The Don’t Shake Jake awareness program was formed in May of 1998. Jake was the first child of Pamela Belisle who was fatally shaken by his baby sitter at four and a half months old. Belisle did not want her son’s death to be in vain, so she did something constructive with her emotions.
Belisle is the President and Founder of the program. The mission of Don’t Shake Jake is to educate the citizens of Maine about the risks of shaking a baby. Someone mentioned, “don’t shake Jake” at her son’s memorial service, and Belisle decided that would be the name of a program that would save lives. In the months following Jake’s death, Belisle was concerned with saving the lives of other children and preventing other families from feeling the loss she was living with daily.
Yellow symbolized remembrance and blue is a national child abuse prevention color. The program began with yellow and blue bumper stickers stating “Don’t Shake Jake”. There was also a crisis response number, which was a visual for all to see there is help available in the time of need. The next piece of the program are yellow refrigerator labels that state the slogan and crisis number along with places to write other emergency numbers such as doctor, fire, and the police department. The bottom of the label has a gentle reminder,” Never shake a baby, call for help.” Yellow and blue lapel pins clasped with an angel in memory of all the children who have been injured at the hands of an adult were also made. These are all to serve as reminders to all that child abuse is wrong, and it is a problem that we must take part in preventing.
Belisle utilizes any resources possible to distribute the materials to the general public, hospitals at the time of child’s birth, public functions and fairs, flea markets and festivals, and any engagements she is asked to be a speaker. She sponsors a stock car at Beech Ridge Speedway that has the slogan and the crisis response number in clear view from the grandstand for all spectators to see. Belisle recently received a grant from the Maine Children’s Trust to create and distribute the first Maine Shaken Baby Prevention poster. Her latest accomplishment is a public service announcement airing on local cable networks educating viewers to the risks of shaking a baby.
Belisle’s work is strictly voluntary. She gains a feeling of self worth knowing that she is making a difference in the life of some child somewhere. She knows a parent or caretaker may be thinking twice or calming down before doing harm to another innocent child. Her days are still spent dealing with the loss of Jake; however, she is thankful she is able to spread the need for patience and calmness to others who may not have otherwise heard that message and ended up harming their child. Belisle will continue her crusade in memory of Jake and the hosts of other children killed or harmed by the ills of abuse.