Teaching safety skills that will last a lifetime

The premise for the annual children’s safety camp put on by the Coon Rapids fire and police departments is simple – teaching kids safety skills that will last them a lifetime.

Don Bania, a quadriplegic, was one of the presenters at the annual Coon Rapids Safety Camp at Sand Creek Park July 23 and 24. He spoke to campers about spinal cord injuries and how to prevent them.

Don Bania, a quadriplegic, was one of the presenters at the annual Coon Rapids Safety Camp at Sand Creek Park July 23 and 24. He spoke to campers about spinal cord injuries and how to prevent them.

The 2013 safety camp for Coon Rapids children entering fourth- and fifth-grades took place July 23 and 24 at Sand Creek Park, culminating in a graduation ceremony the evening of July 24 in the auditorium of Coon Rapids High School.

This was the 19th year of the safety camp and there were 120 children taking part.

Helping the firefighters and police officers with the camp as counselors were members of the United States Air Force Reserve, Allina Health employees and local senior citizens as well as former campers, who acted as junior counselors, according to Todd Williams, Coon Rapids fire marshal who headed the camp organizing committee.

The camp was divided into three morning sessions and three afternoon sessions July 23 with three more morning sessions July 24. Kids were split into groups to rotate through the three programs in each session.

The afternoon of July 24, the campers were bused to and from the swimming pool at the Emma B. Howe YMCA for a program on water safety.

Children attending the Coon Rapids Safety Camp at Sand Creek Park demonstrate what to do if a stranger grabs them by the arm. “Say hello and goodbye” and then run, Coon Rapids Community Policing Officer Desiree Toninato told them in her stranger danger presentation.

Children attending the Coon Rapids Safety Camp at Sand Creek Park demonstrate what to do if a stranger grabs them by the arm. “Say hello and goodbye” and then run, Coon Rapids Community Policing Officer Desiree Toninato told them in her stranger danger presentation.

But between each session, the campers had a break for snacks and play time.

Lunch was provided by Carbonne’s Pizza on July 23 and the McDonald’s at Northdale and Foley boulevards July 24. In addition, the Northdale Dairy Queen provided treats for the campers, Williams said.

There were also two special events during the camp. A disc jockey played music for kids to dance to following lunch July 23 and the Minnesota National Guard landed a helicopter in the park after lunch July 24.

Besides water safety, the camp had sessions on general safety; fire safety and seat belt safety from firefighters; electrical safety, both inside and outside the home, presented by Connexus Energy; cardio pulmonary resuscitation presented by Coon Rapids Police Officer Bryan Platz of the Coon Rapids Heart Safe initiative; how to use 911 by Todd Messer of Anoka County Dispatch and Fridley Fire Department; and a stranger danger presentation by Coon Rapids Community Policing Officer Desiree Toninato titled “Run, Yell, Tell.”

As well, quadriplegic Don Bania talked to the campers about the impact of a spinal cord injury, according to Williams.

Bania, an artist who uses his mouth to draw and paint, has been paralyzed since Aug. 19, 1970, when at the age of 18, the motorcycle he was riding collided with a car driven by a drunk driver that turned into his path. The crash broke Bania’s neck, severed his spinal cord and left him in a wheelchair.

In addition, Allina Health made a presentation about head injuries and how to prevent them, wearing a helmet while riding a bicycle, for example, Williams said.

The goal of the safety camp is not only to teach kids a variety of skills that will help them stay safe, but also bring them the message to be respectful of others, according to Williams.

“We want to make it a fun and exciting time for the kids and also give them a chance to meet new friends,” Williams said.

Campers all received a T-shirt to wear during the camp.

The registration fee was $40, but $15 scholarships were available to children on the free and reduced lunch program.

Peter Bodley is at peter.bodley@ecm-inc.com

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