Child abuse prevention efforts to grow

Toledo-based group taking message to sports teams

Rocky the Rocket plays with left Tyler Bates, 9, and Devin Bork, 6, during the 2012 Yell & Tell rally.
Rocky the Rocket plays with left Tyler Bates, 9, and Devin Bork, 6, during the 2012 Yell & Tell rally.

A Toledo-based child abuse prevention organization is taking its message to football fields, boxing rings, basketball courts, wherever youth sports teams assemble.

The organization, Yell & Tell Stop Child Abuse Now, will take the wraps off the sports initiative April 7 during the 10th annual rally from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Franciscan Center at Lourdes University in Sylvania. The event is open to the public.

Organization founder Pam Crabtree said the nonprofit organization plans to sponsor several existing youth sports teams, with the goal of helping educate coaches and players about child abuse prevention. “The board wanted to become more proactive at getting kids involved,” Ms. Crabtree said. “The new sports initiative will give us a more visible presence in the community.”

Although details are being worked out, the “sports grants” from Yell & Tell will be used to buy team uniforms, or for other team needs.

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In return, the team’s uniforms will prominently feature the Yell & Tell name or logo, board member George W. Hayes, Jr., said.

Mr. Hayes said the collaboration is a good fit, because youth sports are all about building players’ self-esteem and character in conjunction with team chemistry.

“Once you put a child in a sport, it helps them tremendously,” he said. “They just open up.”

One of the first recipients will be the Toledo-based Believe Center in the Aurora Gonzalez Building, 1 Aurora Gonzalez Dr. The Believe Center provides various sports programs for youths, including baseball, boxing, and football, Mr. Hayes said. The amount of the grant, to be used to fund the boxing and football programs, has not been determined.

Believe Center administrators will begin initial training for coaches April 8, Vincent Riccardi, the center’s program director, said.

Beginning in May, students and coaches will be required to attend a weekly, one-hour workshop that will focus on child abuse prevention and other related topics, such as self-esteem.

Onsite counselors will be available if coaches or players need to talk in private, said Mr. Riccardi, a certified criminal justice specialist.

“We know there’s going to be some issues coming up — issues that have been suppressed for a very long time,” he said. “Not just with the kids, but with the coaches too. The reality is it’s going to come out.”

The purpose of the workshops isn’t to undermine parents, or “separate families,” Mr. Riccardi and Ms. Crabtree said.

The purpose is to educate adults and youths about what child abuse is and create safe and healthy environments for youths.

Many of the youths and families that utilize the Believe Center are Latino, which poses additional challenges, Mr. Riccardi and center director Tonya Duran said.

Latinos tend to be family-first-oriented, meaning that the good of the entire family often takes precedence over the needs or welfare of an individual, Ms. Duran said.

Child abuse is a taboo topic that is not often discussed or addressed in families because it would bring shame to the entire family.

The workshops at the Believe Center will try to “dispel the stereotypes that families have about speaking out,” Mr. Riccardi said.

“It’s not a sign of weakness if you share your hurt,” he said.

Ms. Crabtree, a victim of abuse, founded Yell & Tell in 2003. The purpose of the organization is to raise public awareness about child abuse.

The rally is just one of several events planned throughout the state during April, which is recognized as Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Month in Ohio.

Contact Federico Martinez at: or 419-724-6154.