“We try to teach them early to try to save lives,” Karsin said.
Fourteen kids took part in the talent contest, which kicked off the day’s events and consisted of four age groups: little tykes, ages 2 to 4; kids, ages 5 to 7; tweens, ages 8 to 12; and teens, ages 13 to 16.
Winners included Joccie Ballengee, 4, the daughter of John and Jennifer Ballengee of Hagerstown; Madisyn Ledder, 6, the daughter of Angie and Jeff Ledder of Hagerstown; and siblings Kristi Barkdoll, 9, and Andy Barkdoll, 13, the children of Susie and Jeff Barkdoll of Waynesboro, Pa.
Andy won the teen category with his energetic performance of Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock and Roll,” a tune featured in the 1983 film “Risky Business.”
“It feels amazing,” Andy said. “I’m so happy. I’m so excited.”
Andy said he’s been performing since he was 4 years old. He said winning the contest was fun, especially since his sister won in the tweens category.
“Everyone did a great job,” he said. “I think that everyone was (a winner), no matter what.”
Vendor stations were scattered throughout the mall, many with giveaways and prizes. A few people dressed in animal costumes walked around hugging and waving to numerous groups of smiling youngsters.
Near the entrance toJ.C. Penney, several parents were registering their children in the Maryland Child Identification Program, which provides a comprehensive identification of kids in case they get lost, run away or are abducted.
Patty Shirley, regional coordinator of the program based out of the Masonic Grand Lodge in Cockeysville, Md., said the program logs a child’s vital information, as well as fingerprints, photos, a short video and a DNA swab.
“Everything is burned to a CD, given to the parents with the sentiment of hope that they never have to use it,” she said.
The system is compatible with the nationwide Amber alert system used by law enforcement to help locate children, Shirley said.
“We’ve never had one that had to be used,” she said. “We did, almost, in Williamsport. A child did run away from home and the parent was very glad that they had the information available to them.”
The free event was sponsored by Meritus Health, Animal Health Clinic of Funkstown, Washington County Department of Social Services’ foster care program, Younger Toyota, Valley Mall andThe Herald-MailCo.