School for safety: Police program helps protect tots

Photo by Andrea Poteet

Kalin Turri (left), of the Allen Park Animal Shelter, shows children how to approach her dog, Oakley, during an animal safety lesson Thursday as part of Safety Town, held at Lindemann Elementary School. The two-week class began June 20.

Sunday Times Newspapers

ALLEN PARK – The sight of a dog in an elementary school would usually result in a crowd of children anxious to pet him.

But Thursday, more than 30 children who attended Safety Town at Lindeman Elementary School in Allen Park waited patiently to ask permission to meet Oakley, who visited the school with owner Kalin Turri, of the Allen Park Animal Shelter.

Dog safety is one of the topics covered in the two-week program, which teaches children heading into kindergarten how to be safe around strangers, animals, water, bicycles, railroads, electricity and more. The program is sponsored by the Allen Park Police Officer’s Association. Local companies, like the local Meijer store, which donated 12 new big wheels for the bicycle safety lessons, also help out.

“At this age, it’s crucial to start to understand this so we can imbed it every day,” Allen Park School Liaison Officer Marcos Madrigal said. “When they come to kindergarten, it should be repetitious to them, so they can also teach the younger children. When they come across a situation, they will remember my face telling them over and over. I want to implant in their brain to think before they act.”

The classes include guest speakers and demonstrations. In addition to Thursday’s pet safety lesson, Evan Mann, from DTE Energy stopped by with safety mascot Louie the Lightning Bug to teach children how to be safe around electricity.

The program has run for more than 20 years in Allen Park, but began nationally in 1964. The classes have become so popular, Madrigal said, that this year 74 children enrolled, and he had to offer a morning and afternoon program to meet their needs.

Madrigal teaches the classes along with preschooler teacher Julie Cox and nearly 50 teens from area high schools, who volunteer their time to help with the program.

Volunteer Chelsea Strong, 17, said the rhymes and dance activities centered on safety slogans help the lessons sink in for students.

“It helps when they see other kids doing it,” she said.

Volunteer Liz Fucinari, 17, said she can see a change in the children as the class progresses.

“They grow socially as they spend time with other kids,” she said. “They don’t grasp everything right away, but you see them get little clicks.”