Hancock Wellness Center conducts free child safety event

HANCOCK COUNTY — Linda Garrity knows parenthood can be overwhelming, with so many decisions to make with little ones’ safety at stake — and she wants parents to know about the extensive network of community resources available to them to make it all easier.

To help local organizations and families connect with one another, Garrity has helped organize an event that will pull those parties together.

The inaugural Child Safety and Wellness Fair, scheduled for Aug. 29, will feature demonstrations and activities led by local providers whose causes run the gamut from tobacco prevention to Internet safety. The free event will feature about 30 vendors and will run from noon to 3 p.m. at the Hancock Wellness Center, 888 New Road in Greenfield.

Part of a partnership among the wellness center, Department of Child Services and the Children’s Bureau, the event is designed for both parents and children, said Garrity, community education coordinator at Hancock Regional Hospital.

Garrity hopes by engaging families in person, the organizations will be able to communicate their causes more effectively.

“Some people are hands-on learners,” she said. “They need to actually do something to learn it, and seeing it visually can make it easier and also more fun for them.”

She said the sooner they can share information about safe habits and practices, the better.

“What parents teach their children about safety becomes the norm for those kids,” Garrity said. “Kids learn what they’re taught, and they usually keep those values as they grow up.”

Many of the demonstrations are geared toward children, Garrity said, and the fair also will include door prizes, raffles and face-painting.

Families United for Support and Encouragement (FUSE), a resource, referral and support organization for area families whose children have special needs, will present a demonstration about the most effective techniques to combat bullying.

Denise Arland, executive director, said many children with special needs encounter bullying on a daily basis, so it’s important to broach the topic at the youngest age possible.

“We want kids to know that they don’t have to believe what somebody says about you if you believe in yourself,” Arland said.

Brandie Bastin, a coordinator for the Hancock County Tobacco Free Coalition, will have educational materials about the harmful effects of smoking for both parents and children.

She said most children who become addicted to tobacco later in life begin using it while they’re still minors, so it’s important to intervene as early as possible.

“It’s best for us to get the message across about how harmful tobacco is, because once they’ve started, most are addicted by the time they’re adults,” Bastin said. “We tell them that the best way to quit is not to start.”

The organization will also have educational materials available to parents about the risks associated with secondhand smoke.

Garrity, a certified passenger safety technician, will be at the fair to give demonstrations to parents about the proper way to buckle children into their car seats.

She said many parents aren’t aware of the current recommendations regarding car seats, and many children are transitioning to regular, adult seat belts too early.

“We know that nine out of 10 (parents) are using car seats incorrectly, and that’s very dangerous to the children.”

Garrity said she knows many parents are intimidated by all the decisions they face but hopes the fair will allay some of those fears.

“This is a way for all of us to get together and share information in a fun, non-threatening way,” she said.

Daniel Morgan is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. He can be reached at (317) 477-3228 or dmorgan@greenfieldreporter.com.