Dozens attended a community vigil intended to raise awareness of child abuse Saturday evening at Greensburg’s North Park.
And though the event’s namesake, Devin Lee Parsons, was not present in person, those who spoke to a crowd composed of Devin’s family, friends and many others who may not have even known the boy stated Devin’s spirit was most definitely there.
“He (Devin Parsons) lives on in spirit,” commented Mayor Gary Herbert, who spoke of the need for all adults to be vigilant of all forms of child abuse.
“Be aware of abuse and neglect,” the Mayor said in a short speech. “Report it. There is not one reason to excuse the act of child abuse.”
Pastor Dave Steidel, of Clarksburg Covenant Church, spoke of the need for families to “put children first” in the effort to quell violence against some of the most defenseless members of society.
“Each one of us can make a difference if we choose to open our eyes and look around,” Steidel said.
Pastor Steidel looked around a group that came out in support of a collective cause that came to the forefront in the community when 12-year-old Devin Parsons was beaten to death by his mother and her boyfriend nearly two years ago.
It was an act that galvanized many into action. What had happened to Devin, they hoped, would never happen to another child.
But violence in the home continues to be a problem in communities across the United States.
Teresa Hoeing, of Decatur County 4 Kids, stated simply reporting acts of aggression against children is not nearly enough.
“It’s not enough to just report it,” Hoeing said. “Follow up, follow up, follow up.”
Hoeing went on to discuss some of the challenges parents face that drive them to violence against their children. She encouraged others to “step up” and take the initiative in protecting the youngest community members.
“It is the responsibility of our community to keep people safe,” Hoeing said. “Do whatever it takes to support a child.”
Sandy Runkoe, a member of Prevent Child Abuse Indiana (Indianapolis), returned to this year’s presentation and brought much the same message as she had a year before.
“Children are our future,” said Runkoe. “We have to invest in them 100 percent. We have to arm them with knowledge and keep them healthy and happy.”
Later in the program, Jimmie Yorn and his grandson, Hayden Bundren, performed a song Yorn wrote following Devin’s death.
Called “In Devin’s name,” the song mourns the slain boy and states, “The tears we cried, we cried in Devin’s name.”
Speaking a day before Easter Sunday, Mayor Herbert and Pastor Steidel urged the crowd to remember the name of another now and in the future: Jesus Christ.
“Put Jesus first in your life,” the Clarksburg Covenant Church pastor said before encouraging all in attendance to go to an Easter church service, children in tow.
“Believing in God and Jesus Christ is the surest way to protect our children,” Mayor Herbert said. “Devin’s death was not in vain.”
The mayor mentioned how he felt Devin had tried to “make things better for his mother.”
The boy had hidden illegally-obtained prescription pain medication from his mother, Tasha Marie Parsons, and her boyfriend, Waldo Lynn Jones, in order to keep them from abusing it in early June 2011. Investigators in the murder case believe this act led to Devin’s beating death as Parsons and Jones assaulted the boy for several hours in an effort to make him divulge the location of the pills. Devin died from massive, head-to-toe injuries inflicted by Parsons and Jones. Both were sentenced to 60-year prison terms last year.
“Devin’s death was a terrible thing,” Mayor Herbert said. “But look how many people he’s brought here, together.”
Togetherness was a central tenet of what the mayor discussed Saturday night.
“Eat together with your children. Have conversations. Interact and play with them. Tell them you love them,” he said. “Because they grow up and then they’re gone.”
Hoeing added that all children deserve “to feel safe, to be loved and to experience a carefree childhood.”
Hoeing said each adult “has a legal and moral duty” to ensure the protection of all children. The Decatur County 4 Kids speaker later passed out blue pinwheels that will be used to commemorate April’s status as National Child Abuse Awareness Month.
But for those on hand Saturday who knew Devin personally, neither commemorative pinwheels nor the blue and white balloons launched in remembrance of the thousands of children lost to abuse in the last year can compare to the simple memories they hold of a child who wanted little more than a better life at home — both for himself and his two younger siblings.
“I knew Devin,” Pastor Steidel reflected. “I knew his smile; He was a special little guy. I knew a little boy that cared about his family. We’ve got to come to the place where we put our children first.”
Contact: Brent Brown 812-663-3111 x7056