Downtown Middletown was abuzz this past Saturday as area families spilled onto Main Street for the annual Middletown Kid’s Health and Safety Day. The event, which began six years ago, is a collaborative effort between the Middletown Police, Health, and Safety Departments.
“This event was created to give both parents and caregivers an opportunity to learn about a variety of health and safety issues that affect them and their children,” said Middletown Community Health Educator and Director of Kid’s Health and Safety Day Lou Carta.
With no admission fee and near perfect weather, Carta said that he hoped for a turnout of up to 500 people.
Health and Safety Day featured numerous hands-on activities, both informative and entertaining, for children and their parents. Children were invited to take a turn bouncing in an inflatable wizard’s council or to take a free police badge sticker. Others opted to race around a remote control car course run by Middletown Deputy Police Chief Phil Pessina. A large tent stood nearby where parents could obtain information about health concerns such as diabetes, HIV, and asthma.
Families also worked their way through the “Breath Express” trailer, an interactive exhibit hosted by the American Lung Association of Connecticut. One of three of its kind in the country, the “Breath Express” was created to provide sixth through eighth graders with information about indoor and outdoor air quality, asthma, and the risks associated with smoking. One of the exhibit’s notable features is a display in which children are able to observe a set of real pig lungs in order to imagine what their own lungs look like.
In addition to stations representing the Middletown Health, Fire, and Safety Departments, tables were set up by organizations such as the Middletown SWAT team and the Narcotic Enforcement Officers Association. SWAT team members allowed parents and children alike to try lifting pieces of their official SWAT team uniform, including a 30-pound Kevlar vest.
Attendants of Health and Safety Day were also welcome inside the Middletown Police Department at 222 Main St., which opened its doors to two of the day’s most popular stations. The Connecticut Childhood Identification Program (CTCHIP) and free vision screenings prompted many families to visit the building.
CTCHIP, a three-year-old program, allows parents and guardians to collect basic information about their children in the event of a kidnapping or abduction. Parents waited patiently as they ushered their children around a large room to complete a videotaped interview, a video still photograph, a fingerprint record, and a dental impression. Once completed, parents were instructed to keep all items for their records.
While the event covered an array of serious health and safety topics, the mood was kept cheerful by the weather and the upbeat music that resonated down Main Street. In addition to music provided by an official DJ, children could create their own beat in a drum circle led by Green Street Arts Center music teacher Lance James.
The Arts Center’s newly appointed Assistant Director Lex Leifheit dispersed information about class schedules to parents and looked on as James helped groups of children drum in unison.
“Using your imagination and staying active is definitely healthy, and that’s what the arts are all about,” Leifheit said.