State of the Child Forum data tables

Kathryn Pope (right) speaks to members of the Health and Hunger Coalition, Emily Hamilton (left) and Emily Szpryka (middle), at a data tables portion of the State of the Child Forum event in May 2017. Forum attendees were invited to visit organization’s booths for more information.

BOONE — In an effort to continue to educate the community on trauma and resiliency, the second annual State of the Child/State of the Community forum is scheduled for April 17.

The State of the Child/State of the Community forum will take place at Mount Vernon Baptist Church — located at 3505 Bamboo Road in Boone — with registration starting that day from 8 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. Pre-registration will open via an Eventbrite event page on March 1, according to Denise Presnell — WCCI’s program committee chair and co-chair for the forum planning team.

The entry fee for the event is $10. High Country United Way is serving as this year’s forum platinum supporter, Presnell said.

The first forum — known then just as the State of the Child — occurred in May 2017. The forum aimed to educate community members on how to recognize the symptoms of childhood trauma and solutions to handle it.

Seeking to continue the work of the forum, the Watauga Compassionate Community Initiative group was formed. WCCI volunteers have taken it upon themselves to not only continue the event, but to extend opportunities to help Watauga County become trauma informed.

State of the Child/State of the Community will broaden its focus to trauma throughout the lifespan instead of centrally focused on childhood trauma, Presnell said. Even though community members may have attended last year’s event, Presnell said this year’s forum will be very different and people should expect to learn varying content on the topic.

The morning event speaker will be Shelly Klutz — the lead school nurse for Watauga County Schools — who will discuss the process of recovering from trauma.

New this year, the event will include three sessions of eight 45-minute classes. Attendees will have the opportunity to choose one class per session they would like to attend during the start of the forum.

Classes will range in topics such as Trauma 101 for those who need a greater understanding of the topic as well as a class on self care for providers to prevent those who aid in trauma situations from feeling burnt out.

Community members will receive lunch provided by the Dan’l Boone Inn after attending two class sessions that morning. During lunch, attendees will have the opportunity to take part in self care activities such as tai chi or relaxation exercises, Presnell said.

“We feel like it’s important not to just talk about self care, but help people know how to actually incorporate that into their lives,” Presnell said.

The third class session will be offered after lunch. Following class three, everyone will join back together for a report from WCCI subcommittee chairs to learn what the group has accomplished in the past year and what they’ll be working on for the next year.

“It’s not one of those groups that just sits around and talks,” Presnell said. “We’re getting things done, making changes and bringing awareness to community issues.”

The event keynote speaker — Kevin Hines — will wrap up the forum. Hines is the author of “Cracked, Not Broken,” as well as an award-winning global speaker, documentary filmmaker and suicide prevention/mental health advocate, according to WCCI.

Presnell said Hines once attempted suicide by jumping off of the Golden Gate Bridge in California and survived. She said he will talk about mental illness, hope, thriving in the face of trauma and how to build resiliency.

Meeting once a month since last May, WCCI garners 50 to 60 people per meeting. Volunteers in the WCCI funding subcommittee — one of six subcommittees — are attempting to search for grants, as ideally WCCI will hopefully become its own organization, Presnell said. The hope is that with enough funds, WCCI could hire a full-time director to run WCCI as its own agency.

Presnell added that she never would have thought that the original forum would’ve produced an organization like WCCI or a community-led movement to help Watauga become trauma informed.

“It has become its own living, breathing entity,” Presnell said. “It’s the most humbling and inspiring experience I’ve had in my 25 years; there’s that many of us with such a deep and strong passion for this topic and movement, that we come together because we know it’s valuable and important.

For more information in WCCI, visit With questions about the forum, contact Presnell at (828) 264-8481 or

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