April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Although child abuse should never be tolerated, the month will provide a time to acknowledge the importance of families and communities working together to prevent child abuse and neglect.

That is the 24/7 job of the multi-disciplinary team of staff and volunteers at Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Centers (ECCAC) in Okaloosa and Walton counties. Support ECCAC and prevention by helping to Paint the Town Blue for National Child Abuse Prevention Month. For a $100 donation, one will receive a yard sign and a blue front door wreath which will help create awareness, while also benefiting ECCAC. Each package also includes a stuffed animal for a child.

There are approximately 1,100 cases of child sexual and physical abuse reported annually in Okaloosa and Walton counties — an average of three a day. Despite those big numbers, nearly two-thirds of the actual needs to help child victims go unmet due to lack of reporting to authorities. It is estimated that for every one child ECCAC helps, there are two children who are not helped.

In ECCAC’s 16-year history, more than 11,000 children have received more than 43,000 services at no cost. The services include mental health therapy, crisis intervention, referrals to other community providers, interviews and medical help.

To participate, call Kim Henderson at 850-833-9237, ext. 283, or email her at kim@eccac.org. Online orders are possible at www.eccac.org.

ECCAC is a part of the National Children’s Advocacy Center nonprofit organization.

 If you suspect child abuse, report it by calling the anonymous Florida Abuse Hotline at 1-800-96-ABUSE (2873).