Something happened at the Maine Children’s Home for Little Wanderers last month, something that hasn’t happened in 113 years.

My grandson, who attends The Children’s Place, our early child care facility on our campus, asked, “Nana, what did they do to your sign, and why did they do it?”

He was referring to the large sign outside our campus at 93 Silver St., Waterville. The sign had been vandalized, two light posts broken and light bulbs stolen.

I wasn’t able to answer exactly why this happened, but I made sure to comfort him by letting him know the police were going to help find the person responsible.

The act of destruction and vandalism was discovered very early on a Sunday morning by the Waterville police. The next day, when I went into my office, I listened to a voicemail from the police about what had happened.

It was a reminder for me of the great local police team we have in Waterville. On behalf of our entire staff, I want to acknowledge their fast response and hard work as they continue to investigate this incident.

One of the toughest parts of this vandalism is to have to tell each child who sees the sign what happened and why it happened. The impact of a destructive and violent act such as this can be very threatening to children, especially ages 3-5.

For more than 113 years, we’ve strived to make our campus a safe and fun place to come each day. One negative image, such as a vandalized sign, however, can create a strong visual impression in a child’s mind, instill fear and lead to nightmares and other insecurities.

So what did I tell my grandson, and the other children on campus?

I told them that sometimes people are naughty and do bad things, and we don’t always know why they act that way. I told him the police are going to help us find the people responsible and make sure they don’t do it again.

I was sure to let them know they will be safe and that this didn’t happen while anyone was on campus and that no one was physically harmed.

In the meantime, we will have to pay for the damages (the property damage amount was just under our $1,000 deductible) and that is money that would have been spent on our programs and charitable work.

As a nonprofit, we would have loved to have spent the money on our adoption services, mental health counseling for children and families, our Teen Parent School Program or Comprehensive Early Care & Education Facility, our Summer Camp Scholarship program or our Christmas Program that provides a complete Christmas each year for more than 1,600 children across the state.

To put it in perspective, our Christmas Program provides new toys and clothing for kids totaling about $100 per child. Based on the cost of the damage, this incident could result in 10 fewer kids who benefit from our Christmas Program this year.

It isn’t about the money, though, it’s about the impact of this incident on our community and our children.

I also wanted to share my message about vandalism so that if people drive by our sign while it is being repaired, or when incidents like this happen in our neighborhoods or around the world, parents will be aware of what their children might be thinking.

While police have a job to solve the crimes, other adults and parents have a job, too — to provide children with comfort and security.

Anyone who has any information about the vandalism of our sign are asked to contact the Waterville Police, at 620-4700.

Sharon Abrams is executive director of The Maine Children’s Home for Little Wanderers, Waterville.

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