Annual Walk of Knowledge unites Sheppard, Wichita Falls community

Community members gather at the annual Walk of Knowledge April 4, 2017, hosted by the Sheppard Family Advocacy group and the Wichita Falls Child Abuse Prevention Committee at Midwestern State University. In addition to enjoying refreshments, participants walked the sidewalk lined with educational signs and 585 pairs of children’s shoes representing each case of confirmed child abuse in Wichita County during 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Jacqueline Jastrzebski)

Community members gather at the annual Walk of Knowledge April 4, 2017, hosted by the Sheppard Family Advocacy group and the Wichita Falls Child Abuse Prevention Committee at Midwestern State University. In addition to enjoying refreshments, participants walked the sidewalk lined with educational signs and 585 pairs of children’s shoes representing each case of confirmed child abuse in Wichita County during 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Jacqueline Jastrzebski)

Members of Sheppard’s Family Advocacy staff and the Wichita Falls Child Abuse Prevention Committee hosted the annual Walk of Knowledge April 4, 2017, at Midwestern State University in the spirt of Child Abuse Prevention Month. The event aims to raise awareness and educate the community on strategies for preventing child abuse. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Jacqueline Jastrzebski)

Members of Sheppard’s Family Advocacy staff and the Wichita Falls Child Abuse Prevention Committee hosted the annual Walk of Knowledge April 4, 2017, at Midwestern State University in the spirt of Child Abuse Prevention Month. The event aims to raise awareness and educate the community on strategies for preventing child abuse. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Jacqueline Jastrzebski)

Sheppard’s Family Advocacy staff helps facilitate the annual Walk of Knowledge April 4, 2017, at Midwestern State University in the spirit of Child Abuse Prevention Month. The event aims to raise awareness and educate the community on strategies for preventing child abuse. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Jacqueline Jastrzebski)

Sheppard’s Family Advocacy staff helps facilitate the annual Walk of Knowledge April 4, 2017, at Midwestern State University in the spirit of Child Abuse Prevention Month. The event aims to raise awareness and educate the community on strategies for preventing child abuse. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Jacqueline Jastrzebski)

A student from Midwestern State University participates in the annual Walk of Knowledge April 4, 2017, held at MSU’s Sunwatcher Plaza. Participants walked the sidewalk lined with educational signs and 585 pairs of children’s shoes representing each case of confirmed child abuse in Wichita County during 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Jacqueline Jastrzebski)

A student from Midwestern State University participates in the annual Walk of Knowledge April 4, 2017, held at MSU’s Sunwatcher Plaza. Participants walked the sidewalk lined with educational signs and 585 pairs of children’s shoes representing each case of confirmed child abuse in Wichita County during 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Jacqueline Jastrzebski)

SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --

Community members gathered at Sunwatcher Plaza in the heart of Midwestern State University’s campus to raise awareness for a cause that has become very personal to the Wichita Falls community.

Sheppard’s Family Advocacy program and the Wichita Falls Child Abuse Prevention Committee organized the Walk of Knowledge event April 4 in the spirit of National Child Abuse Prevention Month.

With 585 confirmed cases of child abuse in Wichita County in 2016, Tiffany Esparza, Sheppard’s Family Advocacy Outreach Manager, believes that coming together as a community is the best way to reduce this crime.

“There is strength in numbers when it comes to preventing child abuse,” said Esparza. “We want to be a voice for children and when we work together that voice becomes louder.”

Educational yard signs and 585 pairs of children’s shoes lined the grass across the plaza, each pair of shoes representing a confirmed case of child abuse in Wichita County last year.

“I’d never been to an event like this before but the shoes caught my attention,” said Sarah Stewart, a sophomore at MSU. “People my age will be parents someday and we have to educate ourselves.”

Since 2015, confirmed child abuse cases in Wichita County have declined by nearly 15 percent. According to Lisa Choate, Child Abuse Prevention Committee member, there’s much more work to be done.

“We hope that our efforts to reduce child abuse have been successful but this crime is often underreported,” said Choate. “Continuing to maintain a presence and educate the community is the best way to make a difference.”

The organizations know that it’s not human nature to hurt others. Through education, they plan to change the perception of discipline and teach families different strategies for raising kids.

 “We need to be raising a generation that the world can depend on,” said Choate. “We’re not just increasing awareness and planning activities, we’re trying to change the future”

At Sheppard AFB, Family Advocacy educates the community and enhances family relationships through their Actions Speak Louder program. Events like Family Nerf Night encourage families to disconnect from electronics and enjoy each other’s company.

Members of Sheppard AFB can anonymously report a suspected case of child abuse by calling (940) 676-2271.