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Child Abuse Prevention Month begins

On the first day, the Erie Niagara Sunshine Exchange Club held a prayer vigil for children who lost their lives to abuse.

NORTH TONAWANDA, N.Y. — April 1 marks the start of Child Abuse Prevention Month, and to raise awareness, the Erie Niagara Sunrise Exchange Club held a prayer vigil to remember kids who have died from child abuse. 

They remembered those children with both prayer and a poem at the North Tonawanda City Hall. 

Outside the building is also a children's remembrance garden. 

Both the building and the garden will be lit in blue all month long for child abuse prevention month. 

The Exchange Club has been raising awareness about ways to prevent child abuse since 1979.

"Exchange Club is throughout the United States of America. It's been around since the 1800s. And that's one of their goals is to aid in the prevention of child abuse. We just go along with that and ride on the coattails and do the best we can do to help with the prevention and to help groups in need that help support child abuse victims," said Edward Smolinski, president of the Exchange Club. 

According to Best Self, Erie County has the second highest rate of child abuse reported in the state, and more than 3,000 kids are abused in Erie County annually.

One of the best ways to prevent child abuse is to be aware of the signs. 

"So I'd say the number one sign is a child acting afraid of everything, of people. Meek and mild change of their attitude, if they become very isolated with themselves. I would definitely look at the change of behavior," said Debbie Gajewski, committee chair of prevention for child abuse with Erie Niagara Sunrise Exchange Club.

She recommends resources including Best Self, the social services offices in Erie and Niagara Counties and your local police department, just to name a few.  

The Exchange Club has a program where volunteers make pillows that say 'hug' on them. 

They are then given to kids who have been abused. 

If you'd like to donate to the Exchange Club, click here

According to Best Self, 10 percent of abuse cases are not reported due to shame, fear and intimidation. 

And 90 percent of the time, kids are abused by someone they know.


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