The weather report was iffy, sprinkled with notifications of a good chance of rain through the morning. But it would take more than Saturday morning cartoons and a little rain to keep the region's kids away from the Third Annual Kids Safety Day at Lions Club Park on Saturday.

The weather report was iffy, sprinkled with notifications of a good chance of rain through the morning. But it would take more than Saturday morning cartoons and a little rain to keep the region’s kids away from the Third Annual Kids Safety Day at Lions Club Park on Saturday. There’s nothing like shiny, monster-sized public safety vehicles and  a siren blaring from a 1959 Dodge highway patrol cruiser to pump the adrenaline!

Kids were everywhere and their kinetic energy was infectious. Rain? What rain? By hotdog time, the sun was trying to peak through the clouds, just as the Phelps County Air Service helicopter came fwop-fwopping in for a soft landing, its giant rotor blade flattening the grass with its downdraft.

Phelps County Ambulance Service Supervisor Ray Massey had been teleporting from one attraction to the next all morning, coordinating, delegating and relegating resources to keep things running smoothly. He says some semblance of a  kids safety program has been going on for twenty years with Phelps County Regional Medical Center’s Ambulance service getting the ball rolling. He has had a hand in it for eighteen years.
“The reason it is now the “Third Annual,” is we’ve incorporated the county’s Child Fatality Review Board,” he explains. “This is the third year they have been sponsoring it. Every year, it gets bigger and bigger.”

He said the event is not just for the kids. Anyone that attended the event could see that it had something for everyone. Kids could learn how to navigate their bicycles safely on their hometown streets, they could learn proper dental hygiene and tour the inside of the tricked-out Smile Mobile, the dentist office on wheels. They could sit behind the wheel of a huge pumper firetruck, an evacuation helicopter or see the inside of an ambulance. The younger ones could get a hug from Sparky, the firehouse dog of the Fire Protection District, play games and get bedazzled by flashing lights and sirens. Adults could visit with public safety professionals, learn how to properly install a child safety seat in the backseat of their car and receive information from health professionals, about information such as the silent killer of infants—SIDS. And everybody gravitated towards the smell of BBQ where Jason Smith of the Rolla Police Department was grilling hotdogs in a smoker, adding the Strawberry’s Grand Champion Shake-On BBQ Seasoning liberally to produce gourmet dogs for the giant picnic.

Ray emphasizes the education aspect of the day. He says the kids will take what they learn from the event and apply it in their own lives once they get home.
“We don’t focus on just today—we want them to carry these things throughout their life and hope they’re willing to share with other kids and family members,” he said.
“We want these to be life skills that they incorporate [into their daily activities] every day.”
He also said the event is a benefit for the public safety groups going into the future since a child’s first experience with public safety professionals needs to be positive and can have lasting effects.
“[Later on] it’s not the first time a child might get in the back of an ambulance if they’re hurt,” he noted.
“They’re better received if they know us, that we’re friendly—the good guys and not the bad guys. This is how our community comes together, to make our community safer.”