The Clackamas County Sheriff's Office is handing out candy vouchers to kids who practice water safety -

For the public, summer means fun and sun. For the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office Marine Unit, it means ensuring our waterways are safe.

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - A deputy gives a young boater a candy voucher as a reward for wearing a life jacket while on the Clackamas River. CCSO just partnered with Plaid Pantry and Just Born Inc. to give kids a sweet reward for wearing their life jackets.

As part of the “Life Jacket Voucher program,” the marine unit is partnering with Plaid Pantry and Just Born Inc. to provide movie-size boxes of Mike & Ike candy to children who wear their life jackets. Marine Patrol deputies will give vouchers to children who are wearing their flotation devices; the kids can redeem those vouchers for Mike & Ike at any Plaid Pantry store.

Sheriff’s Office Marine deputies patrol all the waterways in Clackamas County — including 50 miles of the Clackamas River and 30 miles of the Willamette.

They also enforce boating laws including those related to personal flotation devices, or PFDs.

According to the Oregon State Marine Board:

1. All boats must carry at least one U.S. Coast Guard-approved PFD for every person on board.

2. All children ages 12 and under must wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket at all times while on boats that are underway or being towed.

3. “Boats” means every description of watercraft including sailboats, canoes, kayaks and rafts.

“Our deputies come into contact with hundreds of families during the summer months and we find most children are wearing personal flotation devices,” said Sgt. Steve Thoroughman, who oversees the Sheriff’s Office Marine Unit. “This year, we get to reward them for being safe.”

“Just Born — makers of Mike & Ike, Hot Tamales and other candy — is a family-owned business that shares many of the same values as Plaid Pantry,” said Plaid Pantry spokesperson Jonathan Polonsky. “When we asked them if they would help us support the Life Jacket Voucher program, they instantly agreed — and worked with us to come up with a reward we could pass along to the kids to help promote water safety.

“We’re particularly happy to support the Clackamas County Marine Unit’s project because of the way it is going about rewarding kids for wearing their life jackets. ... The Marine Unit’s strategy to reward kids for good behavior is a great way to reach out to kids in a very positive way.”

The Life Jacket Voucher Program will run until September 2015, and is sponsored by the Clackamas County Safe Communities, Plaid Pantry and Just Born Inc. The hope is that the program will help reinforce a potentially life-saving habit for children.

Lt. Robert Wurpes of the Sheriff’s Office says one of the most common excuses he hears about people not wearing personal flotation devices (PFDs) is, “I’m a good swimmer.” “But even a good swimmer can be overcome — quickly — by injury, cold, exhaustion and fear,” he said. “The best practice is to wear it.”

Plaid Pantry has a history in encouraging community safety. In 2011, CEO Chris Girard was recognized by the Board of County Commissioners for his leadership restricting youth access to alcohol and his work with the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.

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