OGDEN -- As he planted the shiny blue pinwheel into the dirt behind his school, Izaiah Valdez thought about the message he was sending to the world.
"All kids deserve to have fun and be happy," he said.
The Heritage Elementary School fourth-grader, along with more than 800 of his fellow students, helped celebrate Prevent Child Abuse Utah's statewide Pinwheels for Prevention kickoff Tuesday morning.
The students participated in an assembly followed by the planting of the pinwheels.
"I think it's important for people to see the pinwheels so they know kids should be happy, and kids need to know what to do when they are being abused," said student Ashley Espinoza.
Pinwheels for Prevention is a national public-awareness campaign that goes beyond making communities aware of child abuse, said Trina Taylor, the Utah chapter executive director.
The pinwheels represent a happy and uplifting symbol of childhood.
"This year we plan to distribute 75,000 pinwheels throughout the state of Utah," Taylor said. "When people see them, we want them to remember that every child deserves to be happy, and they deserve to have fun. We want to prevent the hurt and abuse from ever happening in the first place."
Last year, 18,831 cases of child abuse were reported in Utah, Taylor said.
Of those, 6,531 warranted further investigation and 9,359 were confirmed.
While those figures go up and down from year to year, Taylor said the numbers have remained steady over the past few years.
"There are four types of child abuse," Taylor said. "Sexual, physical, emotional and neglect. In Utah, sexual abuse is the highest, representing 27 percent of all cases."
In addition, Taylor said, 90 percent of child abuse cases involve a person the child knows and loves.
"Everyone can play a role in the prevention of child abuse. Every child should know the three rules to follow, and that is to trust your 'Uh-Oh' feeling, say 'no' and go tell," Taylor said.
During the assembly, the students talked about people they would go to if they were in danger of abuse.
Those people included teachers, parents, grandparents and their family physician.
"I think the pinwheels show respect for kids," said student Anthony Davis. "I think it's important to have a happy childhood, and I think it's important for kids to tell someone if they're not happy."
Rebecca Ory Hernandez, development director of Prevent Child Abuse Utah, said there's a big difference between a bad day and an abusive day, and everyone can prevent child abuse by learning some tools, the biggest being patience.
"If you take time to think before just reacting, it's much easier to manage stress," she said. "Also, the basic things we all know, getting enough rest and sleep, playing and learning together and alone, taking good care of yourself as a parent, and balancing work and home are all helpful."
The pinwheels will stay up this month, which is National Prevent Child Abuse Month.