Community center hosts Sprague Family Safety Day

By Janice Steinhagen - Staff Writer
Sprague - posted Tue., Sep. 24, 2013
Marytherese, 8, of Baltic, gets fitted for a new bike helmet by Backus Hospital volunteer Maria Gladue. Photos by Janice Steinhagen.
Marytherese, 8, of Baltic, gets fitted for a new bike helmet by Backus Hospital volunteer Maria Gladue. Photos by Janice Steinhagen.

Sprague Community Center opened its doors for a Family Safety Day on Sept. 21, offering parents and their children information, fun and freebies in the hopes of raising awareness for a variety of safety and health issues.

For Noah, 3, the big draw was the fire trucks. "He wanted to come because of the fire trucks,” said his grandmother, Jane Norell, of Canterbury, who brought Noah’s little sister with her, too. “But there’s a lot of little things here for [the kids]. I got some information for my daughter about medications. It’s a nice little community event.”

Youngsters gravitated to a table lined with free bike helmets, where volunteers from Backus Hospital in Norwich carefully fitted the helmets to each child’s head. To drive home the importance of protecting the head while bike riding, R. Isaac Elton, Sr., RN, offered new helmet owners a hands-on demonstration. Placing an egg inside a “helmet” made of material similar to that inside a bike helmet, he invited each child to drop the protected egg onto the floor, then check to see if it was still intact. “This egg is your brain,” he explained. “You don’t want your brain to be like scrambled eggs” in case of an accident.

Elton said he tailors his presentation to children based on age. For older kids, he explains that in an accident, both the front and back of the brain can be injured from the impact, affecting areas that include personality, speech and motor function, among others. “Even your ability to walk and talk would be affected by a brain injury,” he said. A molded gelatin “brain,” which he said mimics the consistency of actual brain tissue, illustrated its vulnerability to damage.

Sprague Community Center outreach coordinator Brenda Keefe said that the center partnered with Backus Hospital, as well as with local businesses and law enforcement, for the event. The Norwich Power Squadron in conjunction with Thayer’s Marine had a booth packed with information on boating safety, and Resident State Trooper Randy Silvestri offered a fingerprinting service for children. Handouts on safe storage of medicines were available, and volunteers staffed an air hockey game and a face-painting station to keep children entertained.

Outside, Baltic Fire Department volunteer Don Allen hoisted his grandson, Connor, 2, into the cab of the company’s fire engine. A retired Norwich firefighter, Allen now volunteers with Baltic and also works for the Voluntown Fire Department. “I’ve been doing this about 40 years,” he said. “My dad would be marking 65 years doing this if he were still alive. It’s the family business”

Allen was interrupted by the chirping of his cell phone. On that signal, he and other Baltic volunteer firefighters began hastily unloading the kids who were exploring the inside of the ambulance. As the nearby siren began droning and the children stood watching, the firefighters stowed their gear and drove away to answer a call, lights flashing as they went.

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