FORT WORTH — Right out front of Cook Children’s Hospital today, there is a powerful display of an enormous problem, child abuse.
Nurses, doctors and staff from the hospital’s CARE unit took time to carefully plant 1,496 pinwheels in the lawn. Each one represents a child.
“That’s the number of visits that we’ve had here in the CARE team for the 2016,” said Donna Wright, a pediatric nurse practitioner in the unit. “We can put out these pinwheels to show everyone else what the magnitude of this problem is.”
Among the people planting pinwheels was a person who knows the toll of child abuse all too well. Jennifer Elrod lost her son to Cayson to child abuse in 2005.
“He never met a stranger. Everybody loved him,” said Elrod about her son, who was just 2-years-old.
Elroy has never shared her story before, but in 2005 she was a young single mom. One day when she had to go to work, she left Cayson with a man she was dating who she trusted.
“He didn’t need to go to work that day, and he asked if he could keep him, and I said yes,” she recalled. “Then we got the call.”
Carson had been shaken and badly beaten. He was rushed to Cook Children’s Hospital, where the CARE team fought to save him.
“They told me they had to do surgery immediately, and they did. And it was just too severe,” Elrod said.
His abuser was convicted of murder and put in prison, where he later committed suicide.
“It almost always is somebody hat you trust with your child, which is one of the hardest things,” she said.
More than a decade after Cayson’s death, Elrod said he is still with her everyday. She has since married and recently gave birth to a newborn son, but she remains committed to Cayson’s legacy by raising funds.
Today, she brought a check to Cook Children’s for more than $40,000, funds she’s raised through clay target shoots in Cayson’s honor. In the last three years, she’s donated more than $100,000 to Cook Children’s to assist in their efforts to prevent child abuse.
“The hope is that it doesn’t have to happen to other parents,” said Elrod. “And that we’ve done what we can to prevent us having to plan another pinwheel for another child.”