Teaching children how to stay safe was the focus of a hands-on program on International Walk to School Day Wednesday at John C. Mead School in Ansonia.
Safe Kids Greater Naugatuck Valley coordinator Cathi Kellett organized the annual event with FedEx volunteers to raise awareness, promote pedestrian safety and prevent injuries.
FedEx employees talked to students about being aware of their surroundings and let them take turns honking the horn on a delivery truck, which turned out to be a popular activity.
Kellett, a Griffin Hospital Valley Parish Nurse, said Safe Kids Greater Valley is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.
Safe Kids Worldwide and FedEx, program sponsor, launched the Walk this Way program in 2000 to create more walkable communities and promote safety.
On hand were Ansonia Police Officers Mike Barry and Christopher Kelley, and Hilltop Hose Company volunteer firefighters Dan Kershaw, Travis Nelson, and John Fulton.
Barry and Kelley talked about being safe by staying with friends and not walking alone.
“if we stay with our friends and with people who are in charge of us we don’t have to worry about strangers,” Barry said. “We want to stay with our parents, teachers, and babysitters,” he said.
Barry also warned students to never touch a gun if they find one, but instead tell their parents, teachers, or a police officer about it.
The officers offered students an opportunity to sit in the back seat of a police car. Four children tried out the back seat at a time.
First grader Jalynn Garofalo, 7, commented when she hopped out of the car that “It was crazy and it was hot” inside.
Kellett said the firefighters taught students, “When you hear sirens you need to remember pedestrian safety, and not run after the firetrucks.”
Kellett said she was pleased Ansonia Mayor David S. Cassetti was on hand to support the program. He participated in the same activities as did the children.
Cassetti tried to “drive” in simulated fog by putting a piece of wax paper in front of his eyes, he said. “It feels like you’re in fog,” Cassetti said. “It’s pretty challenging.”
In another exercise about putting on the brakes, Cassetti said he had to run and then stop quickly, as if he were putting on the brakes while driving. The idea is to demonstrate to children how difficult it is for motorists to stop quickly if something or someone is in the road.
Third grader Fahmida Chowdhury said she learned to look both ways before crossing the street. “Since Halloween is coming up, you need to have flashlights so cars can see you,” she said.
Superintendent of Schools Carol Merlone gave “heartfelt thanks” to the parish nurses, police officers, and firefighters for their efforts.
“Everything the community does for our kids helps them to learn,” she said. “It’s all a learning experience.”
Merlone said she hoped the same program could be experienced by elementary school students at John G. Prendergast School in the near future.
FedEx employees who volunteered were Brian Zimmerman of Brookfield, John Latte of Newtown, Tony Perce of Milford, Paul Sobolewski of Guilford, Tim Ryan of Naugatuck, and Bettyanne Geier of New Milford.
College students Laura Ritter and Samantha Smith, who work with the Valley Parish Nursing program, helped with the activities.