JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – An Orange Park mother whose daughter was kidnapped and murdered four and a half years ago was recognized Wednesday afternoon for her work trying to prevent the same thing from happening to any other children.
Diena Thompson received an award of excellence during the 21st annual Child Abuse Prevention Conference on the Southside.
She received a standing ovation for her role as program coordinator for the Monique Burr Foundation for Children Inc., a prevention education program focused on critical child safety issues.
Thompson's 7-year-old daughter, Somer, disappeared in October 2009 walking home from school in Orange Park. She was killed by a neighbor.
Thompson is one of six people honored for their work to prevent child abuse.
Channel 4's Jennifer Waugh emceed the event.
The local organization the Exchange Club Family Center of Northeast Florida hosted the event recognizing Child Abuse Awareness Month.
The day included a luncheon with keynote speakers and many sessions that will help prevent child abuse and strengthen families.
This year's theme was "encircling our children with care" and they are using a pin wheel to symbolize child abuse awareness. Organizers said pinwheels would be passed out to attendees, and they are meant to help keep the community aware and that everyone has the responsibility of keeping children safe.
"Our hope is everyone will gain something from the conference just being in the environment so our kids we can respect them and give them futures they deserve," said Prudence Williams, of the Exchange Club Family Center.
Multiple agencies and organizations participated in the event, including the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, Duval County Public Schools, the Exchange Club Family Center and more.
Williams said she hopes the community will become involved so it can better ensure safe and healthy futures for children.
"How to better provide a safe nurturing and loving environment for their kids, so its important for the community to be aware of child abuse and what they need to do to report child abuse," said Williams.
Williams said unfortunately, people only think of physical and sexual abuse when they think of child abuse but said mental abuse can be just as harming.
To report child abuse call 1-800-96-ABUSE.
To contact the Exchange Club Family Center, go to exchangeclubfamilycenter.com or call 904-306-9318.