Safe Kids program exhorts Avon Lake students to walk, while staying safe

Jamie Franco, principal at Avon Lake’s Eastview School, talks with 415 students about the importance of getting exercise by walking to school, and how to be safe while walking.


Safe kids – Kelsey Sheehan and Catherine Fazio, third grade students at Avon Lake’s Eastview School, demonstrate how children can alert drivers they are crossing the street. It was one of the tips they learned during last week’s Safe Kids program. (photos by Michele Murphy)


AVON LAKE – Hundreds of little feet and hands – 415, to be exact – plus dozens of adult feet and hands were very busy last Wednesday at Avon Lake’s Eastview Elementary School on Lear Road as they practiced walking safely to school or around their neighborhoods.

Greater Cleveland Safe Kids/Safe Communities Coalition, led locally by University Hospitals’ Rainbow Baby and Children’s Hospital, made its first foray to a Lorain County school to encourage children to get more exercise by walking to school and doing so safely.

Students walked around school grounds accompanied by Avon Lake police officers, including Chief Duane Streator; representatives from FedEx, the program’s national corporate sponsor; University Hospitals staff; teachers, staff and principal Jamie Franko.

Once seated in a large semi-circle in the recess area behind the building, Principal Franko announced that a special guest with an important message was just waiting inside the back doors of the building. He then encouraged children to woo him out of the building by clapping and making “woof, woof” sounds. As they complied, Clifford, The Big Red Dog, made his way to the front as the crowd cheered and wiggled for better positions to see their guest of honor. Mandy Nagle, communications coordinator for Rainbow’s Injury Prevention Center, pitched in by reading aloud from “Clifford Takes a Walk.”

Kristin Feranti, whose 3rd grade students were in the audience, praised the program, saying it promotes three important goals: safety, being healthy and being outside.

Kelsey Sheehan and Catherine Fazio, third grade students, agreed it was important to learn about safety. They said they thought younger children, in particular, need help when it comes to safely crossing the road.

Applying what they learned from the program, Kelsey advised to look left-right-left before crossing, while Catherine suggested raising a hand as you cross the street so adult drivers are better able to see you.

Franko believes all students “need a refresher, even in 4th grade.” He said he hopes, as a result of the program, students will be able to walk more safely and will talk to their parents and siblings about the tips they learned.

Copies of the book were donated to each classroom. Each child also was given a “walk this way” sticker for participating in the program. Carlie Markiewitz, another University Hospitals’ staff member, said “walk this way” is the Safe Kids national campaign slogan.

Franko, who is in his first year as principal at Eastview, said he was pleased the program could be brought to Avon Lake students. University Hospitals staff explained that schools are selected to participate in the program based on criteria that includes both teacher and community support, especially from local police.

Franko added that teachers will reinforce key points from the lesson during activities planned throughout the school year. “It’s an important message,” he said. “We have a lot of walkers. Kids need to know what to look for.”

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