, 9 a.m.
Where: Along the Western Maryland Rail Trail
Cost: A $10 registration fee