By Dawn Krebs
ST. LUCIE COUNTY -- One hundred and twenty-six flags, each one representing a child; each one a name, an age, a memory.
And as memories are occasionally called forth into the harsh light of reality, so the organizers of the CASTLE memory flag field held a service on March 26 in St. Lucie County to bring to light all the children in Florida who died last year of abuse and neglect.
The large, white flags were set up and organized by St. Lucie County firefighters and paramedics, and each one had the name of a child and the age they died attached. The majority of the children were under age 5 when they died.
"Today, I'm asking you to stand up for children that have lost their lives," said Theresa Garbarino-May, executive director for CASTLE, to the community leaders, law enforcement and volunteers who stood solemnly by.
The organization was founded in 1981 to provide parenting education and resources for families in distress. It currently has a 99 percent success rate of parents going through the program, and is projected to help approximately 1,600 families this year.
"This is critical, because less than one percent of the child welfare budget is spent on child abuse prevention," she said.
This is the fifth memorial service of its kind held recently. Similar ones have already taken place in Martin, Okeechobee and Indian River counties.
"This is a very emotional ceremony, but our goal is to raise awareness so we have fewer flags," she said. "One flag, one child, is too many."
CASTLE's ninth annual Stomp Out child Abuse 5K run will take place at 6 a.m. April 20 at the Mets Stadium in Port St. Lucie. The money raised will go towards CASTLE's programs and services.
For more information about CASTLE and its programs or of the upcoming 5K, call (772) 465-6011 or go online to www.castletc.org.