Blessed and Beautiful’s “Hands are for Hugging, not Hurting” annual event returned this year to spread its message of hope while shedding light on the importance of awareness of child abuse. The event has been going strong for five years, taking a temporary hiatus during the pandemic of 2020 but returning this year on April 25 from 12-3 p.m. at the Eclipse Event Center to once again gather the community to rally behind its important message. The organizer of the event, Chantelle Martinez, said that although hesitant at first to bring the event back this year, ultimately she was grateful to both sponsors and attendees that made the event a rousing success.

“It felt amazing to be able to bring this event back to Albuquerque,” Martinez said. “It felt so good to see so many families together smiling and laughing and having a beautiful day with each other. It feels great to know that we were able to reach out to so many people in Albuquerque. I believe it’s important to teach others how to report child abuse as well as for parents that are struggling; I believe it’s important to show them that different resources can help them be better parents.”

Blessed and Beautiful is a nonprofit organization within Albuquerque that highlights essential issues while encouraging the public to be proactive in their community. Martinez said she feels that the annual event’s importance spreads beyond child abuse awareness by helping children feel comfortable with who they are. To encourage children to come out of their shells, the event held a talent show allowing children from all over Albuquerque to showcase their unique talents.

“It is amazing to see some families discovering that their children have talents that they never knew about,” Martinez said. “It also feels so good to be able to honor all of the beautiful children that we’ve lost to child abuse and violence.”

Sponsors for the event included the New Mexico School of Etiquette, Anita Avila Your Realtor for Life, Little Caesars, Candy Lady, Donut Mart, Dank Magazine, DJ D Cue, Goodfellas Barber Shop, The Barberologist, New Mexico Food Review, A Sauce Graphics, The Eclipse Event Center, Vanessa Garcia face painting, Dan Gilpatrick, M Real Estate Group, Black and Silver Services, La Michoacana, Isabel Troncoso, Cooking with the Homeboy and United Way. Together with volunteers, sponsors helped by providing drinks, food, prizes, and any other needed items to make the event a success.

“It’s so amazing to be able to see what we can do as a community when we all come together to help make a difference and be the change that we want to see,” Martinez said.

Newcomer to the event, Sarah Middleton agreed and said it felt great to be out in the community for the event.

“It’s nice to be out in the community, interacting and supporting something that is important to our children and future,” she said. “It’s great just to be able to mingle with everybody and see the kids enjoying, acting, performing, and just running around playing and having a good time.”

In addition to music, food, and activities, the event made sure that as much as it highlighted the children of Albuquerque present that it also highlighted children that had passed due to child abuse. In addition to highlighting the loss felt by families all over the United States, organizers made sure to give attendees information on how to report child abuse.

Martinez encourages parents struggling to reach out to programs that will help their families. These programs Martinez believes will help to prevent future abuse by tackling important issues within the family. While the event was an overall success in Martinez’s eyes, the fight against child abuse is a never-ending one that can only be fought by continuously staying vigilant.

“The main message that I would like for Albuquerque to take away from this event is the fact that it should not hurt to be a child,” Martinez said. “Children deserve to be loved and appreciated and acknowledged every single day. No child should ever have to suffer or worry. I want people to know how important it is to report abuse. You can dial #SAFE in NM. No child deserves to die from violence or abuse, or neglect. Hands are for hugging, not hurting.”