“Step Up, Speak Out” Block Parties Raise Awareness For Child Abuse

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FORT SMITH (KFSM)--The Step Up Speak Out block parties are a part of the United Way’s promotion to end child abuse.

Three River Valley schools Wednesday night (October 7): Howard Elementary and Euper Elementary in Fort Smith and the Boys and Girls Club in Van Buren.

Sam Sicard helped organize the event with the United Way. He said it's all about letting kids and parents know how they can get help.

“We give them this t-shirt with the child abuse hotline number and bracelets and chains, so that they know how to tell someone,” Sicard said.

Sicard said this all began when he learned that child abuse affects one of every four girls and one in every six boys under the age of 18.

“In child abuse, it's so hard for a kid to step up and speak out when something happens, and this event is catered to tell the kids, ‘Hey, it's ok to tell somebody,’” Sicard said. “It's ok to go to your teacher, go to your trusted adult, and tell them when something inappropriate is happening, so it's really important that they hear that message over and over.”

Rham Cunningham, the emcee for the event, said that even though the parties were about having fun, the goal is to combat a serious issue.

Speakers from the Hamilton House came to tell kids to speak up and parents to listen. The parents said it's all about being there for the kids.

“As far as what we're here for, it's for kids, and kids that go through a lot of problems, and we want them to have a voice, and we're their voice, and we're standing up, and we're speaking out for them, and we're here to help them,” PTA member Jill Flanary said.

Additional Step Up Speak out events will be scheduled in the spring.