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Carol Rudolph gives 10-month-old Ellyana Hovingh a free kiss with her free hug during Blue Monday at Willow Elementary School in La Grande. The annual event highlights Child Abuse Prevention Month. (Chris Baxter/The Observer)
Annual ‘Blue Monday’ event offers family-friendly activities
by Dick Mason/The Observer
The pizza was free and the hugs were priceless.
Free pieces of pizza and warm embraces were just the beginning for many attending Blue Monday in the Willow Elementary School gym.
The event is conducted annually in La Grande on the final Monday of April to highlight Child Abuse Prevention Month, which has a theme color of blue. It featured close to 20 stations which provided information on nurturing and protecting children and promoted family-friendly activities, such as art projects for parents and their children.
“It brings attention to all of the family-focused activities in the county,” said Sue Arnoldus, program manager of Union County Healthy Start/ Healthy Families Oregon, which had a booth at Blue Monday.
Healthy Start is a free home visiting program for first-time parents which provides child development, prenatal and parenting information, tips on taking care of infants and information on how parents can keep their babies safe.
The Healthy Start station featured Carol Rudolph, a star at Blue Monday. Affectionately known as Grandma Rudolph, she offered free hugs to everyone walking by. At least 50 people took the opportunity to receive an embrace from Rudolph, whose hugs conveyed a special sense of warmth.
“It is important for people to feel like they are loved and accepted,” Rudolph said. “We all want that unconditional love.”
Many children quickly responded to her sign offering free hugs and kept returning for more. Others were more cautious.
Rudolph noted that two girls cautiously eyed her at the start of Blue Monday and kept coming back around her for two hours before they walked up and received a hug.
“It was so cute. At the end, they finally felt safe,” Rudolph said.
A little reverse psychology was used by Rudolph to make sure one boy received a hug. She asked the boy if he needed a hug and he said, “No.”
“Well, Grandma needs a hug,” Rudolph said, and the boy stepped forward to give and receive an embrace.
Rudolph speaks of hugs as part of the processes of “Filling the love tank.” The expression is one coined by her daughter, Stacy Shown of La Grande, who also was at the Healthy Start station. A child who has received positive reinforcement has “a full love tank” and is more receptive to direction, she said.
“It is easier to correct a child who has a full love tank,” Rudolph said.
The many stations at Blue Monday also included one run by the Oregon Department of Transportation on helping to protect children while in cars. Child safety seats reduce the risk of death in passenger cars by 71 percent for infants and 54 percent for toddlers ages 1-4, according to information provided at the station. Patty McClure of ODOT pointed out that many people do not realize that recommendations regarding child safety seats have changed. Today, the size range for boys and girls is bigger than before.
About 350 people came to Blue Monday, which was sponsored by the Union County Commission on Children and Families.