Tuesday, February 25, 2014

All Children Matter By: Karen Pilarski

Heather


"I believe the children are our future
Teach them well and let them lead the way
Show them all the beauty they possess inside
Give them a sense of pride to make it easier
Let the children's laughter remind us how we used to be."  -Greatest Love of All (Whitney Houston)

In fourth grade I met April, who lived across the street. I noticed a tall girl with blonde hair. She was on a blue scooter and a cute dog was running along the side of it. We said hi to each other and a friendship was made.


April would eventually be married to my twin brother give me a niece and nephew. Unfortunately the marriage didn't last, but our friendship has.

Her mom was pregnant with her fourth kid when we first became friends. She gave birth to Heather, a beautiful baby girl. Heather had severe cerebral palsy. She couldn't hear or talk. She was in a wheel chair and went to a special school. She was tall and thin like April, her mom and older sister.

Heather had pretty light brown hair. Her warm eyes were always shining like her big smile. I used to babysit for her. She would make happy noises and loved people around her. I fondly recall her father cradling her in his arms and dancing to "Butterfly kisses" at my brother and April's wedding.


What Heather and her family taught me was respecting people with disabilities. Heather's presence has influenced the way I interact with special needs individuals. In fact I volunteered to help special needs students in high school.

When I watch a video or hear a story of a person with special needs accomplishing something, I get weepy. In fact in the movie "Delivery Man" with Vince Vaughn his character has a child who is disabled. In typical Karen fashion, my eyes filled with tears.

Maybe it is from growing up with nine children and raising my siblings. Safety of kids and special education are near and dear to my heart.

In 2001, Heather passed away at age 13. To this day she is deeply missed. When my niece Emily laughs or smiles she reminds me of Heather.

When I was a kid my mom made me watch the television movie about Adam Walsh. He was abducted and killed in 1981. I recall feeling emotional after the scene where they find his remains. What is etched in my mind is the funeral with choir singing.

When I was in college I became a news junkie. I was studying professional communication and had to keep up with media and various forms of messaging.

I researched and presented a media study on bias in the media about missing children. I compared and contrasted Alexis Patterson who is still missing from Milwaukee. I compared the comparison case to Elizabeth Smart. In my personal opinion, all children regardless of race and class, should be featured in the media. Not one child is more important than another.

My junior year in college there appeared to be surge of kidnappings and child murders. It was devastating to watch such evil events take place.

You can only imagine how I feel about predators who sexual abuse children. I can't go into specifics but this type of thing has personally effected me.

What I can't wrap my head around is the fact that there is no remorse from these sexual deviants. Part of me wishes I would have majored in psychology. Maybe then I could understand what makes a person think it is normal to do those things to a child. Why do people ignore the signs or make excuses?

My ideal job would be to work as a writer for NCMEC (National Center for Missing and Exploited Children). I would love to write newsletters and create social media pieces for local law enforcement agencies.

Sitting and stewing in anger and disgust isn't getting me anywhere.

I'm someone who likes to be proactive. Maybe I use my writing talent to help keep children safe and advocate for people with disabilities.

While I am sympathetic for families who are devastated by a loved one who is in jail, my main concern is with the victim. The little victims have no say in the matter. Perhaps my words can help give all children a voice.