JACKSON TWP. The scene at Sauder School on June 14, was one of fun, safety and the sounds of hundreds of kids who were driving their go-carts through Jackson Township's Safety Village.
The program has 150 kids attending each year with more than 30 volunteers from students through adults helping the children learn safety.
"I can't do any of it without the police and fire departments," said Safety Village Director Molly Geiselman.
Geiselman began volunteering for the program 20 years ago when she was 12 and she has been there every year since that time. She, and the director at that time, the late Marilyn Jones, became close, and when Jones became ill she asked Geiselman if she would take over the program. She now has been director for eight years.
The program has been going strong for more than 30 years and Officer John Angelo has been working with the kids for many of those years. He loves the educational value the kids receive from the program.
"The way to be safe. To safely cross the street and learn to wear their seatbelts. It is the safety they are learning through fun," he said.
The young students are like sponges, according to Geiselman and Angelo.
"The repetitiveness is how they learn it," said Angelo.
Geiselman said the students, for the full three hours each day, do the same type of situation over and over. They also ride through the village, which is set up in the gymnasium at Sauder. It is there they learned to safely walk in a cross walk, what to do when a train is approaching and many other safety issues.
Angelo, the district's resource officer at the elementary schools in Jackson Township, said the kids always let him know when they see him that they remember what they learned: click it or ticket, gun safety, fire and much more.
"We reinforce it in the village each day. They remember," he said.
"I think since we make it a fun environment with silly games and silly songs it helps them to remember it. If you love doing something you remember it," added Geiselman.
The kids involved in the program are going into the first and the second grade. They are broken down into groups of 30 and into different color groups.
"It is a fun way for them to learn, as well as say it out loud. They all have a chant, for instance, the Yellow Yard Birds," said Geiselman.
Geiselman said they like the students to have at least one year of school before joining.
"We tried it before that age, but they had never been a school before, rode a school bus, or anything," she said. "It is easier when they have already had that school regiment, they know how to act in a classroom, they know the rules."
The program runs for a fun-filled four learning days. Monday is Police Day; Tuesday Fire Day; Wednesday they learn water safety with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, pool safety from the Jackson Y and poison safety from Rite Aid; and Thursday is a course on bullying, a bike safety demonstration and graduation.
"We hope teaching it at a young age it will instill it in them as they become young adults," said Geiselman.
The cost is $20 and each child receives a t-shirt, lanyard and snacks. Most days they receive a goody bag, and on graduation day they get a certificate and more goodies.
"It is a huge event that we totally rely on our community for. If we didn't have our community to volunteer we wouldn't have the program we have," Geiselman said.
The Police Department also has another program at the fifth- and sixth-grade level called PRIDE (Police Reinforcing Intelligent Decisions through Education). It is tied to fun things, field days, playing basketball with officers, field trips and more.
"Repetitiveness keeps them remembering," said Angelo.
Geiselman said without their sponsors they would not be able to do what they do for the children. Sponsors include, Aultman Trauma Services, Canton Regional chamber of Commerce, Chick-Fil-A, Family of Marilyn Jones, Jackson Township Fire and Police departments, Police Explorers, Ohio Division of Watercraft, Paul and Carol David YMCA, Safe Kids Coalition, the Repository and Jackson Suburbanite. Schaub Electric gave a traffic light to the village.