For 10 years, local fire, emergency and law enforcement agencies have teamed every summer to teach kids about safety through training, games and exercises.

Last week, McDowell’s Kids Safety Camp celebrated its 10th anniversary in a series of demonstrations and courses at East McDowell Middle School.

According to Emergency Services Director William Kehler, over 1,300 children have entered the Safety Camp within the last decade.

“Our two primary sponsors are Duke Energy and Columbia Forest Products, so we really appreciate them sponsoring the camp,” said Kehler. “That allows us to offer a really affordable camp – $20 for three days – and allows the kids to have an exceptional experience in teaching them a number of safety classes.”

During the three-day annual event, kids are taught on how to react in an emergency through a handful of hands-on or instructed activities, including: extinguishing a fire through a game simulator; swiftly and safely escaping a fire safety house; pet safety with Crestview Veterinary Hospital ; a tour of Tower 1 with Marion Fire Department; CPR on practice dummies; drowning prevention with the YMCA; recognizing signs of a stroke and choking; gun safety with air pellet rifles; building a disaster kit; calling the McDowell 911 Center; anti-bullying discussion with the Sheriff’s Office; and electrical safety with Duke Energy.

Sgt. Johnsie Parker and Lt. Brenda Agreda of McDowell County EMS coordinated this year’s event.

“(Kids Safety Camp) originated in 2009 with a desire to prevent injury, and trauma is the leading cause of death in children, so we took that into account and tried to put the camp together and have experts come in and talk about injury prevention, so we’re super proud the camp’s been going on for 10 years,” said Parker.

“Even some of our team leaders now started here at Safety Camp,” said Agreda, “so they were campers themselves and now they are leading the way. I think that’s the best way we can help that. First, we teach. Then, they teach us, and now they’re the leaders, because they’re the next generation, so they’re going to be our future leaders, our future staff. We want them to be as prepared as possible so we can be safe in the future when we’re old and can’t call 911 ourselves.”

According to Parker, last year’s attendance numbers peaked at 133 kids. This year’s attendance was closely matched with approximately 130.

“We start getting phone calls about Safety Camp around December or January before, parents wanting to know what the dates are, so a lot of parents plan their vacation around Safety Camp,” Parker said.

On Thursday, the third and final day of camp, all campers and staff grouped together for a class photo with “Barkley,” Crestview Veterinary’s chocolate Lab mix for the Pet Safety course and a staple of the camp for the last 10 years. Afterward, the camp was treated to a live rescue demonstration of a pinned-in vehicle by the McDowell Rescue Squad before competing against each other in a water bucket challenge and other previous activities, with the winning team taking on staff members in a final challenge.

Assisting agencies and partners for this year’s Safety Camp included: Marion, P.G., Old Fort, Sugar Hill and Ashford-North Cove Fire Departments; Mission Health; McDowell EMS; McDowell Rescue Squad; Corpening Memorial YMCA; Carolina West Shooting Club; Columbia Forest Products; McDowell County Sheriff’s Office and Crestview Veterinary Hospital.

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