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posted: 4/21/2012 5:00 AM

Geneva's Bencini an advocate for kids

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It is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Pinwheels and signs adorn the old courthouse lawn on Third Street in Geneva, bringing attention to this issue. Victor Vieth, executive director of the National Association to Prevent Sexual Abuse of Children, believes we can end child abuse and neglect in three generations, 140 years. We all have a role in making this happen through self-education and educating others.

Recently our community lost through death a giant among us, Mary Bencini. Mary was a person who modeled a deep respect for all living things and people, especially children. She embodied principles of living life in a nonviolent and non-abusive way. She built community wherever her journey led her.

Before Mary retired as a teacher from Western Avenue School in Geneva, I asked her if I could spend one more day in her classroom observing. The day I spent with her and her class is how I will always remember Mary. She was among the children, not sitting at her desk. She spent her day loving, affirming, guiding and encouraging each child. Mary was teaching and letting the students teach each other, sometimes in teams or one on one.

Her classroom emulated all that Vieth and others are telling us we need do to end child abuse and neglect. Mary created an environment that respects and nurtures the dignity and uniqueness of each child. In such a haven a child thrives. The student's well-being is a priority. Such an environment promotes a healthy development so each child can move toward its hopes, dreams and full potential.

Mary, you were and are a bright star in our community. Your light shone brightest when you were with the children, our children. Thank you.

Mary Lu O'Halloran


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