WILLIAMSON — Crimes against children are not taken lightly in Mingo County, and a decent sized crowd gathered in Williamson on Wednesday to show their support for the welfare of area youth as they joined with employees of the WV Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR), students of the Williamson Christian School and county officials to participate in the annual Child Abuse Awareness Walk and flag raising.
Reported cases of child abuse have increased over the past year, and speculation is that many cases remain undetected and unreported. Children die across the United States each and every day at the hands of adults who are often their parents, guardians or relatives. In 2012, several cases were in the spotlight in Mingo County that involved abuse and injury to local children, including one case that resulted in an 18 month-old boy suffering severe trauma that included head injuries, a lacerated liver and a fractured spleen. The child, who was allegedly beaten by his mother, was flown to Cabell Huntington Hospital where emergency measures had to be quickly taken to save his life.
Mingo County’s Chief Magistrate Dallas Toler spoke with the Daily News about his feelings when he must rule on a case involving an abused child, and stated that nothing breaks his heart more than to read a criminal complaint about a juvenile being harmed at the hands of the very person they look to for love, security and protection.
“Our children are a gift from God,” stated Toler. “There’s nothing in the world that means more to me than my boys, I would lay down my life for my kids. I cannot wrap my hand around why anyone would ever hurt their own flesh and blood…children are the only innocent thing left in this world. I encourage everyone to join together as Mingo County fights these crimes against those too young to defend themselves.”
Following the walk, which ended at the lawn of the Mingo County Courthouse, the child abuse awareness flag was raised and a moment of silence was observed for those children who did not survive their battle with abuse. The students who participated in the walk placed blue and silver pinwheels in the ground as a symbol of Child Abuse Awareness Month. A special pinwheel had been created in memory of Sheriff Eugene Crum, who was shot and killed on April 5, and was placed in the courthouse lawn by Rosie Crum, Eugene’s widow, who now serves as sheriff. Rosie was joined in the walk and flag ceremony by her son, daughter-in-law and grandsons.
Tonya Webb, one of the organizers of the DHHR event took a moment to voice her appreciation of the former sheriff and of the many years he supported their cause.
“Mingo County lost a great man, and we lost a strong advocate against child abuse,” said Webb.