HANCOCK, Md. — A child’s drawing depicted a girl with a piece of tape over her mouth.
“Stop child abuse. Stand for her, because she doesn’t know how,” the caption read.
Another portrayed a boy’s face with a black eye.
It read, “When you abuse children, a piece of them is lost. Why!”
These poignant images were displayed Saturday at the Walk to End Child Abuse in Hancock. Students from Hancock Middle-Senior High School and Warm Springs Middle School in Berkeley Springs, W.Va., illustrated the pictures as part of a poster contest for the event.
Jordan Appel of Hancock, who helped organize the walk, said the poster contest was intended to be one of many ways to raise awareness of child abuse. Its results were more far-reaching than anticipated.
“So much came out,” Appel said. “The students were able to communicate things with drawing and art that we just didn’t expect.”
Appel said a couple of students came forward with allegations of abuse that they previously had been afraid to reveal. Those allegations are being investigated.
“It’s not what we intended or what we thought was going to happen,” she said.
Appel knows firsthand the devastation that accompanies child abuse. Her daughter, 5-week-old Bella Appel, died in January 2010. Bella’s father was convicted of first-degree child abuse resulting in death and other charges and received a sentence of 35 years in prison.
Appel, a student at Dickinson School of Law specializing in child advocacy, said the best way to prevent child abuse is to build awareness and to “let people know that this is an issue.”
The first Walk to End Child Abuse last spring at Joseph Hancock Park featured a walk, music and a handful of food vendors and social service agencies distributing literature. About 400 people attended.
This year, the event moved to Widmeyer Park to accommodate a larger crowd and additional attractions, including a candle-lighting ceremony for victims, a 5K run and a youth bike-a-thon.
Advocacy and social service agencies from Western Maryland and nearby areas of Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Virginia were on hand providing information and literature.
“Rural areas tend to be left out when it comes to resources and services,” Appel said. “We want people to know these organizations do exist and there is someone who cares.”
State Sen. Christopher B. Shank and Del. Neil C. Parrott of Washington County celebrated the approval of a bill that increases the maximum penalty for child abuse resulting in death. Known as Justice’s Law, the legislation was named after 4-month-old Justice Christopher Calvin Myers-Cannon, who was shaken to death in Washington County in January 2007.
Parrott commended Appel and fellow Walk to End Child Abuse organizer Ashley Brown, Justice’s mother, for their work in support of the bill.
Brown said she believes the Walk to End Child Abuse is raising awareness of the issue and provides a safe place for victims and families to receive support. She said a father whose son recently was killed traveled to the event from Prince George’s County, Md., after seeing an ad online.
“He just wanted to talk to someone who could relate, to someone who knows what he is going through,” Brown said.
The first Walk to End Child Abuse raised $14,000. With additional events as well as sponsorships from dozens of individuals and businesses, Appel said she didn’t “see any reason why we shouldn’t exceed that this year.” Proceeds will go to Safe Place Washington County Child Advocacy Center and to Safe Haven Child Advocacy Center serving Berkeley and Morgan counties in West Virginia, she said.