(WICHITA, Kan.) — A Newton toddler's death in March hit close to the heart of two Wichita grandmothers. Vincent Hill's case inspired them to create 100 child abuse prevention yard signs to hand out. To date, they've handed out 10 times that amount.
"It's gone bananas," said Lily Madrene Hill."We're into our second thousand on the sign printing." She stood on her front yard next to one of the signs Thursday.
What started out as a Wichita thing, quickly evolved into a much bigger deal. B.Kay Van Es gets emails from people in Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Michigan, Utah, and Missouri. Each asks for some yard signs.
Grandmothers Lily Madrene Hill and B.Kay Van Es first began their yard sign campaign in April. They started with 100 simple, bright yellow signs. The bold black lettering reads: Be Aware. Child Abuse Can Be Anywhere.
For them, the last line is the most important: Call 911. Some people call 1-800 numbers to report abuse. Van Es strongly recommends people call 911 instead.
"If you have to go through 'punch one, punch two, punch three, punch four' to get a recording, that's not a hotline," she said. "The thing you need to do is call 911." She continued, "For some reason, people are intimidated to call 911. I don't know why, but something about putting one of these signs in their yard, it's like serving a notice, and it empowers people."
But the message doesn't just stay in yards. The women expanded into bumper stickers.
But these grandmothers don't measure success in signs or stickers - but in stories they hear of good people following the small sign's big message.
"It just breaks your heart to think of the mean people out there," said Madrene Hill. "And if the good people keep an eye open -- that's the only way its going to help."