The bright yellow school bus pulled in front of Chukchansi Park and opened its doors, pouring its load of excited first-graders onto the sidewalk. The day they long awaited – May Day! May Day! – had finally arrived.
The multifaceted safety fair sponsored by Children's Hospital Central California and the Kohl’s Water Safety program attracted 1,500 first-graders from 10 school districts across the Central Valley. The event held May 18 marked the seventh year for the annual fair and the first year to include school districts outside Fresno, which nearly doubled attendance.
Students from St. Helen’s Catholic School in Fresno wore matching navy T-shirts emblazoned with the school’s logo as they lined up at the entrance to the large stadium. Andy Perez, who served as a chaperone for his son’s class, smiled broadly at the students’ obvious excitement. “Isaiah has really been looking forward to this,” he said of his son. “He came home from school earlier this week and said, ‘Two more days and I get to go on my field trip!’”
Isaiah and his classmates, Wilbur and Mateo, were proud to share what they heard in class about water safety in the days leading up to the big event. “I can tell you what we learned,” said Wilbur. “Do not go into canals.”
“And don’t go swimming without a grown-up.” Mateo nodded.
Isaiah remembered another safety tip. “Don’t go near a river without a parent.”
“And always wear a life jacket!” added Wilbur.
Just then the teacher called out, “Are we ready?”
“Yeah!” came the energized reply, as the students filed through the gate.
Just inside, older students from Yosemite Middle School prepared to greet the sea of first-graders. Christina Viar, the school’s guidance counselor, dispersed the teenagers to their stations with encouraging words. “Remember,” she said. “It’s an honor and a privilege to be here today. You’re the only middle school here and you are ambassadors representing Fresno Unified School District.” These bright volunteers represented their district well. They wore “Student Code of Honor” T-shirts with the “code” listed in bullet points on the back. It began with: I am a student! I will represent myself, my school and my community with honor.
Inside the stadium several booths stood ready to share safety tips and instruction. Children learned how to respond to bullies, how to know if they can safely touch something, and how the Star Rescue team uses pulleys and harnesses to reach injured people who fall down a mountainside or into a canal.
Travelling from one booth to another, students learned many more safety tips, like how to be a safe passenger by refraining from distracting behavior while a grown-up is driving. They learned to steer clear of the area immediately behind vehicles, where drivers cannot easily see them while backing up. The fire department allowed children to practice placing 9–1–1 calls and taught them the importance of learning their home addresses. “Who knows your whole address?” a firefighter asked as several hands shot into the air. “You need to know your whole address,” he emphasized.
Michelle Brown, a kindergarten and first-grade teacher from Susan B. Anthony Elementary School in Fresno, prepared her students prior to the field trip. “I taught them the ‘Safer Three’ song,” she said. “I’m not sure they learned all the words, but they got the ‘wave’ part of it.” The teacher grinned as she made her hand swim across invisible waves. Her students met the Safer Three poolside at the stadium.
Sammy the Starfish taught the attentive children about “safe water.” It has a fence around it. Timmy the Tadpole described “safe play” and asked them to repeat the phrase, “When adults are watching, I can learn to swim and swim with a friend.” And Gilbert the Guppy helped children practice the “safe response.” The volunteer dressed in a brightly colored guppy costume pointed to Elmo, a stuffed toy from Sesame Street fame, face down in the water. “When you see a child floating in the water, shout as loud as you can,” said Gilbert. “Shout, ‘Help, help! Child in danger!’ Say it with me.” And the students shouted as the lifeguard snatched Elmo out of the pool.
A highlight of the May Day! May Day! event was when the medical transport helicopters, Air George and SkyLife, landed on the baseball field. As one youngster stepped out of the stands and onto the grass he exclaimed, “I cannot believe we’re out on the field with the helicopters! Oh my gosh!”
Mary Jo Quintero, prehospital liaison nurse in the emergency department at Children’s Hospital Central California and water watchers coordinator for the Kohl’s Water Safety program, worked hard organizing this fun and educational event. Children’s Hospital thanks Quintero and her many volunteers for making May Day! May Day! 2012 a huge success.
To learn more about this event and other safety fairs involving Children’s Hospital, contact Mary Jo Quintero at (559) 353-8661 or firstname.lastname@example.org.