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VOL. 127 | NO. 69 | Monday, April 09, 2012

Child Advocacy Center Remembers Lost Children

By Aisling Maki

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Reinyah Ballard, 2, died Sunday, April 1, from abuse. Her father has been charged with criminally negligent homicide, after leaving her, along with her young siblings, unattended inside his vehicle with the engine running.

Doves, symbolizing hope and healing, were released Thursday during the Memphis Child Advocacy Center’s Children’s Memorial Flag Raising at City Hall.

(Photo: Aisling Maki)

Ballard is the fourth child in Shelby County this year whose life was tragically cut short at the hands of an adult charged with the children’s protection and care.

The others are Lennon Lancaster, a 5-month-old boy whose mother was charged with negligent homicide; Adrien Hickerson, a 21-month-old boy whose mother was charged with first-degree murder, and whose father was charged with murder in perpetration of aggravated child neglect after he reportedly failed to protect his son from his mother’s abuse; and Ananya Jones, a 6-month-old girl whose uncle was charged with first-degree murder in perpetration of aggravated child abuse.

All four children were remembered Thursday, April 5, during the Memphis Child Advocacy Center’s annual Children’s Memorial Flag Raising at City Hall.

Each April, Memphis Child Advocacy Center (MCAC) gathers to remember Memphis and Shelby County children who died senselessly at the hands of their caregivers in the past year. The ceremony not only memorializes the young lives lost to violence, but also serves to send a message to the community about addressing and preventing child abuse and neglect.

Normally held on the plaza outside City Hall, this year’s ceremony was held inside the Memphis City Council chamber, due to the rain. Those present included Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr., Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell, Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich, Shelby County chief prosecutor Jennifer Nichols, MCAC staff and board members, and a host of leaders focused on protecting children in the community.

The ceremony included the ringing of the handbells by the Holy Rosary Handbell Choir, followed by a moment of silence, and a rendition of “The Greatest Love of All” by vocalist Ephie Johnson of Neighborhood Christian Centers, accompanied by guitarist Bruce Carroll and percussionist Rodney Johnson.

“These tragic deaths sadden us, but should not slow us down. They should fuel our determination to continue our important work,” said Nancy Williams, executive director of the Memphis Child Advocacy Center, a nonprofit that serves Shelby County children who are victims of severe physical and sexual abuse. “Working together in community, we will ensure that we don’t need to meet here again in the future to memorialize any young lives.”

Following the ceremony, the crowd gathered outside at City Hall Plaza for the annual release of doves by siblings Hannah and Ethan Oglesby, a symbol of healing and hope for the day when the community will no longer need to memorialize children lost to violence.

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