Military Veterans Against Child Abuse (MVACAUNITED) was founded by two USAF Veterans, Sharon and James Blacknall. Sharon previously worked with various missing child prevention and child safety companies and as a child safety advocate for many years in Las Vegas, Nevada. While teaching children about safety and different life skills, she noticed there were programs for children ages 6 and older, but nothing age appropriate for the 3 to 5 year old kids that often tagged along with their older siblings. After testing different approaches to teaching the preschool aged children about safety and what would keep their attention, Sharon developed an innovative core program that taught Pre-K children about basic safety and hygiene, while having fun learning their numbers and alphabet.
In 2011, Sharon and James moved back to San Antonio, Texas to care for her ailing mother. It was during the months before her mother's passing, that they would sit for hours and talk about teaching children and child safety. Sharon's mother, Mary A. Martin, was a pediatric nurse and long time substitute teacher in the local elementary schools. Mary encouraged Sharon to write a book and trademark her program as friends and family were utilizing her techniques successfully with their own children and grandchildren.
Sharon kept her promise to her mother and in 2012, published The ABC's and 123's of Child Safety. The book is dedicated to her mother, Mary, and the yellow butterfly used symbolically throughout the book was her favorite. Mary said butterflies signify re-birth and she compared it to a scared or abused child coming out of a caterpillar cocoon and blossoming into a beautiful carefree child that is free from any abuse.
In 2013, Military Veterans Against Child Abuse was founded to help expand the reach of the program and help more area military and civilian preschool aged children. One of the ultimate goals of MVACAUNITED is to see the program offered on every military base nationwide. For now we are concentrating on bringing down the number of child abuse cases in Texas and the first step is to educate the preschool aged children. Preschool aged children are often targeted and make easy victims because no one has discussed stranger awareness, inappropriate touching, pool and fire safety, not keeping secrets, etc. with them in any form or fashion. Parents think it will be too scary, don't know how to bring the subject up or are under the false sense of security that it could never happen to their child.
We are determined to take away the perceived easy prey label on young children by educating them in a fun, non-scary way with the knowledge they need to make smart, safe choices. Teaching preschool children about safety does not and should not be scary. Our goal is to make staying safe as natural as learning their ABC's or 123's!
So the next time you see a yellow butterfly, smile and know that we are somewhere teaching a young child how to grow up safe and unafraid, and they are paying it forward by teaching those they come in contact with about safety. We've seen it happen time and again. The children get so excited about what they've learned...they can't wait to teach someone else how to stay safe! Pretty soon, we will have a whole army of young 'butterflies' teaching the next generation how they too can be happy and safe!
Dedicated to the memory of:
Mary A. Martin
A loving mother and grandmother who believed
All children deserve to grow up safe and unafraid
Every month Military Veterans Against Child Abuse will feature one person who has stood up against child abuse and said - No more!