In Plano, police are helping kids fight summertime boredom with life-saving safety lessons and once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
Plano’s Vacation Safety Camp is a free one week course held four times over the summer.
Community prevention officers and volunteers teach kids about gun safety, drowning prevention, what to do in a fire and how to get help in an emergency.
It’s all done through interactive learning.
“I think, it’s when you engage them, you make it fun, then they learn,” said Crime Prevention Officer Hayley Dick. “This age, from 6 to 9, it’s invaluable for kids to learn these rules because they take them home. They know don’t touch the gun, it’s always loaded and always tell an adult.”
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Thursday morning, 30 kids on bikes and scooters navigate a small obstacle course marked with chalk and cones in the parking lot. The kids ride through the course, challenged to maintain control of their bikes while being aware of obstacles in their path.
The kids learn how to use hand signals, wear their helmets properly and to stay on sidewalks until they’re old enough to ride in the street.
“As a mom you try and teach them,” said Michelle Knowlton, who has two kids in this week’s camp. “But when they hear if from somebody else, especially in uniform, and they’re having a good time, I think it sticks.”
The kids visit a fire station and wear bunker gear to learn how firefighters fight fires, but also learn about stop, drop and roll. Campers meet K-9 rescue dogs and learn what to do if they’re ever lost.
Officer Dick said each lesson is designed to make safety rules memorable and crime prevention a habit. During the bike rodeo day, officers engrave each child’s bike with their parent’s driver’s license number. So, if their bikes are lost or stolen, police know who to return it to.
The camp also offers an opportunity to build relationships between Plano’s youngest people and police.
“I tell them my job is to protect you no matter what,” said Dick. “No matter what, if you’re ever lost or you’re scared, you can always come up to us.”
Police said every year, the camp fills up quickly. There are four separate weeks of camp, each week has slots for 30 kids. There are two more camps in July from July 16-20 and July 23-27. Police said there’s already a wait list to get in.
Interested families must apply in person and show proof of Plano residency. Registration opens in mid-April for each summer. For more information, click here.