Demonstrations drive the point home at camp

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 26, 2003

A body flying out of a truck cab and flopping perfectly on its back doesn’t usually inspire laughter, but it did Wednesday.

&uot;If this were a human being on the road, it wouldn’t be as funny, would it?&uot; said Sergeant Dewey Severson of the Minnesota State Patrol.

He was at the City Arena Wednesday for the final day of the Albert Lea Safety Camp, a three-day camp run by the Albert Lea police and fire departments. Severson’s demonstration entailed a spinning truck cab that tumbled a dummy without a seat belt.

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Severson said the laughter was unfortunate and says that children are desensitized by television and movies to violence.

But he said that makes it all the more important to get the message out about safety and danger. Much of his presentation was met by gasps and moans by 60 third and fourth-graders while watching footage of accidents and simulated accidents.

Officer Jim Stark, who helped coordinate the camp &045; which included lessons on home, water, electrical, fire and gun safety and more &045; said the camp is not meant to scare children.

&uot;We’re trying to educate using graphic images,&uot; he said.

Kids saw a demonstration of a figure being shocked by a cattle fence. They learned to wear life preservers when they ride in a boat. And they learned to always wear a seatbelt. The children also received a bike helmet and a T-shirt.

It was the first year for the camp, and Stark wants it to continue.

&uot;The point is to keep our kids safe &045; I know that sounds corny,&uot; Stark said. He said that he knows of one child who repeatedly told his parent about the importance of safety after leaving the camp Tuesday; to Stark that means a lot.

But there were also games. &uot;This is the age where a lot of kids are getting hurt, and we want to hedge that and have some fun doing it.&uot;

Children interviewed said they enjoyed the bike ride, the tour of an emergency helicopter and Sgt. Severson’s presentation in particular.

Intense ten-year-old Chaice Frank insisted on telling a visitor the safety tips he learned. He warned of the dangers of power takeoffs on tractors &045; the spinning cylinders some tractors have. He pointed from his hand and up to his shoulder. &uot;It will go up, up until it gets to your shoulder and then WHAM! There goes your arm! So be careful around tractors,&uot; he said with a furrowed brow.

He also emphasized the importance of wearing seat belts. &uot;It’s like a baby-sitter, only it’s in a car.&uot;

Also: &uot;Look twice before crossing the street because you never know what’s going to happen.&uot;

Chelsey Carson, 9, said she hadn’t stopped at stop signs when she rode her bike, but now she said she will, and she’ll wear a helmet, too.

Local businesses and service clubs paid for most of the camp, which ended up costing each child $15 if they lived in Albert Lea and $20 if they didn’t.