Bethel Twp FD Lt. James Carperter assists a foster child in fitting a new helmet to go with her new bicycle. Andy Grimm | PHOTO

Over 200 children in foster families were awarded a free, gently-used or new bike at Family & Youth Initiatives’ (FYI) seventh annual “Safety Day” festival held Aug. 8 near the grandstand at Tecumseh High School. Local law enforcement officials, first responders, and community organizations eagerly took the opportunity to meet and share safety information with local families on the beautiful Tuesday afternoon.

According to the Executive Director of FYI, Pat Benaszak, Safety Day was begun as a fun way to offer useful health and safety information to families, and foster positive relationships between them and their local law enforcement officers and first responders.

The event opened with Clark County Chief Deputy, Travis Russell, offering prayer and Tecumseh AFJROTC members posting the colors before approximately 900 festival-goers scattered to gather health and safety information from first responders and over 50 vendors. CareFlight and K-9 demonstrations were also available. Other attractions also proved popular with visitors.

A Children’s Corner was packed and offered many activities, including games, face-painting, making Ident-a-Kid cards, and hanging out with Patches the Bear. The Second Harvest Mobile Food Pantry was on hand with boxes of free food for visitors and families. Restoration Park Church gave clothes away to over 100 families. Mercy Health’s Mobile Mammography Unit was a huge success, it even added an extra hour to its stay. A play area with a pair of Smash Balls stayed busy throughout the afternoon.

The annual Tug of War match-up between law enforcement officers and firefighters was one highlight of the afternoon. The Clark County Deputies won the match and have bragging rights until next year.

Springfield Christian band, Urban Field, entertained attendees.

Of all of the day’s activities, Benaszak says watching the foster families receive free bikes and bike helmets was the highlight of the day.

The bikes were given away to foster families as part of FYI’s new initiative, Bikes for Dominic (BFD). BFD is the brainchild of FYI’s teen leadership group, DEFY. BFD honors former FYI volunteer and employee, Dominic Maiorano, who died in 2016 from injuries sustained in a motorcycle crash when he was 20-years-old. Maiorano loved bikes, and his parents, Jeff and Kellye, played an instrumental part in making BFD such a huge success.

“Watching the kids’ faces as they rode around on their new bikes was just so cool,” comments Benaszak, “The Maioranos are hugely supportive of Bikes for Dominic, and we are working hard to make it (BFD bike distributions) an annual event.”

Benaszak says response to the 2017 Safety Day festival was overwhelmingly positive by both participants and families.

“...I’m so happy we were able to have this at Tecumseh again, it works well and allows for more participation. The weather was perfect. Approximately 900 people attended (the event). What’s really exciting is that every vendor has asked us to put them down for next year too, so the event is growing, which is just wonderful! Next year I hope we can add vendors with information about physical and emotional health, as well as vendors with material geared more towards the Senior population that covers topics like senior safety, caretaking, and self-care for caretakers...All in all, the day was great and I’m very thankful and happy with how everything turned out!”

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