Shawn Hertel is the chairman of the Dandelion Foundation. He got involved with the fight against child abuse when he lost his daughter to child abuse in 2003. Hertel says, "I don't want another parent to feel what I've gone through". He describes today event as "the biggest child abuse march in history".
The Million March Against Child Abuse is going on in 200 cities across all 50 states. Hertel says it's to "break the silence, that's it's not taboo to bring up child abuse. The more we bring it out in the open, the more we can prevent it".
Child abuse is a hot topic in Great Falls with 5 child abuse related deaths in five years, but this problem is not restricted to a certain location or type of people. It's a problem that affects everyone everywhere. Hertel says, "one voice can make a difference, but a million can change the world". As adults, Hertel says we have a responsibility to use our voice for the voiceless children.
Martin Robinson is volunteering for the event. Although, child abuse hasn't personally touched his life this is still an important cause for him. Robinson says, "I'm a father myself. I have 2 children. I think it's very important that kids always have a voice because they have a say-so in this lifetime".
Child abuse bills are making headway in the Montana Legislature in hopes to stop the cycle of abuse. Hertel says, "there's four bills in legislature right now that have just been passed to the Governor's desk making a stiffer penalty for child abuse". He adds, "maybe if there's a stronger penalty out there, people will be less apt to do it".
The family of October Perez, a Great Falls toddler that died at the hands of child abuse in 2011, has been fighting for stricter checks on the Department of Family Services through Senate Bill 65 and House Bill 76. House Bill 76 has its third reading today. April Hall, October's Grandmother, says, "Saturday it passed the second reading, so we have high hopes".
Multiple advocacy groups came together today providing the community with resources and education will one goal in mind: protect the children. Hertel says, "doing this it helps me in my healing. I've turned a negative into a positive. I can't do anything but live for my daughter and her memory and that keeps me going throughout every day. She can look down and say that's my father and I'm proud of him".