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A fun — but safe — experience

About 35 young children learned about safety through the city of Woodburns Kiwanis-sponsored Safety Camp last week


by: LINDSAY KEEFER - Campers at Safety Camp biked around Safety Town, set up at Heritage Elementary School, for the four-day program.Around 35 Woodburn youngsters learned the importance of safety last week thanks to a partnership between Woodburn Kiwanis and the city of Woodburn.

The Kiwanis Club has run the program for many years, with member Gina Audritsh leading for more than 15 years, but this summer the baton was passed to the Woodburn Recreation and Parks Department, with the Kiwanis still retaining sponsorship.by: LINDSAY KEEFER - Ziva Bible, 5, enjoyed Safety Camp and her police memento after Woodburn police officer Jorge Gaspar visited the children at Safety Camp.

“Gina set this program up for success,” said Melissa Tittle, a volunteer with the city who took the reins of the program this year. “So I planned using her curriculum as a resource.”

Tittle incorporated the instruction of all kinds of safety through arts and crafts, songs, Safety Town (a miniature town set up in a play area with paved markings and signals for children’s bike traffic) and visits from special guest speakers. She had the help of nine volunteers, five of which were teens.

Music in particular helps children remember safety instructions, Tittle discovered.

“Kids learn really well with music,” she said. “They will go home and still sing it and will be teaching their friends. It’s something they can take with them wherever they go.”

The nearly three dozen students, who were mostly 4- to 6-year-olds, learned their full names, parents’ names, addresses and phone numbers; how to call 911; how to read traffic signals for both motorists and pedestrians; stranger danger versus trusting police officers; and safety in the car, the bus, fire, water, playground, at home and more.

“That’s the age where the conversation really needs to start,” Tittle said. “They need to know about core safety and it’s often followed up in school.”

by: LINDSAY KEEFER - Woodburn Police officer Jorge Gaspar showed children his handcuffs and police cruiser at the annual Safety Camp last week.The students had visitors from the Woodburn Fire District, Woodburn Police Department, Woodburn Ambulance, METCOM, Woodburn Aquatic Center and Woodburn Pet Hospital come and talk to the kids, often providing them with exciting opportunities, such as touring a police cruiser and squirting water out of a fire hose.

“Honestly, I’m impressed with all the outreach in this community,” Tittle said. “It’s great to have a city that is so willing to help out and participate. That’s what made it a success, that’s what kids remember the most.”

Students were excited to share their Safety Camp experiences and tips they’ve learned.

“My family knows not to play with matches and not to play around the barbecue,” said Noah Spence, 6.

The visit with the police officer Jorge Gaspar — and his car — was memorable to Addison Harr, 7.

“My favorite part is when we get to go outside and play,” she said, referring to Safety Town, which is set up so the children can learn about traffic safety while riding bikes — all donations from Woodburn Kiwanis specifically for Safety Camp.

At the end of the four-day camp, students are quizzed on what they learn and go through a graduation ceremony, complete with a certificate and a fireman’s hat.

“We send home a safety packet with them so parents can continue the communication at home,” Tittle said.

Tittle said she would be happy to come back to leading this program next summer.

“Giving back to the city is important,” she said. “I would love more parent volunteers. The more people we can get involved, the more successful it will be.”