Blue ribbons in Greencastle have special meaning

PAT FRIDGEN
Michelle and Bob Spessard promote public awareness to prevent child abuse. The blue ribbons on parking meters and trees in Greencastle will highlight a national movement to acknowledge the importance of families and communities working together. Situations in which children are neglected, hurt or killed can be reduced with the proper resources in place.

Blue ribbons are now adorning the parking meters in Greencastle. They were put up by Bob and Michelle Spessard for April, National Prevention of Child Abuse Month. The Spessards have a mission brought on by tragedy. Their grandson, Justice Christopher Calvin Myers-Cannon, died at the hands of his mother's boyfriend in January 2007. He was four and a half months old.

The Hagerstown infant had been beaten and shaken while his father, their son, was at boot camp. Justice was on life support at Johns Hopkins Hospital for three days and became an organ donor. The abuser was sentenced to 40 years in prison, but due to Maryland law, will serve only about 14.

The Spessards were key in the passage of Justice's Law, which was signed by Gov. Martin O'Malley on Sunday. It takes effect in October and raises the sentence to 40 years for any child abuse that results in death. The offender could still be eligible for parole in half that time.

The Spessards also want Franklin County residents to become aware of child abuse as a community problem, and are working with officials to perhaps create an advocacy center. They also have plans to raise money to promote awareness.

"Nobody's going to protect the kids," said Michelle Spessard. "We need to be their voice."

Anyone suspecting child abuse or neglect can call the Pennsylvania Child Line at 800-932-0313. If a child is in immediate danger, call 911. People interested in supporting the awareness crusade may email the couple at blueribbons4justice@gmail.com