Owens House teaches kids to be wary

In a summer filled with national headlines of child abductions and abuse, Owens House, Shelby County’s Child Advocacy Center, has been busy teaching children to be wary of unwanted advances.

The nonprofit organization, led by director Helen Rardin, has sponsored several events aimed at teaching children how to prevent child abuse. In addition, Rardin said, the events have also focused on allowing victims to experience a day of fun.

On May 31, the Owens House, based in Columbiana, held its second annual puppet show, &uot;Someone To Talk To,&uot; at the Orr Park Recreation Center in Montevallo.

The newest addition to Owens House, Bingo, the organization’s mascot, dressed like a giant dog, brought laughter and smiles to the children in attendence.

Adria Cook, Owens House education specialist, said Bingo, an Owens House staff member, taught children the difference between &uot;welcome and unwelcome touches.&uot;

The children and adults who attended, she said, were taught three basic safety rules needed to respond to unwelcome touches: &uot;say no,&uot; &uot;get away&uot; and &uot;tell someone.&uot;

&uot;We tell them to call a trusted adult or call the police, Rardin said.

&uot;But this doesn’t mean to call the police every time your parents spank you. We try to explain to them what a sexual advance is.&uot;

Cook noted the muppet show and the lessons taught by Bingo were made possible thanks to At-Risk Money provided by the Shelby County Board of Education for the 2001-02 school year.

Another event held recently by Owens House was the third annual Hand-in-Paw Day on June 28.

Rardin said the festivities, highlighted by a pet demonstration, are held each year to serve as a party for the young clients and their parents as well as Owens House staff members.

Hand-in-Paw is made up of several trained volunteers and their pets ranging from dogs and cats to rabbits and horses.

Children were given the chance to meet, pet and have their pictures taken with Josianne, Jesse and Dottie, three friendly dogs.

A kitten named Amberly was also a popular attraction, Rardin said.

But the highlight of the day, she said, was when the children met a baby black pygmy goat brought by her owner, Martha Thompson.

The children were allowed to pet the goat, whom they named Jasmine, as well as bottle-feed her.

The day finished with outside activities for the children including relay games and a hamburger lunch prepared by the Owens House resident chef, Eileen Baker.

Rardin said she wanted to thank Owens House employees, parents and volunteers who helped with the summer’s activities