Lily Madrene Hill, front left, of Wichita, Kan., stands near a child abuse awareness sign that is an integral piece of “The Grandmother Project,” a program she spearheaded with another Kansas woman. Hill is pictured with her husband, Jerry, left, and Craig residents Van Austin and Sandy Crain at Austin’s home at 760 Yampa Ave.

Photo by Brian Smith

Lily Madrene Hill, front left, of Wichita, Kan., stands near a child abuse awareness sign that is an integral piece of “The Grandmother Project,” a program she spearheaded with another Kansas woman. Hill is pictured with her husband, Jerry, left, and Craig residents Van Austin and Sandy Crain at Austin’s home at 760 Yampa Ave.

Kansas woman brings abuse awareness campaign to Craig

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A sign raising awareness about child abuse stands in a yard at 794 School St. The sign is part of “The Grandmother Project” spearheaded by Kansas resident Lily Madrene Hill. About 1,000 similar signs have been placed in Wichita, Kan. and states like Oklahoma, Texas and Colorado.

A small yard sign, advocating for something other than an upcoming sale or a political candidate, can carry a big message.

That’s the belief of Lily Madrene Hill, a 63-year-old Wichita, Kan., woman who arrived Saturday in Craig. She brought signs with her urging residents to be aware of a sad and disturbing crime — child abuse.

“Once you are aware of something, you are kind of empowered that you might be able to help and do something,” Hill said.

Hill is one of two Wichita-area grandmothers who spearheaded a project in April to bring awareness to preventing and stopping child abuse through bright, black and yellow yard signs.

Their project is called “The Grandmother Project,” Hill said.

“We had about five child abuse deaths from the first of the year until April this year in Wichita, and I finally got fed up,” she said. “So, a friend and I decided to do yard signs because we don’t know how to change laws.”

The yard signs now number about 1,000, and are located mostly in Wichita and states including Oklahoma, Texas and Colorado.

Craig has two of Hill’s signs — one in the yard of her brother, Van Austin, at 760 Yampa Ave., and another in the yard of her sister, Marlena O’Leary, at 794 School St.

The signs were placed in the yards Sunday and the family has plans to leave them up indefinitely.

Placing yard signs in Craig and other communities is a stepping-stone to spreading the anti-abuse message and raising awareness throughout the country, Hill said.

Austin said it was an easy decision to put one of his sister’s signs in his yard.

“It’s a pretty good cause,” he said. “I didn’t have any objection when they came and asked to put the signs in my yard.

“A lot of people are hesitant in getting involved if they hear that the kid is getting abused next door. You need to get aware of that and make the call.”

Hill said her mission of placing signs in yards across the country began with a child abuse case she heard about in Wichita.

“He was 20 months old and went through hell and torture before the guy finally did kill him,” she said. “That is inexcusable — totally. You don’t treat a dog that way.”

Hill said she prayed about the child’s death, and thought about what the child would want to say to stop future incidents of child abuse.

The message on the signs, which reads “Be aware, child abuse can be anywhere, call 911,” is the message the child who was killed would have wanted, she said.

“I had a pencil and a piece of paper in front of my hand and I just wrote that out and, as far as I’m concerned, that’s (his) prayer,” she said.

The yard signs implore residents to call 911 if they see indications of child abuse, an action that will yield results faster than others, Hill said.

“If a child is in danger and you know it is in danger, the hot-

line is a good thing, but it takes them days, weeks and whatever to do anything,” Hill said. “But, if the police show up, they can take the child out of the home. They can, right then, protect that child. That is our goal — to protect children before they are murdered.”

Hill is attempting to spread her message across the country because the problem is widespread, she said.

“I’m not just pinpointing Craig, not pinpointing Wichita — it’s everywhere,” she said. “It is not just in the cities and it is not just among the poor. (It’s also among) people that have money, people that ought to know better, people that are educated.”

Hill hopes to push her message “forever until everybody is tired of seeing the signs.”

To get involved with “The Grandmother Project,” or to receive a sign, call (316) 943-1437, or visit www.yardsignsagainstchildabuse.com.

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