The Children’s Advocacy Center of Collier County is planting a pinwheel garden to remember a Naples police officer who died in a car crash.
Sgt. Jeffrey Reidy of the Naples Police Department worked in the special victims unit, so he was a very familiar face to the Children’s Advocacy Center before his death in a car crash earlier this year. The Center says his passion to help others was evident in both his professional life and his personal one, adopting and fostering children with his wife Jennifer. And it says the legacy he left behind—his commitment to helping kids and other victims of abuse—lives on.
“He really believed in protecting these kids,” said Jackie Stephens with the Children’s Advocacy Center. “You know, this is a very difficult time for kids. And it’s a real point of crisis, when a report gets called in and it’s being investigated, sometimes family split apart… kids may end up being removed and put in foster care, or moved with another family member… there’s a lot of trauma around this. He was just very compassionate, and very caring, enough to do the best for these children.”
The Center will be placing hundreds of blue-and-silver pinwheels along the Naples Pier to bring public awareness to child abuse and honor Reidy. Florida Gulf Coast University students created the design, which will be in the shape of a handprint with a heart in it.
Rylin Reidy is Officer Reidy’s daughter. “The picture really brings back a lot because we know my dad would be here right now if he could,” she said. “In the picture, I can see him in this spot doing it over and over again, and it helps a lot because I’m never going to forget anything about him.”
“He worked with us. He’s greatly missed, and we wanted to honor him and his family today,” Stephens said.
Friday morning Rylin Reidy and her family placed a pinwheel in the heart of a hand with a blue line across it, in honor of the work her father did for child victims of crimes.
“That line over and over again it makes me feel better every time I’m so proud to be his daughter,” Reidy said.
These emotional moments came from the Children Advocacy Center’s fifth annual Pinwheels at the Pier.
People noticed the 3,000 pinwheels shimmering in the wind for miles.
They are placing their pinwheels in the sand as a symbol of hope for child abuse prevention.
“It’s public awareness just to understand you know these things happen to kids in our community as we live here and we want to take care of them,” Stephens said.
Dr. John Buccellato is in Naples. “It’s a horrific, horrific crime,” Dr. Buccellato. “We need more advocates and police authorities to be involved, and we need more education on it too. I came down here, and when I saw this, it was just amazing, really amazing.”
This is an amazing symbol that serves as a bigger message.
The pandemic brought some troubling statistics: 2020 was a record year for the most suspected child porn cases, a 28% increase from 2019. That’s because, with more people at home using laptops, tablets and cell phones, cybercrimes are on the rise, and predators have even more access to kids who are staying virtual instead of going out with friends. Even more troubling: child abuse reports went down, but not because there was any less of it.
“Because we knew that abuse was still happening, but kids were not visible in the community, they weren’t in school,” Stephens said. “You know, they weren’t in daycare, they weren’t in… after-school programs, because they weren’t visible.”
You can also contribute to the garden at the pier by buying a pinwheel for $10 online, and you can see the pinwheels for yourself, starting Friday at 8 a.m.