ENFIELD, CT – The 18th annual Child Safety Day event took place Oct. 11 at the Scitico Plaza.
Creator/Sensei Janice Morton started the event 18 years ago through Integrity Martial Arts. As she described, “It’s something that is important to both myself personally and to Integrity, which is the safety of children.”
Morton had a concern when she noticed something wasn’t happening on a regular basis in the town.
“Schools sometimes would have the anti-bullying programs, but I wasn’t seeing a comprehensive safety day where you have more than one organization collaborating together,” she said. “It was something that was free and open to the public. It was not only fun, but also educational.”
In addition to collaborating with the community groups, Morton wanted to highlight the businesses in the Scitico Plaza such as Dance Kraze Dance Studio and Club Fitness.
As a martial arts instructor and mother, Morton wanted to make sure children knew how to stay safe, which has driven her to teach them about anti-bullying, stranger danger and being able to defend themselves.
"Not only learning moves, but responses that are key,” Morton explained. “If you practice verbal and physical responses, that’s what you’re going into in an emergency situation.”
With COVID regulations, the booths were set up in a one-way circuit to promote social distancing.
At Child Safety Day, children and families visited a fire truck from the Hazardville Fire Department. They talked about fire and kitchen safety in homes and exit strategies on how to get out of houses. A firefighter presented in full fire gear for children to see what a firefighter looks like dressed up and stressed to them that firefighters are not scary.
Lt. Jason Carlton explained, “Sometimes kids get nervous around us because of our gear that we wear. We want to make sure they know what we look like, what we sound like when we’re breathing with our air packs on just so they can feel a little more at ease with us.”
The children next received child ID kits and fingerprints by the Enfield Police Department. They also viewed a high-tech communications vehicle from the 14th Civil Support Team of Connecticut Air National Guard and learned railroad safety tips from the Connecticut Department of Transportation’s Operation Lifesaver.
They also learned about respecting others from The Network, with tips on bullying prevention and building healthy friendships.
Community Health Educator Annalisa Deal reiterated, “It’s an important event because it covers so many topics related to safety. It gives great information on how to be safer and strategies children can use. Unfortunately, so many people face these kinds of situations and it’s good for them to have a plan or know who they can call.”
Other features of the day included demonstrations from a K-9 dog unit of the Connecticut Department of Corrections, as well as students from Team Integrity teaching children how to back away from someone and use their hands to block.
Parent Ben Davis said his two daughters wanted to do martial arts after watching Team Integrity strut their moves.
The children also received goodie bags with brochures, fire hats and giveaway items from each organization.
“It’s one of the few child safety days in Connecticut that has multiple organizations at one event that promotes safety for children and families,” said Morton. “It’s good for kids to hear from experts who are able to teach them what to do and how to be safe. If they can hear that message from multiple people, it’s something that hopefully will abide with them.”