ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — 403 Pinewheels spun in the wind honoring a separate case reported to The Medical Evaluation Response Initiative Team in 2022.

The Medical Evaluation Response Initiative Team also known as MERIT provides exams and help to abused and neglected children.

Friday afternoon they held a ceremony to highlight April being child abuse prevention month.

“We recommit to giving every child a chance to succeed and ensure that every child grows up in a safe, stable, and nurturing environment,” said Dr. Alex Stagnaro-Green the regional dean at UIC College of Medicine.

“Each pinwheel represents a child that was referred to Merit for Services, not just in Winnebago County, but the 13 counties that we serve. So this is just to memorialize them and raise awareness about them,” said Shannon Krueger the Director and Pediatric Nurse Practitioner at Merit.

“The goal is basically to get people you don’t have to be a mandated reporter. You know, if you see something that you think is concerning for abuse or as Dr. Stegnero Green said, you know, if you have a feeling that some of something’s not right with somebody, say something, just say something to somebody,” said Ray Davis the Medical Director for the MERIT Program.

“So this month is really important, but we should be doing this every day, every month all year long, but April is the highlight for child abuse and that is what we are doing here today, honoring the children that we served and raising awareness that these children are needing to be served in our community,” Krueger said.

According to Children and Family Services, every ten seconds a case of child abuse is reported in the United State. In Winnebago County, four children are physically or sexually abused every day. It’s one of the highest rates in Illinois.

“The community can support programs that are working with child abuse victims and child abuse prevention. They can also help by raising awareness themselves, by not keeping it silent. The worst thing we do with child abuse is kept it a silent secret,” Krueger said