Families and community members gathered at Lawrence Jones Middle School on a sunny Saturday to celebrate public safety, first responders and the unsung heroes among us at the annual Community Safety Awareness Involvement and Fun event, an event held to thank public safety for keeping city streets safe and to encourage safe pedestrian and cyclist habits for kids and adults.
The theme of last weekend’s family friendly event was “heroes among us, people helping people,” a theme co-organizer of the event Christal Barquero says was to encourage appreciation for not only public safety’s work in making the community a better place, but also for community members who decide to make smart and friendly choices, such as putting the phone down while driving or offering to open the door for someone.
“We incorporated heroes among us because at the end of the day when I decide I am not going to be texting or if I open the door for somebody instead of just going in or any time I decide to do something for somebody else, I have an opportunity to be a hero and everyone on the planet has an opportunity to be a hero,” Barquero said.
One example of the heroes among us was the California Highway Patrol team with the helicopter Henry I, which landed on the fields at Lawrence Jones Middle School around noon. The team behind Henry I attended the event to give children a chance to marvel at the helicopter, take photos with officers and ask questions, however, after only a few minutes on the ground CHP officers got a call that there was a missing 8-year-old child and had to take off to aid ground crews in search of the child.
While the kids were disappointed, Henry I proved to be a prime example of heroes among us helping the community and only shortly after their departure, the helicopter returned since the missing child was found.
After the fun of meeting officers and viewing the helicopter, kids participated in a “distract you later” simulation game where kids walked through a course rigged with distractions such as a ball on the track or a pedestrian to show kids what it’s like driving with distractions and what commuter safety tips they should follow.
“We tried to show people in a fun way what distractions could arise (while driving) such as a deer or child in the road… and they either made it through or got a game over and there was a speed limit of two steps per second and at the bottom (of the track) we had something to the effect of, in video games you get to play again, you get a do-over, but in life that sometimes doesn’t happen,” Barquero stressed.
That’s why in addition to the heroes among us, safety and road smarts were emphasized. The CHP, the fire department and ambulance, SMART, PG&E and other public service organizations such as Kaiser Permanente were at the event to provide information on what you can do and who you can go to in an emergency.
“We provided informational booths for kids and booths on distracted driving for adults and safety information for pedestrians and cyclists,” said CHP Officer Jonathan Sloat, who took time to take photos with kids during the event.
Community S.A.I.F.’s annual events focus so much on safety awareness for kids and adults because in 2010 a 3-year-old Rohnert Park girl, Calli Ann Murray, was killed in a crosswalk on Snyder Lane by a distracted driver. The driver, Kaitlyn Dunaway, a Sonoma State student at the time, admitted to using her phone at the time of the crash.
Along with Barquero, Calli Ann’s father, Jeff Murray then decided to create Community S.A.I.F as a way to honor Calli and encourages drivers to not drive distracted.
“When Jeff and Ling lost their little girl with the tragedy that happened we really felt that we needed to share the importance of what safety is and what our priorities are. In a society where it’s ‘let’s go, let’s go, let’s go,’ we aren’t keeping others safety a priority so we wanted to do something about that,” Barquero said. “And we believe that we when incorporate safety, learning about safety and knowing where we can go to in times of need, then safety is the number one priority.”