Kids learn safety tips at annual Coon Rapids camp

Incoming fourth- and fifth-grade students pointed to a helicopter high above Sand Creek Park in Coon Rapids July 23.

Groups of campers march to their next activity during the 19th annual Coon Rapids Safety Camp July 22 and 23. Photos by Olivia Koester

Groups of campers march to their next activity during the 19th annual Coon Rapids Safety Camp July 22 and 23. Photos by Olivia Koester

The wind kicked up as the helicopter descended, landing on a baseball field right in front of the kids.

After an all-clear from their instructors, 127 students marched onto the field to hear from the pilot, who was one of many speakers during the 19th annual Coon Rapids Safety Camp July 22 and 23.

Put on by the Coon Rapids Fire and Police departments, with Allina Health and the U.S. Air Force, the camp aims to provide safety lessons on a variety of topics for kids.

The camp targets 9- and 10-year-old students because “the kids this age are getting to the stage where they’re going to be home alone or with younger siblings,” said Shelley Chapin, administrative assistant for the Coon Rapids Fire Department and coordinator of safety camp.

Craig Benz, a chief warrant officer for the Minnesota State Patrol, flew the helicopter July 23, and explained how the helicopter serves law enforcement and the public.

The Minnesota State Patrol uses its three helicopters for many purposes: performing crowd control, locating missing or wanted persons, assisting during disasters and more.

A large camera is able to detect body heat at night, aiding with police searches. It picks up smaller mammals’ outlines, too – deer, foxes, etc.

One student wanted to know if it could detect crickets.

It’s not quite that powerful, Benz said, smiling.

He moved on to discuss the 30 million-candlepower searchlight, which can illuminate an entire city block from 1,000 feet in the air.

A hook on the underside of the helicopter can support people’s weight during rescue missions and can be used to carry supplies to disaster sites – sandbags to prevent flooding or up to 140 gallons of water to douse fires, for example.

On the first day of camp, Rich Wieber, a professional stunt bicyclist, entertained kids, but mixed in messages about bike safety. He jumped over a firefighter on his wheels.

Addressing the dangers of another kind of bike – the motorcycle – Don Bania Jr. stressed the importance of helmets. In 1970, he was struck by a drunken driver while riding his motorcycle. Today, he is paralyzed below the neck, but without a helmet, he wouldn’t have survived. He stays positive, creating art by drawing with his mouth.

Connexus Energy was on hand to show how harmful electric current can be if handled improperly. To illustrate their point, instructors fried a hot dog on a power line, Chapin said.

Held in a designated “heart safe” city, the Coon Rapids camp was sure to incorporate CPR and AED training.

A favorite of camper Kaitlyn Caminati was the Allina professionals’ presentation on the brain. She and the other kids learned about how different parts of the brain control specific body functions. To experience what it is like to have a traumatic brain injury, students were asked to put on oven mitts and attempt to put together a puzzle, not an easy feat, Kaitlyn said.

Magician Brian Richards performed a show about giving others respect and kindness, Chapin said.

The Coon Rapids Public Works Department came out with its big rigs. They spoke with students about steering clear of street sweepers and snowplows. Kids were meant to learn that it’s dangerous to build snow forts at the road’s edge, according to Chapin.

Fridley Firefighter Todd Messer shared general fire safety tips with students.

After talking with Benz, students were bused to the Young Men’s Christian Association for a lesson in water safety at the pool.

Then, it was time for the 19th Coon Rapids Safety Camp class to graduate at Anoka Ramsey Community College.

Olivia Koester is at olivia.koester@ecm-inc.com

up arrow