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OCALA — During 2017, more than 1,900 children were verified victims of child abuse, neglect and abandonment in Circuit 5 —Citrus, Hernando, Lake, Marion and Sumter counties. The Florida Child Abuse hotline received 11,877 reports of child abuse in Circuit 5 during 2017.

Typically, child abuse and domestic violence occur behind closed doors, making it a social ill difficult to readily identify. During the month of April, child advocates rally to raise awareness and increase child abuse prevention efforts in the community.

A shining, spinning pinwheel is a classic symbol of childhood. Together, Kids Central and several community partners, including The Centers, Childhood Development Services, Department of Children and Families, Devereux, Kimberly’s Center and the Florida Department of Health-Marion County work to raise awareness of child abuse and the ways to prevent it. By working together, the partners will engage the Ocala community to recognize, combat and prevent child abuse.

“Kids Central is committed to preventing child abuse before it occurs,” said Debra Wise-Velez, Kids Central Deputy Chief of Programs, “which is why we have designed a comprehensive strategy with collaborative partners to prevent child abuse all year long.

“The month of April is dedicated to child abuse prevention. The blue and silver pinwheel has become a national symbol for child abuse prevention; this is a reminder of happy childhoods and bright futures that all children deserve, as well as the important role we each play in ensuring every child has an equal opportunity for healthy growth and development,” Wise-Velez said.

With the help of sponsors, thousands of pinwheels will spin on display for Citrus County to observe and connect to the efforts focused on awareness and prevention. There are Pinwheel Gardens available for sponsorship. Organizations may contact Jessica Gilbert at 352-387-3474 or Jessica.Gilbert@kidscentralinc.org for more information about how to sponsor a garden.

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