Mike’s Kit for Hosting a Pinwheels for Prevention Event in April
Michael D. Hoffman
As a survivor of child sexual abuse by clergy, I have devoted my life to promoting child abuse awareness and child protection practices in our families, parishes, Church and in our communities. For more about my work, you are welcome to read my bio as a co-founder of The Healing Voices Magazine.
Now I am inviting you to bring the Catholic Church’s commitment to child protection to life in very real terms in your parish, school, youth group or university.
To help you succeed, I’ve created this Kit.
This Kit draws on my experience organizing these events. It gives you ideas and resources to help you join me in offering an annual act of corporeal mercy by participating in the national effort to raise child abuse awareness in Pinwheels for Prevention events.
Join the Nation, Join the Church
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Awareness Month. Events are held locally across the nation to raise awareness of child abuse prevention practices, often accompanied by planting blue pinwheels in lawns as part of a growing Pinwheels for Prevention movement.
That means April is a great month to host a Pinwheels for Prevention event in your parish, school, youth program or university.
Pinwheels for Prevention events promote the basic messages of the Catholic Church’s child protection programs, reinforcing among children and teens their dignity as persons.
Pinwheels for Prevention events also provide a visible sign in your community that your parish is involved in solving the problem of child abuse.
Most importantly, these events create opportunities for families to discuss safety practices and ways to promote child safety far beyond the circle of attendees.
And, where families may be strained (as they sometimes are) and failing their children, these events create a clear sign to at-risk children that they are worthy of protection and that adults are available to help them.
Your Event Kit
I’ve learned, over the years, that doing so can be fairly straight-forward and very rewarding. While your time volunteering is valuable, you will find very low cost involved.
So, please review this Kit and give it a try.
I’m available for any questions you may have. Just reach out as provided below.
What is an Event Like?
Pinwheels for Prevention events involve planting pinwheels in a visible area of a lawn or garden during the month of April. In the Catholic setting, these events usually follow a prayer service or a parish or school gathering.
Pinwheels for Prevention events often occur at parishes, sometimes with schools involved. Sometimes they are held on campuses or have an even broader scope.
I’ve had the pleasure of working with the Archdiocese of Chicago to host a Pinwheels for Prevention event and Prayer Service at The Healing Garden, which was developed by a group of clergy-abuse survivors, priests and archdiocesan staff to offer a place of reconciliation, hope and healing, not only for survivors and their families, but also for the larger Catholic Church. What a perfect place for a Pinwheels for Prevention event!
The 2018 Prayer Service / Pinwheels for Prevention event which was held at The Healing Garden was covered by Catholic Chicago, whose article shows photos and describes how the day proceeded.
In 2015, my parish of St Mary of the Woods held a Prayer Service and Pinwheels for Prevention event which was joined during the planting by Illinois’s First Lady Diana Rauner, 41st Ward Alderman Mary O’Connor along with Prevent Child Abuse America and Prevent Child Abuse Illinois.
All Kinds of Events
The range of attendees can vary from year to year. The event can be simple or involve a few related workshops.
An event can be large or small. It can plant a huge lawn of pinwheels or a little garden corner. Sometimes press will cover the event as a way to amplify the message. Sometimes the event is a private experience for a parish family.
What really matters is that adults and families take the time to signal to our children and to all children that we value their safety and are dedicated to their dignity.
How Do You Start?
The first step is to decide to host a Pinwheels for Prevention event!
After that, create a core group and get your place and date set.
Other questions are important at this early stage.
- Who will be the core organizer(s)?
- Can your pastor offer help hosting the event? If not, what options are feasible?
- What works for your parish, at least as a first event? Is a Mass or prayer service better?
- Who can attend the pinwheel planting?
- What times work for the groups you hope to invite — weekend, or weekday?
Once basics are decided, you can start getting informed, getting connected and getting ready!
First, learn about the current understanding of child abuse and child protection — and what the pinwheels are all about.
Pinwheels for Prevention
Pinwheels for Prevention is a national program. You can learn about its goals here and understand the power of this message amplified in media and in places all around the country.
For basic data and links, the United States Centers for Disease Control offers a full profile of information about child abuse and neglect, including risk factors and prevention measures. Some of these can be printed out.
Sex Offender Registry, Amber Alert
The United States Department of Justice’s National Sex Offender Public Website also offers statistics as well as access to the public sex-offender registry and a link to the Amber Alert hotline.
Getting Informed about Catholic Reforms
Pinwheels for Prevention events not only promote child protection. They also provide an opportunity for Catholics to become aware of the current child protection program in the Church.
Spreading the News
This event may be the first time parishioners have any time to focus on the progress made. Having resources available to grab and go is a service to them.
Many Catholics still assume the Church has made no real changes. So, as the topic comes up in your parish, it may be a good time to offer a parish seminar evening in advance of the event.
Another positive effect of Pinwheels for Prevention events is that they can get Catholics talking about the positive side of the very dark and sad clergy abuse scandal.
The Charter and Essential Norms
For you, there is a key document to read and to share. While it is brief, this document has changed how the Church in the United States operates to ensure child protection: The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young Persons and the related Essential Norms.
Some dioceses live up to the letter and the spirit of this document better than others. When it comes to child protection programs in parishes, however, the standards are fairly consistent and audited. These benchmarks are now considered a good model for other school systems and child-care programs.
The USCCB provides a summary this document as well as free copies for download. If you request by mail with plenty of advance time, you will be able to get free printed copies from your diocese or from the USCCB. Your fellow parishioners may have never even seen this short booklet.
For a quick take on the reforms, this six-minute animation showcases the five main reforms in the Church which are intended to protect children from the horror of abuse. It can help you explain to others when they ask, as they are likely to do.
On the USCCB website, you will also find handouts and infographics like the one shown here, at the right. It summarizes facts about child abuse and also progress in child protection training in the US Catholic Church.
Survivor-Focus on Progress
The Healing Voices Magazine, which is the e-zine I co-founded with other clergy-abuse survivors, issues a Special Edition about Child Abuse Prevention each April. Articles are from professionals with expertise in many walks of life, including about child protection.
These editions offer many articles from which you can choose to distribute. We’re happy to compile a customized booklet for you to photocopy locally and share with attendees or with your whole parish or group if you would like.
The 2018 Special Edition focused on Pinwheels for Prevention events in particular. You may find it helpful as you design your event.
Our 2017 Special Edition focused on specific practices, including about teens and sexting; social media savvy; and, approaches to bullying. You may find these helpful as topics you may feature for attendees in handouts or presentations.
Our 2016 Special Edition compiles a range of child-protection leadership voices along with survivors of child abuse in support of protection efforts.
For a full list of articles which The Healing Voices Magazine has published regarding child protection, click here.
(Printer-friendly versions of these issues are available and may be copied free of charge.)
Getting connected is another way of getting informed.
It’s also a great way to amplify the impact of your Pinwheels for Prevention event. Connecting builds community and builds up our Church after the injury and harm of abuse.
I hope you find your diocesan Office for the Protection of Children and Young People as supportive and helpful as mine has been to me.
Finding the right contact should be easy. Most dioceses feature the offices prominently on their website. Even if you have to search a bit, you should be able to find the Director or Coordinator of Child Protection in your diocese on the website. This office staff can be an enthusiastic support.
The diocesan staff may have other resources or ideas to help you. They may be able to expedite a letter from your bishop to be read at your event, or even the attendance of your bishop if you can plan far enough in advance.
Prevent Child Abuse America
Getting Your Parish Involved
There are several kinds of invitations you may use. There will be attendees you hope will save the date far in advance to be sure to join you. There will be invitations that begin to go out a few weeks before the event. And, there may be announcements or invitations distributed by partners in the event, such as your diocese or your school or other groups.
Start by saving the date with key groups and attendees. As soon as you have a place and date set, see if the parish bulletin can issue a “save the date” for a few weeks in a row. This permits fellow parishioners with busy schedules to plan ahead. Invite people to contact you if they have questions or if they would like to volunteer. If they want to know more, you could send them a link to this page.
About a month before the event, try to make an announcement in your bulletin for several weeks. As we know, people are busy and may not remember if they see the date mentioned in one bulletin on one Sunday only. The same holds true for any group organizing a Pinwheels for Prevention event; repetition helps people remember.
Of course you have your own idea for invitations, but here are some samples.
Here’s a Bulletin Announcement we used for a Prayer Service and Pinwheels for Prevention event at St. Mary of the Woods parish where I attend with my family.
Here’s an Announcement for The Healing Garden Event that the Office of Child and Youth Protection of the Chicago Archdiocese distributed more broadly for the Healing Service and Pinwheels for Protection event. The event was held at the archdiocesan Healing Garden and invited survivors, family members, and many others from different parishes to join. We also had schools permit children to attend. Notice the OCYP was able to help coordinate attendance for this event.
Here’s another Sample Invitation that can work as a flyer to hand out either as a “save the date” or event reminder leading up to the event.
However you choose to alert people, expect to field questions about the topic. That’s why it’s important to know some basics. You may want to have printed out an extra flyer or have web links for people to use. Or, we at The Healing Voices Magazine are happy to provide a customized booklet to distribute free of charge which you can photocopy. It could include your announcement on the front page, with three pages of information or articles.
A sample of the booklet I shared with my parish is here. This is the printer-friendly version of the 2018 Special Issue on Child Protection by The Healing Voices Magazine. My fellow parishioners appreciated the information from so many different points of view. I simply made photocopies and left them for people to pick up on their way out of Mass during the month of April.
Passing invitations or flyers or booklets out after every Mass, or mailing something attractive to all parish families, can be a great way to keep the date top of mind for parishioners and to engage their interest.
Some parishes also have the ability to send a notice with their email blasts. A notice and/or article in your diocesan paper could help, too, not only tell people about the event but also spread the word about child protection in April.
Beyond parishioners, there are many different groups to involve in a Pinwheels for Prevention event.
Parents and teachers of children in a Catholic school associated with or near your parish may be interested in supporting a Pinwheels for Prevention event. Consider reaching out to administrators there. Catholic schools, as part of their child protection program, may welcome a chance to participate.
Some parishes have a group of people who believe every event needs some refreshments and food. They may be inspired to offer cookies and refreshments, or simply water for those outdoors. While many events do nicely without this added work, in some parishes it’s a great way to get another group involved.
All parish committees and ministries may be individually informed using the same flyer you use to invite parishioners. You might ask that a rep from each committee or ministry attends the event.
Invite your parish Rosary Warriors to pray in advance of the event. The Rosary for Abuse Survivors and Loved Ones is available, with a booklet that may be downloaded and copied for interested parishioners. Some parishes have “living rosary” nights and might feature this rosary prayer then.
If your parish hosts a lay spirituality group, be sure to reach out to see if they wish to be involved, or to attend. Groups such as the La Sallettes have committed to supporting child protection and survivor ministries with prayer. Missionaries of the Precious Blood have also taken child protection and survivor ministry to heart as a special vocation, such as in a labyrinth they built as a place for survivors and all Catholics to heal.
The Knights of Columbus also have made a commitment to support child abuse prevention in our Church.
Gardening group? Flowers committee? Members of these or similar committees may bring their artistic flare to the day, perhaps planting a special garden at the same time as Pinwheels for Prevention – to last after the pinwheels are gone. Or, maybe seeds for blue flowers are shared.
Small or Large, Simple or Bustling
The size or level of activities will not make or break the event. While none of these extra activities are required to offer a memorable Pinwheels for Prevention event with your Prayer Service or Mass, they are wonderful ways to add to a memorable celebration of a message with all children that we value their dignity and work to protect them in a dangerous world. Even the smallest event can send a message that will last with children.
Depending on your parish, planning this event may spark discussion. Frankly, people are likely to have many questions and much interest. Handouts available as the event is promoted are very helpful, but you might do more. You may serve the parish best by offering, before the date of the Pinwheels for Prevention event, an evening or Saturday workshop where Catholics can get updated on what is going on in our Church today in terms of child protection.
Information For Everyone
Your diocesan child protection staff may be able to offer its basic presentation on child abuse, the Church scandal and subsequent reforms. The month of April can be busy for these professionals, so scheduling this evening weeks or months before the Pinwheels for Prevention event is a smart idea.
With a focus on learning the basics, this advance event might include presentations on social media safety, bullying, sexting, or human traffickers grooming approach toward teens. For ideas, you can review The Healing Voices Magazine – or ask your fellow parishioners what is top of mind. Presentations that are short and move along quickly keep people engaged. Abundant handouts let them leave with more details and additional resources.
To begin the evening, you may read a letter from your bishop, or show a video, such as this general and brief video the USCCB created about child protection. You could also offer this video for recipients of reminders or invitations.
Sometimes, for inspiration about the purpose of child protection in the Church, clergy-abuse survivors are invited to speak at parish events like this, sharing our healing journeys and our resilient faith. It can be helpful for Catholics to meet survivors who can humanize the issue and offer insights that support child-protection programs.
There are experts in this work. The diocesan staff may be able to refer one or more expert to you. Or, you can use one of a few very good programs that are available online.
For online programs, studies and resources, visit Prevent Child Abuse America’s Resilience Project, where you will find a list of links for strengthening families, including the renowned Strengthening Families™ five-point program, which is a research-informed approach to increase family strengths, enhance child development and reduce the likelihood of child abuse and neglect.
Some parishes are isolated geographically. It might be difficult to host speakers from the diocese – or from anywhere. Weather may be a big factor. Or, there may be no volunteers available to speak while there is no budget to cover speakers.
These challenges can be overcome too. Videos or documentaries can provide a mix of important information for discussion. In particular, the USCCB offers a general video about child protection here. There are also interviews with law enforcement and other experts. There are many videos, podcasts and other presentations and handouts about child protection from the OPCYP Secretariat at the USCCB.
On June 14, 2017, the United States bishops in Indianapolis, Indiana, concelebrated a Mass of Prayer and Penance for the Healing of Victims of Clergy Abuse. For fellow parishioners who have not heard the US Catholic hierarchy actually speak on this topic may find some insights by viewing excerpts from that Mass here.
Resources may be available locally, too, so ask your diocesan office. It may offer videos or may be able to make child protection videos available. Or, it may be able to coordinate with its child-protection training something for your parish or area. Some bishops have videos where they are speaking on the topic.
If you would like videos of survivors sharing their stories or other resources, please contact me at the address below. Spirit Fire Ministries, the producer of The Healing Voices Magazine, can offer a range of different videos, too. I am happy to help anyone who is working to promote child protection in your parish!
Getting Kids Involved
Parents, teachers and youth ministers can engage kids and teens in advance of the event. They are important in communicating to children and teens that this event is about a community praying for them, valuing their dignity and committing to protecting them and all children.
School administrators can be very helpful in holding this event, and in making preparations for it, as part of the child protection awareness program. It can provide them with a chance really to amplify what the training has already brought as a message.
The Pinwheels for Prevention event provides for all these adults who are charged with the care of children yet another opportunity to reinforce the messages in training. For example, we can remind children to trust their instincts and not to hesitate to tell a parent or trusted adult if they are uneasy about someone in their lives. It also rallies the parish and all attendees to focus on this issue for a short while, so they become aware and empowered for the rest of their lives.
Many different activities can be used engaging kids and teens. the ideas are pretty infinite. Here are a few examples for activities leading to the event or at the event itself.
Constructing DIY Pinwheels
Coloring Pinwheels Papers
A great way to involve kids is coloring. Here is a Pinwheel Coloring Page gratis Child Abuse Prevention.
Distribute free pages after Mass, through RE or Youth Ministries and/or in classes.
Leave plenty of time for parents to speak with their children about how they are cared for and protected.
Tapping Teen Creativity
Teens can be engaged creatively, too.
They might create videos on their mobile phones about child abuse prevention to encourage younger children. You could even hold a video contest on YouTube or on the parish Facebook page, provided entrants have parental approval. Criteria can even limit images to avoid putting photos on the web. For more on a contest, see this article.
Many parishes have ways to project these videos in a loop at the event or for the parish. Similarly, artwork could be placed in the narthex for April. A teen publication could be useful too.
Teens could compile a book of poems or writings to encourage each other about avoiding online temptations like seeking friendship with unknown invitations on Facebook or strangers in chat rooms. A simple WORD or Google doc template can help format something they can copy and offer in the narthex for the parish as a whole, with the hope that less engaged teens might still read the booklet and get a message from fellow teens that he or she really needs.
Teens helping younger children to plant pinwheels is also a great way for children to see role models closer in age as well. The event can build community further this way.
You’ll want to engage police for traffic management as can be needed after holidays or other large events at the parish. Your parish or other facility caretakers will know how to handle traffic and any press that may attend.
Press may or may not cover this event. You can decide whether or not to invite press. In smaller venues, there may not be room for press. Where it is possible, the press can be helpful in getting the message about child protection out.
If you do invite press, be sure they have any materials the parishioners receive about child abuse awareness and child protection in the Church. Also, the diocesan press office may help figure out the best set up for the press, or at least may be able to offer great ideas for making the event successful without the press becoming a logistical problem.
You can also talk to press ahead about child protection. It’s a good idea to set parameters, for example, whether or not children will be shown at all. Be mindful of the importance of releases and, particularly, of not exposing children to the public without proper guidelines at an event where their safety is the focus. Local press can be very supportive of protecting children or working with parental releases.
For Catholic events, there will be a prayer service or a Mass. For an idea of one beautiful prayer service, I can offer this Prayer Service Flyer as a sample you might use, or might use as a model for your service.
The Healing Voices Magazine founders held a virtual prayer service in September 2017, with a litany of love. Here’s a link to that prayer service, in case you would like to use all or part of prayers written by survivors of clergy abuse. It may be appropriate for your parish, depending on the focus of the prayer service.
In the yard where the pinwheels will be planted and left, and in the narthex of the church, be sure there is good signage. You will find inexpensive Pinwheels for Prevention yard signs here. You can also use signs from the USCCB resources as well.
Having a table featuring free resources in the narthex can ensure adults have time to review basics at home that evening. Almost all the resources featured here are free and available to photocopy, so you can create an excellent and comprehensive pack of information on diverse but related topics.
Here, you might offer a section with information for younger people, and even kids, including whatever teen groups or others have developed to support the day.
You can also display art by kids or teens, and/or a video loops from any number of sources noted here, and/or music!
All the resources you need are already created and available.
Most of them are free. A few are inexpensively priced, such a pinwheels in bulk or yard signs.
Because it bears repeating, the USCCB, through its Secretariat for the Protection of Children and Young Persons, offers free handouts and information on child abuse prevention for you to access here. You will find bookmarks, prayer cards and other items in English and Spanish, for example:
- “Promise to Protect” Bookmark English | Spanish
- “Promise to Protect” Prayer Card Bilingual
- “Promise to Protect” Brochure English | Spanish
- Rosary Guide for Healing and Protection Booklet
- Pope Francis on Abuse English | Spanish
- Child and Youth Protection Facts and Figures English | Spanish
Articles / Booklets
The Healing Voices Magazine offers many articles that might be printed for free distribution. Please let me know if you see article(s) you would like to reprint for distribution at any Pinwheel for Prevention event.
Child Abuse Prevention – Illinois offers great and free resources and brochures, as does the national Child Abuse Prevention headquarters here, where there is a great list of emergency numbers you can add to local numbers your diocesan office may be able to add as a single handout which most people appreciate having on hand.
In Spirit Fire Ministries, you may find prayers or videos that can be helpful for the service or any presentation evening you decide to hold.
Pinwheels & Yard Signs in Bulk
Through Prevent Child Abuse America, also, American Business Solutions offers deep discounts for blue pinwheels, 18 X 24-inch yard signs and canvas tote bags here. Then again, maybe a local business or large retailer might donate pinwheels.
Clergy-Abuse Victim Outreach
Please don’t forget that some clergy-abuse victims still have not found a way to reconnect with the faith of their childhood – but really want to do so. My colleagues at The Healing Voices Magazine and I would appreciate your hanging, also, the Victim Outreach poster created by the USCCB. There may be survivors among parishioners or other attendees who will not identify their background but will be happy for the information about seeking confidential pastoral care.
From my experience, this event brings communities together and informs Catholics about good news in our Church when it comes to protecting children today from what I and other victims of clergy abuse suffered as children.
I’d love to hear from you if you have ideas from your events!
And, I am here all year long to offer ideas and encouragement as you plan a similar event.
Contact Me Here.