Bears learn how to enjoy a safe summer break

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 9, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

With only six days of school left for the Booker T. Washington Elementary School &uot;Bears,&uot; the kids are primed and prepared to jump into summer vacation. On Tuesday morning, they met with a frog, a police officer, aquatics instructors, and two representatives from the office of the Commonwealth’s attorney who delivered valuable information on how to &uot;Have a Simply Stupendous Summer!&uot;

Diana L. Klink, the community outreach coordinator for Commonwealth’s Attorney C. Phillips Ferguson’s office, brought the special guests to meet with the students, introducing them amid a bunch of summertime props including beach balls, floats, brightly colored beach towels and plenty of other safety gear.


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Officer Tom Phippins of the Suffolk Police Department’s Downtown Bicycle Patrol brought several of those safety items to demonstrate how to safely enjoy summertime activities available in the city.

Phippins came dressed for duty; bike shorts, helmet, biking gloves and safety glasses. He began his discussion by telling the students that they should be similarly attired for their own protection while biking. He also showed them a photo which elicited many deep intakes of breath from the children. The photo showed injuries a child had received to his head when he fell from his bike onto a concrete curbing. There were many questions from the students and it was obvious that this lesson in safety struck a serious chord with them.

An officer from the DARE unit, Tammy James, also discussed illegal drugs and violence and how to avoid both this summer.

She also told them to be sure to use the &uot;buddy system&uot; when going out to play, and to be sure to always let parents or a guardian know where they will be playing.

Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney James E. Wiser also spoke with the children about juvenile crime and its consequences. The prosecutor also brought with him informative guides for parents on keeping children safe. Those guides were distributed along with other brochures from the office of the Commonwealth’s attorney.

&uot;I just advised them that as they face becoming middle school students next year, they will also face new pressures this summer,&uot; said Wiser. &uot;Also, I cautioned them that certainly bomb threats are no joking matter and I cautioned them not to get involved in making calls. We also talked about walking away from any bullying activities, and the consequences of taking that tempting piece of candy from the store. I told them that if something like that happened, I would be meeting with them under different circumstances and that wouldn’t make either of us happy.&uot;

Wiser also warned the children about &uot;Surfing the Web,&uot; another source of danger at all times of the year.

He cautioned the students on giving out their personal information and warned them that internet predators are out there and they are most often not who they claim to be over the internet.

Sean Miller, a recreation superintendent from Suffolk’s Department of Parks and Recreation, brought a wealth of information on lots of free fun and adventures to be had in the city this summer. He advised the students that a packet of information from the office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney was jam packed with brochures like &uot;Fun things to see and do in Suffolk,&uot; provided by the Suffolk Division of Tourism.

Following Miller’s vivid descriptions of fun activities in Suffolk, the Aquatics Director of the Suffolk YMCA, Allison Bowman, and Jessica Ballinger, a lifeguard and swim instructor who is a student at the College of William & Mary, brought a special guest to the children. They presented &uot;Vincent the Frog,&uot; a great green fellow who offered tips on how to safely enjoy the sun and water.

Part of the excitement came when Vincent became a &uot;leap&uot; Frog as he jumped from the stage onto the auditorium floor to take part in the discussion. Vincent, also known as Brian Hancock, the children showed great enthusiasm for his antics.

&uot;It’s a lot of fun to come out to entertain the kids,&uot; said Hancock. &uot;They always seem to enjoy Vincent and dressing him up as a lifeguard. We teach them that if they’re going to be in the sun to bring sunscreen and plenty of water among other things.&uot;

Parents who would like one of the &uot;Gearing up for a Safe Summer&uot; informational packets from Ferguson’s office should call Diana Klink at 923-2238.