In Hawaii last year, there were more than 5,000 reported cases of children suffering from abuse or neglect, with more than half having been confirmed. Unfortunately, those statistics are nothing new, as Prevent Child Abuse Hawaii volunteer Elsie Foster can tell you:
“I first became involved with PCAH shortly after my son was born in 1992. I became involved because I knew a Waianae child who died from child abuse in 1986. I had a feeling he was being abused at the time, and I didn’t do anything about it.
“It’s still really hard to think about, even after all these years. So I do this work because of guilt, but also so his short life will have some meaning.”
Aileen Deese, program director with the private nonprofit, put Foster in charge of a fledgling fundraising idea called the Teddy Bear Roundup. Since then, millions of teddy bears and stuffed animals of all sizes, shapes and colors have been gathered and then given to children in need of comfort.
Foster, Deese and other volunteers from PCAH, the Child Abuse Prevention Planning Council and District 50 Lions and Leo clubs will be at Pearlridge Uptown Center Court from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. this Saturday, April 4, for the 12th annual Teddy Bear Roundup and Family Resource Fair. Local entertainers Tradewinds will provide entertainment for the grown-ups, and popular cartoon characters Winnie-the-Pooh, Tigger, Elmo and Dalmatians will be there for free picture-taking with the keiki.
The first 500 families to make a donation will receive a special gift - but everyone who brings in a new or gently used bear gets the chance to help set a new Guinness World Record for the largest gathering of plush toys.
“We are not trying to set a world record for the glory, but because of the unfortunate fact that abused and neglected children in our community have a need that great,” Foster explains of their attempts to collect 5,700 toys. “Our profound wish is that one day there is no need for a Teddy Bear Roundup because there will be no abused children.”
Another way PCAH plans to put a permanent stop to child abuse in Hawaii is through a host of events scheduled throughout April, better known as Prevent Child Abuse Month. For more information on PCAH or any of its events, call 951-0200 or visit www.preventchildabusehawaii.org.
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