"Safe kids are no accident." So goes the motto of the Tri-County chapter of the West Virginia Safe Kids Coalition. This is also the message of the fourth annual Tri-County Safe Kids Day, which was held from noon to 4 p.m. at the Meadowbrook Mall on Saturday.
The festivities were sponsored by the coalition, the FBI, Meadowbrook Mall and WDTV Channel 5.
M.E. Gamble, marketing director for the mall, estimates that over 1,500 children took part in the activities. "It's been an awesome day," said Gamble. "This beats or equals the number we've had in past years."
According to Gamble, the purpose of Safe Kids Day is to promote safety in sports, daily living and emergencies through awareness, use of emergency services and accident prevention.
Volunteer firefighter and paramedic Roland W. Kniceley helped kick-start the annual event. He said he was motivated into starting the program when, four years ago, five children between the ages of two months and 13 years died in preventable accidents during a two-week span.
"I got tired of scraping up kids and putting them in the back of an ambulance," said Kniceley, who himself lost one child to heart problems. "I know what it feels like to lose a child of my own, and I don't want other parents to go through that."
Kniceley has tried to get people and organizations all over the state involved in injury prevention since the initiation of Safe Kids Day. And his work has paid off. Several area businesses and organizations, including the Department of Motor Vehicles, State Farm and the Clarksburg League of Service, aided Saturday's event.
Harrison Electric provided McGruff the Crime Dog for entertainment. Kids' favorite Elmo also showed up at the mall's center court.
Time Out Productions contributed a human joust inflatable arena, a football toss challenge and loo races, which involved humorous racing vehicles that carried a strong resemblance to toilets. Gamble herself put on a helmet and enjoyed jetting around little orange cones on one of the apparatuses.
The State Sire Marshall provided an exhibit on fire prevention. Jan Care taught children about the importance of medical technicians and their vehicles. DARE and MADD instructed on the dangers of drugs and alcohol. The Hug a Tree program set up a demonstration about search and rescue.
The Harrison County Medical Society Alliance contributed free osteoporosis exams. This comes in the wake of Osteoporosis Awareness Week.
Safe Kids Day at the mall was held in conjunction with Children's Safety Day at Plohal Honda, located on Barnett Run Road in Bridgeport. Plohal's activities ran from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
American Honda sponsored the nation-wide occasion, which happened to coincide with the mall's. So, the two groups decided to work together to send their shared message.
"It's a way to reach into the North-Central community and offer safety information," said Becky Plohal, CO-owner of the automobile dealership.
The activities at Plohal featured fingerprinting by West Virginia State Troopers, CPR education from the Harrison County Red Cross and bicycle safety lessons from Mountain Bikes and More of Bridgeport.
A big focus of the event was child safety seat checks. According to Becky Plohal, 80 percent of car safety seats are improperly installed. State Trooper Greg Chanki helped visiting parents correct this problem.
Another important focus was computer safety instructions offered by Office Max. This presentation provided parents with information on parental blocks and Internet safety.
West Virginia Little League also offered a drawing for a free trip to August's Little League World Series. There, contestants are eligible for a free 2000 Odyssey Minivan.
According to both Plohal and Kniceley, the two events were huge successes with large attendances.
But success ultimately lies in results. "If one kid is saved from any of this, then we can call it a success," stated Kniceley.
Staff writer Danny Forinash can be reached at 626-1446.