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Voices against abuse

The kids had the last laugh during a vigil held in their honor Tuesday night.

As the evening sun set behind City Hall, about 50 children, most wearing uniform jackets, played an impromptu game of soccer.

But laughing and playing took a back seat when the children, joined by 25 or so adults, gathered in a circle and chanted, “The abuse of our children must stop now.”

More than halfway through the monthlong communitywide campaign to stop child abuse, a crowd gathered for speeches, personal testimony, a poem and promises to keep kids safe in the future.

“Child abuse has been one of those things we all know exists, but now we realize we need to bring it out into the open,” said Yvonne Lopez-Morton, who helped organize the event.

The crowd gathered on the grass near River Park Square and listened to remarks by Mayor Dennis Hession, the poem “My Papa’s Waltz” read by Fred Strange, and a promise by girls soccer coach Jason Quintero to make a donation to the Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery every time his team scores a goal this year.

“I’m very proud to be a part of a community that takes a stand against child abuse,” Quintero said.

One by one, participants came to the middle of the circle and added their perspectives on stopping child abuse.

Some children came forward with stories of abused classmates and told the crowd how they reported it to teachers.

Janice Marich with United Way of Spokane County said she received an e-mail from a senior citizen who said, “Thank God this generation is speaking up for all of us in the prevention of child abuse.”

Above all, Lopez-Morton said, she hopes the vigil continues to bring awareness to child abuse in the region.

“When a child is being abused, somebody knows about it,” she said. “We want people to be able to bring it up.”