'Say Neigh to Child Abuse'
Michaela Hughes wants everyone to say neigh to child abuse.
Hughes, a fourth-grade student at Ellenboro Elementary School, won first place in the Prevent Child Abuse Button Contest 2014, sponsored by Family Resources of Rutherford County. Her button design was a picture of a horse telling everyone to "Say Neigh to Child Abuse."
Hughes and 73 other fourth and fifth grade students were honored at Bethany Baptist Church on Thursday for their participation in the contest. The students were given the task to design a button to encourage the prevention of child abuse. The finalists honored were selected out of 1,500 entries.
"I was there at the first button contest. Etta Byers (Etta Byers-Shehee, now a missionary) was the winner and she is doing great work now. I'm sure many other button winners are doing great things," Gail Parton, who is retired from Family Resources, said to the honorees. "I see potential for great work here today. Some of you might be a scientist, the president or the pitcher for the Braves but in front of us today is a lot of potential."
Parton went on to encourage the students to do great things, but child abuse can hinder children from reaching their potential.
"As you teachers look at your students you see some children whose potential is going to be robbed because of abuse and neglect," Parton said. "When a child is abused and neglected, it's not the horror of the day, it's abuse of the future."
Rutherford County Sheriff Chris Francis also told the students about his career and the different ways he has worked to benefit children. He said his most rewarding and toughest occupation was as a child abuse investigator.
"I've seen sentences of one to two years and even 10 to 15 years. Our system is not always the best but we try to work with it the best we can," Francis said. "When you talk about children and their innocence, I don't think there is justice with those sentences. But the children I've worked with, the justice is giving that child a second chance and removing them from that situation."
Francis asked everyone in the audience to think about ways they can help children in need.
"I plead with you to help these children find the justice they need and the second chance they need," Francis said. "I'll continue to as well."
After the speeches, the 74 finalists buttons were displayed. Some of the button slogans included "Rock Away Child Abuse," "Child Abuse Needs to Bounce," and "Like child abuse? Hope you like prison." All students were given certificates and copies of their buttons.
After each student received their certificate, the winners were announced. Hughes took first place while Brock Byrd from Pinnacle Elementary School took second and Matthew Hunt from Ellenboro Elementary took third. Hughes said she chose to draw a horse because it is her favorite animal.
"Child abuse is mean because people get hurt," Hughes said. "And they need to get happy and have a good life."
Hughes was given a new, pink bicycle for winning and Byrd and Hunt were given goodie bags. The three winners also got a ride around downtown Forest City in a sheriff's patrol car. Ellenboro Elementary school was given the traveling first place trophy to keep until next year's contest.
Hughes' button is now available for purchase for a $1 donation. To order a button, call Family Resources of Rutherford County at 828-247-1440.