My presentation was an hour long. I began with Meghan's story. I asked how many had heard of Meghan's Hope or had seen the CPSC's tip-over video. Very, very few raised their hands. I was surprised and saddened. I'd expected at least 1/4 of those in attendance to have seen the video.
I asked how many had tried to tip the flat screen TV in the hotel rooms we were staying in or opened all the drawers in the low and long dresser in each room the TV sat on. Crickets. No hands went up. "Come on people!" was my response. I was shocked! Not one of them, even those who had young kids with them, even thought to try. My eyes were opened wider. Safe Kids members didn't know! They didn't get it. If they don't know the dangers, then those the parents they work with probably don't either. Of course, this is why I was invited to present. Thank goodness I was! To be fair, I've learned that those who work for Safe Kids coalitions often have a specialty area like car seat safety, fire or water safety, or bicycle safety and often compete for grants to further the education and training in just one specialty area. They are not, like I expected they would be, as a rule, generalists when it comes to child safety education.
For the record, the TV's were secured, with adhesive (? super glued) to the top of the dresser. I could not tip it. This made me happy. Of course they were secured so no one could steal them, not because the hotel thought they could fall on and kill a child, but secured was secured. The dresser, with all 4 drawers opened and very little (two finger) pressure in the middle of the top drawers, tipped forward VERY easily. This made me sad. The hotel was a Great Wolf Lodge. They catered to kids and families. I pointed out during my talk that one of the 4 children who would be victims of a TV or furniture tip-over every hour could be here right now. It could be THEIR child. It could happen in THIS hotel. They might even be one of the children that die ever 2 weeks from a tip-over. I could see the light bulbs start to go off in people's heads and through the expressions on their faces.
As I went through my presentation, I shared the statistics, I shared what motivates parents and what doesn't. I shared why social media is so important for getting safety messages out to the public, along with in person education, demonstrations, and community support. I explained the barriers, the excuses parents give and how dangerous that thinking is. I explained how I teach, what I teach, and how going to that place of emotion and fear first, and then following it up with facts and prevention is the winning formula for motivating most parents to act on securing their furniture and TV's.
Sadly, my embedded videos did not work. I really wanted them to see that CPSC video and the Real Moms Urge you to Anchor it video! I gave them the resources, websites, and links to view them and encouraged them to follow up. I'm not sure they will. I had placed my brochure and the CPSC's Anchor It! flyers at every place that also had the website they could go to for more information. When I ended, with a plea that they please, anchor it, I received generous applause.
After I spoke, the coordinator told the story of how she heard me speak last summer at the National Safe Kids conference. It was there she learned of the dangers of furniture and TV tip-over, called her husband after I spoke and told him they had to secure their furniture. It was why she invited me to speak at their local conference. She knew it was an area of knowledge deficit among the public in their state and community and among the safe kids community. I am so grateful for the opportunity to share my story and the message.
A few attendees came over to thank me personally after I spoke. A few first responders shared with me their experience with being first on scene to a tragedy involving a child (one was a tombstone tip over at a cemetery) and how it was nearly a career ending call for him he was so traumatized by it. He had tears in his eyes as he told me about it. He said the debriefing he received was the first their department did and it saved his career.
This is a really important aspect of these type of tragedies. Those who provide medical care to our children before and after they die, or who have the tremendous heartbreaking responsibility of calling the resuscitation efforts off and telling parents their child has died, are deeply impacted, too. They grieve, too, and they need support and even counseling to help them process. I have no idea how those who work in pediatric trauma hospital ER's do it, but I'm eternally grateful for the work of our first responders and ER staff who do care for our children with love and compassion, and carry their life and death in their hearts forever, too.
After everyone left for the break and next session and I began to pack up my stuff, I was saddened to see quite a few attendees had left the literature I passed out behind when they left the room. At first I was frustrated and momentarily angry. Why? Why would they not take the information? Why would they not at least keep it as a resource? Did they not care? Did they STILL think it couldn't happen to them or in their community? Did I not reach them with the things I said? Was I not an effective presenter?
As I gathered the materials left behind, another bereaved mom came to me. She had tears in her eyes. She told me I was telling her story, too. The same, but different. She asked to take all the leftover materials. We talked for quite a while that day, and again over the next few days, about the challenges of being a parent advocate. About being a bereaved parent. Her child died in a bicycle accident, he was struck by a drunk driver. She works on bicycle safety now. The day I spoke was the 10th anniversary of her son's funeral.
As is often the case, bereaved parents welcome other members of our "family" with open arms. We hugged, we cried, we shared stories and experiences. She offered to translate my brochure into Spanish, a tremendous gesture. I had brought one of my books with me. I wasn't sure why I hauled it with me. I didn't need it. After talking to her, I pulled it out and dedicated it to her and her son Joshua. I gifted it to her. That was why I brought the book, unbeknownst to me when I left my house. We will be in touch. I don't believe in coincidence...
I attended several of the conference sessions over the next few days, and several more people came to me to thank me. Many admitted they were moved to tears during my presentation. Many have young children or grandchildren and had already shared the information with spouses and children and it was priority 1 for when they got home. I began to think maybe I reached more people than I thought.
As I sit on the plane flying home, I feel grateful. I am so thankful for the opportunity to share Meghan's story, to educate the educators about furniture and TV safety. To honor my daughter's memory and share my hope that no other child die from this type of preventable tragedy. I am also grateful for a new friend, a fellow bereaved parent, and that our paths crossed when they did, at just the right time.
I am also acutely aware, again... still... that we have a lot of work to do. There are still so many people who have no idea how easily, quickly, and often TV's and furniture falls on children. They have no idea that there are simple and easy ways to stop it from happening. There are still millions of children at risk.
It takes a village to keep kids safe. YOU are the village. We must continue to share this message. We must continue to educate. Even if you know the dangers, you know hundreds of people who likely don't know. If you tell someone, they tell someone, and they tell someone... The same is true when you share it on social media. Clicking share is easy and quick and it could save a life. Share Meghan's Hope. The website, the Facebook page. Share the CPSC's Anchorit.gov page. Share the videos. Share my resource list.
No one knows about these dangers unless someone tells them. Once they know, they need to understand no one is immune. Prevention is the only way to protect a child from a tip-over tragedy. 4 children every hour. Over 90 children every day are victims of tip-over accidents! More than 30 children die every year. One injury, one death, is too many. Trust me. I know.
Please. Share Meghan's Hope. Share this information. You never know who will read it who needs it. You never know how many lives you could save. But you will save lives. You can spare other families my pain. It's quick. It's easy.
Please. Anchor it.