A little wet weather didn't deter hundreds of parents and their kids from turning Sunday into fun day at a safety education event in South Omaha.
The 11th annual Safety Awareness, Fitness and Education event, sponsored by the Omaha Police Department at the Salvation Army Kroc Center, included bike giveaways and mechanical animal rides. Organizer Ofelia Robles, an Omaha police crime prevention specialist, said only a bike rodeo and a boxing demonstration had to be canceled because of rain.
“This is why this event is so cool,” Robles said. “People are still coming in bunches even though it's been raining all day.”
The event included a visit from the police helicopter as well as the department's mounted patrol and motorcycle unit. Children could tour the Omaha Fire Department's Smoke House and receive a bike helmet during the free event from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Kids could also have their faces painted by a clown, conquer a climbing wall and eat hot dogs and chips.
Victoria Walker and Michelle Gaither paused with their children to get them fitted for new bike helmets. Eight-year-old Grace Gaither and her 6-year-old brother, Gavin, appeared happy with their brightly colored selections.
Grace was excited because she just learned to ride a bike in the past week, her mother said.
“One of the first things she told me afterward is, 'Mom, now I need to get a helmet,'” Gaither said.
Walker said the event was a good excuse to get her 4-year-old son, Willie, and 7-year-old daughter, Ava, out of the house. Willie furiously tugged on his mother's purse to get her moving when he spotted two members of the mounted patrol atop their horses.
“We were looking for something to do, and this worked out well,” Walker said. “Basically, there's only so much they can stand indoors. They like to be outdoors, and we couldn't go swimming ... so here we are.”
The Party Pets on Wheels, sponsored by Deanne Englund of Omaha, were a big hit with kids. They took five-minute turns riding soft, furry mechanical tigers, elephants, giraffes and zebras.
Lulu Perez, 5, steered a red rabbit around an improvised corral as her 8-year-old sister, Abby Giron, held on tight. The girls giggled all through the ride and afterward as they ran to tell their mother, Guadalupe Perez, about the adventure.
“We came out here for the first time last year, and it was really awesome,” Perez said. “They are really having a lot of fun — even with the rain.”
Inside the Kroc Center, children moved among the safety information booths gathering card punches to qualify for chance to win one of about 100 bicycles. The kids and their parents learned about things such as how alcohol can hurt the body.
Linda Gordon said her granddaughter, 5-year-old Rylee, picked up some valuable tips about swimming safety. A volunteer discussed with Rylee the importance of never swimming alone, always having an adult present and using a life jacket.
“We love to go swimming, so that was probably my favorite thing here,” Gordon said. “They did a real good job of explaining everything to her.”
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