SIDNEY — For four days, children in Sidney have learned about safety and what police officers and others do every day to protect them.
The annual Safety Town, hosted by the Sidney Police Department and organized by Officer Mike McRill, community resource officer, has seen an outpouring of support from parents enrolling their children and local businesses who have assisted financially to the program.
“We had 120 children sign up for the classes,” said Police Chief Will Balling. “During the four-day program, we’ve had a morning and evening class.”
Sixty children were signed for up Safety Town this week. Another 60 will participate in the program July 5-8.
Mike McRill’s wife, Karen, is a volunteer with the program and helps set up the schedule for the four-day event. She also helped write the curriculum for the program. Daughter Heidi McRill is also a volunteer and sets up the Safety Town room.
Junior and senior high school students from Sidney, Lehman, Holy Angels, Anna, Sidney Christian and Fort Loramie are helpers with the program. One of the helpers has assisted with an autistic child enrolled in the program.
“We asked the police officers first if their children would like to help,” said Karen. “Then we asked teachers. Some of the volunteers are doing it to earn hours for National Honor Society.”
Information about Safety Town was given to all parents who were registering their children for kindergarten at Sidney City Schools, Holy Angels and Christian Academy.
“From an educational viewpoint, this is extremely important,” said Karen, who is a special needs teacher and now works at Sidney City Schools Board office. “We can preface safety before they go to school.”
On Tuesday, the children meet Sidney Police Officers and toured their cruisers.
“We looked at the different color of the cars and uniform.”
They also took a tour of the police department, did a craft and learned safety through the ALICE program and crosswalk safety. A 911 dispatcher also talked to the children to explain how to call 911.
“During our tour of the department, a 911 call was coming in so they got to see how it all worked,” said Karen.
The Safety Town was started in the mid 1970s and has evolved and changed through the years as society has changed.
“As the topics change, the town changes,” said Mike.
“It has grown dramatically with the McRills involved,” said Balling.
“I enjoy making lesson plans,” said Karen. “Mike used to be a teacher. We also have a special ed aide who helps also.”
Wednesday’s topics dealt with animal safety, narcotics and a K-9 demonstration, gun safety and playground safety. The group walks to Holy Angels to learn more about playground safety along with crosswalk safety that they learned the day before. Before heading back to the police department, they received a treat at Chilly Jillys.
Deputy Kelly Ward, who is the Shelby County dog warden, and Nicole Laber, who is a volunteer with SCARF, both brought dogs to teach the children about animal safety.
“This is an awesome program,” said Ward. “It gets the children used to animals and we can teach them basic safety sills to them. The program is so much fun to do.”
“This is an awesome opportunity for the children to meet the dogs,” said Laber.
Thursday’s program included a fire safety demonstration at the Sidney Fire Department, learning about medicine safety, playing games, a visit from a safety magician and a stranger danger program.
“We have various agencies who come in a teach the lessons,” said Mike. “The magician is provided by the National Child Safety Council. New Choices talks about inappropriate touches.”
The final day of the program deals with traffic safety, traffic sign matching, a bus ride to Tawawa park and graduation ceremony.
“I love what I do,” said Mike.
In preparation for the program Mike attended a class sponsored by the Ohio Crime Prevention Association which teaches a program about safety town.
Freshway Foods donated food for the program, as did Chili Jillys. New “vehicles” for the children to drive while learning about traffic safety were provided through donations by Koenig Equipment, Buckeye Ford, Fraternal Order of Police and POWER. A POWER member also volunteered at the program.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4822; follow her on Twitter @MelSpeicherSDN. Follow the SDN on Facebook, www.facebook.com/SidneyDailyNews.