Safety Village teaches tots valuable lessons

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  • Photos by Laurie Gordon Henry Masterson, Marissa Angelucci and Drew Shepulski prepare for the final singing of the Safety Village theme song last week at the program sponsored by The Junior Woman's Club of Sparta.

  • Janelle Daly, the program's coordinator, poses with her daughter, Emma, who embraced helping her mother throughout the week.

  • Children singing the Safety Village song.

  • The St. Barnabas Fire House and children listening to safety tips.

When it comes to safety and the children in the community, the Junior Woman's Club of Sparta's mantra is to start teaching precaution at a young age.

This avant garde, proactive mentality led the club to create an annual Safety Village — a week of activities wrapped around learning some valuable lessons. In its 23rd year, the program was held last week at Hilltop Country Day School, in Sparta, and included four mornings of safety programs for children entering kindergarten in the fall.

For the third year in a row, Janelle Daly was at the helm of the program, leading a crew of volunteer staff members and coordinating visits from a number of community organizations to teach the kids about all sorts of safety.

"Its been fantastic," she said. "The kids are so cute and have so much fun."

Coordinating the program challenges, Daly brings in presenters to make sure the children learn as much as possible and have fun.

"Now that it's my third year, it's easier because I know which resources to bring in and the week has a nice flow to it," Daly said.

She was also extremely thankful to Hilltop Country Day School for not only letting them use the facility but offering children of her volunteers a slot in their day camp during Safety Village hours.

Organizations that were involved included the Sussex County Sheriff's Department, the Sussex County YMCA, the Sparta Volunteer Ambulance Squad, St. Barnabas Burn Foundation and several others.

"I had so much fun," said participant Henry Masterson with a huge smile on his face.

"The kids are great and so are the speakers," added Marissa Angelucci, a Safety Village volunteer.

Guest speakers

The Burn Foundation serves as the education, research and fundraising arm of the St. Barnabas Burn Center and provides financial support to burn patients and their families, educational and training programs for professionals, as well as medical equipment for The Burn Center and fire safety programs for the community. They came to Safety Village with their Fire Safety House to teach the children.

Daly also brought in Maria Gatoulis, M.D., F.A.A.P. from Wellness Pediatric Center to talk to the children about food safety. Dr. Maria, as she introduced herself to the children, let them in on the secret to successful hand washing: sing the Happy Birthday song in its entirety and you will have thoroughly washed your hands for a long enough time. She also taught them the sign to make if they are choking and how to recognize it if someone else is trying to get help.

Jennifer Enberg, Lieutenant of the New Jersey Search and Rescue organization spoke to the children about her work and what search and rescue is all about including incident management and search planning, ground resources, K9, mountain rescue and man tracking.

Wendy Folkers, of First Student Bus Company, spoke to the kids about bus safety including how to board the bus and making sure their buckled in. As in-coming kindergarteners, for many, when school starts in September it will be their first time on a bus.

Karen Lund, of New Jersey Fish and Wildlife Natural Resource Education addressed bear safety and even let the kids pretend they were bears as a way to demonstrate what bears like to eat. She brought authentic bear fur for them to touch and in subtle yet serious manner, taught them how essential it is to respect these animals and give them their space. She also taught them about properly containing garbage that bears may like.

Bell Fessy from TransOptions, talked to the kids about bicycle safety including a very compelling lesson about the importance of wearing a helmet. She put a helmet on a melon and dropped it. The melon was just fine and still in tact. Next, she dropped it without a helmet and it cracked. This made it very clear to the children that it's important to wear a helmet but in a manner in which they could understand.

The children were invited to board the ambulance that visited from Sparta Volunteer Ambulance Corps and see what it was like inside. They also learned why it's essential for mom or dad to pull over when an ambulance comes up behind them on the road. Sussex County Sheriff's DARE officer, Lew LaBar, arrived in the DARE car and taught the kids the importance of keeping clear of strangers. He let them see the inside of the car and explained that it had been confiscated in the wake of a drug arrest.

Part of the fun was learning a new song about safety which the children sang daily to the tune of "If You're Happy and You Know it Clap Your Hands." On the final day, Daly ended with two groups of the approximately 60 kids in the program leading everyone in one final chorus.

Daly, who has been a member of the Junior Woman's Club of Sparta for five years, said "The biggest challenge was getting volunteers."

Some were available some days but not others, so she had to do some heavy schedule coordination. Members of the women's club made up most of the volunteers with several parents of kids in the program jumping in for the first time.

"They were ecstatic to help and we were ecstatic to have them," said Daly.

She also had an assistant in her nine-year-old daughter, Emma, who embraced the week and helping out her mom.

Participants were charged a nominal fee to part-take which enabled them to enjoy Safety Village and receive a T-shirt and lots of literature. For further information about Safety Village call 973-300-7309 or e-mail

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