Celebrating children

Children show off their painted faces at a previous "Celebrate the Child" event in Yuma. This year's event is set for Friday. 

The Healing Journey and Crossroads Mission will host their third annual child abuse prevention awareness fair on Friday, with memorials to children who have lost their lives in Arizona due to child abuse.

Slated to take place from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Sanguinetti Park, 701 W. 22nd St., Celebrate the Child is free and open to the public. Face painting as well as hot dogs, snow cones and popcorn will be available at the event.

Agencies that work directly with children, among them Cenpatico and MIKID, will give out information at the fair about the services they provide for abused children. During the fair, children can also take a tour of a city fire truck.

There will be raffles and free giveaways. Kiddy prints, in which children can get their fingers printed for an identification, will be provided.

“Every year the fair has grown,” said Estrella Fitch, CEO and founder of The Healing Journey in Yuma. “The goal is to let the community know what resources are available for them and their children.

“It is geared for the children and for parents, guardians or foster parents,” Fitch added. “For two hours we want them to be able to enjoy what it is to be free. We have some characters showing up such as Snow White.”

The memorials for the children, Fitch said, will be in the form of luminaries, each with a story of a child who has passed away. “The parents and people in the community can see that child abuse affects us all. We do have shoes connected to their age when they died. We want to make it as real as possible.”

According to The Healing Journey’s website, one in every seven boys will be molested before the age of 18 and one in every three girls will be molested before the age of 18.

“When we work with children or teens who have been abused, our journey is a long-time journey,” Fitch added. “It’s not just first response or court. That’s my background, I come from the court system. I was the victim advocate for 11 years, so that’s what drove me to open something that’s long-term for them.”

Celebrate the Child’s aim is to be entertaining but also educational, said Fitch. “The goal is to let the community know what’s available but also to have fun and to remember that children have the right to live a life without violence. We bring the community together to fight against child abuse, and you can’t do that if you don’t let the community know what the signs are and what’s available.”

The Healing Journey is located on 244 S. 1st Avenue and can be reached at (928) 920-6220. More information about the organization is also available on its website, www.thehealingjourneyyuma.org.

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