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At Fun Day, kids learn cops are "cool"

August 09, 1997|By Saturday afternoon, she had changed her mind.

By TERRY TALBERT

Staff Writer

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - What a difference a day makes. Just ask 6-year-old Marissa Tucker.

Before she came to Fun Day Expo '97 at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds on Saturday, Marissa thought policemen "were not so cool."

"They're cool," she said.

The third annual Fun Day, sponsored by area public safety agencies and the Clean FOCUS Coalition, was meant to bring kids together with area firefighters, police officers and paramedics for a day of fun, games and learning.

The kids seemed to get the message that officers and firemen are their friends, and that safety and drug-free lifestyles are important to them as well as their parents.

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Marissa, her brother and two friends from Summit Point, W.Va., were at Fun Day together. By all accounts, they were having a blast.

Josh Davis, 4, was proud that he had just become a "junior policeman". He had the badge to prove it. Unlike Marissa, Josh said he'd always thought police were cool - so cool he plans on being one when he grows up.

Matt Tucker took a break from the dunking booth to talk. He had just dropped one of the local fire chiefs in the tank four times. Matt said when he grows up he wants to be a baseball player, a basketball player and, last but not least, a fireman.

"I think firemen are good," he said. "I give 'em two thumbs up."

Alex Davis, also 8, was also having a blast dunking the chief. But it was nothing personal.

"I want to be a fireman," he said. "I think it's exciting. I'd like to be the one who climbs up the ladder."

Scott Stroop of the Martinsburg Fire Department watched as kids looked up in windblown awe at a state police helicopter hovering overhead, demonstrating a rescue with a dummy on the ground below.

Stroop said his department and other firefighters were trying teach kids life-saving skills with demonstrations scheduled throughout the day. One was a smoke-filled house on wheels that is used to teach kids to stop, drop and roll, he said.

"We've been doing this in the schools in Berkeley County. It was videotaped and now it's in every elementary school in West Virginia," Stroop said. "It's geared to fifth-graders on down. It's important, because if a fire happens, you're on your own."

Stroop said the fire trucks at the fairgrounds were a hit with most of the kids who came to Fun Day. "All little kids want to be a fireman," he said.

Dylan Coffman, 7, of Leetown, W.Va., was at Fun Day with friends and family members. He and the other kids gripped a booklet filled with autographs and sticker "badges" they'd collected during the day.

The Sticker Challenge game encouraged kids to greet every police officer, firefighter or Emergency Medical Technician they saw, and get his or her sticker and autograph.

Kids who collected the most stickers got prizes. Along the way, they made new friends.

Ashley Hardy, 9, of Charles Town, had collected 39. She was impressed with the officers she met, but wants to be a scientist and study space when she grows up.

Kristin Hardy, 5, said she likes police officers "because they get the bad guys," and firefighters because "they get out the fire."

She wants to work in a store ... and be a policewoman.

`Good guys'

Third Lt. Steve Anderson of the Citizen Fire Co. of Charles Town said it was good to see kids and public safety officials interacting.

"Some kids are kind of afraid," he said. "This gives them a chance to learn that their police and firemen are good guys. It teaches them how everybody works together."

By mid-afternoon, an estimated 750 people had come to Fun Day. Debbie Royalty of Clean FOCUS was happy with the turnout.

"What we kept seeing all day with the Sticker Challenge were officers walking along and kids running to them. The officers and firefighters really enjoyed it.

"It was nice for them to be seen by small children as someone to look up to, and not be afraid of."

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