Suffolk truly CAREs!

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 10, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

Imagine being in a quiet bedroom, sound asleep. Suddenly, something inside you wakes you up.

You open your eyes, but you still can’t see. Are you having a nightmare? Then an awful odor creeps into your nostrils and you discover that this is all too real. Your house in on fire, and you have only seconds to get out with your life intact.

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Stumbling out of bed, you try to stand, but can’t see. Falling to the ground, you realize that the air is a little clearer down below. You crawl over to the door, and feel it with the back of your hand. Immediately jerking your singed hand away, you realize that the red beast is right outside.

The window’s your only chance. Lurching in its direction, you fling it open, and, with your last gasp of consciousness, find the strength to launch yourself onto the ground outside.

Your senses starting to clear, you suddenly remember that your family has discussed a situation like this. One of the rules you set was to have a family meeting place outside the house. Yours is next to the garage, under the basketball hoop. Staggering in the direction, you see your parents and little sister waving you over. Thanks to preparing to fire safety, you all made it out alive and healthy.

These lessons and more were taught at the 8th Annual Suffolk Children’s Assistance and Resource (CARE) Fair at King’s Fork Middle School. Over 30 agencies showed up to educate Suffolkians about health and safety. Outside, the Suffolk Fire and Rescue Department had brought along a makeshift house, equipped with a kitchen and bedroom, for children to learn about fire safety.

&uot;What are some things in this room that could burn you or poison you?&uot; asked firefighter David Grove in the kitchen. The children pointed to a fake cigarette carton.

&uot;Right. Cigarettes can cause lung disease,&uot; Grove said. &uot;You can’t be a football or basketball start if you smoke.&uot; Other potential hazards in the room included a pack of matches, drain cleaner, and a stove. smoke detectors, Grove recommended, should be checked every month.

Afterward, the children went into the next room, a bedroom. &uot;I want you to pretend that you’re sleeping,&uot; Grove said. &uot;Your fire alarm didn’t go off, and smoke is pouring into your room. Now when it comes in here, show me what you’ve learned.&uot;

The children closed their eyes. Suddenly, &uot;smoke&uot; poured from an opening near the ceiling. Opening their eyes, the children could see nothing but thick whiteness. But instead of panicking, they fell to their knees and crawled over to the window. One child eased it open, and stepped out onto the street below. He then reached up to help the others out the window and out of danger.

Now that everyone had gotten out, Grove brought them together one last time. &uot;Now,&uot; he asked. &uot;Suppose we left something inside. Do we go back in to get it?&uot;

The answer was quick and unanimous: &uot;NO!&uot;

&uot;It was really freaky, the way we couldn’t see anything in there,&uot; said Lauren Bryant, 9. &uot;I was scared, but I think I’ll know what to do now in case of fire.&uot;

Inside the school, locals could learn more about the dangers of smoking. Did you know that cigarette smoke contains such toxins as ammonia (used to clean toilets), cyanide (used to kill rats) and formaldehyde (used to kill frogs)? Catherine Carr of the Obici Foundation helped teach these daunting facts and more to Suffolk’s youngest. &uot;We try to prevent children from ever starting to smoke,&uot; she explained. A board behind her displayed photos of cancer- and emphysema-infected lungs and mouths ravaged by gingivitis.

Suffolk Public Schools and the Western Tidewater Health District provided several other health-related opportunities for visitors, such as sickle-cell testing, school physicals, and immunizations. Dentist Elizabeth Bernhard of the Isle of Wight Health Department checked the teeth of youngsters.

At press time, Bernhard had looked into 42 mouths, and found only five in need of filling. &uot;That’s a really good number,&uot; she said. &uot;Suffolk is a very high fluoride area. It has really deep well that can tap into aquifer, which is the rock and water underneath the ground. When kids drink it, it really keeps them from getting cavities.&uot;

As the festivities wound down, co-chair Gin Staylor relaxed in the front office. &uot;We started C.A.R.E. because working families don’t always have time to get all the information they need,&uot; she said. &uot;We wanted to bring all the agencies together at once. Kids that are about to start school, especially athletes, can get free physicals. It’s a fun environment for the entire family, and it helps them learn about health.&uot;