By Kevin Kelley
If you attended or volunteered at Safety Town, the city’s traffic safety school for children about to enter kindergarten, you’re invited to attend a reunion Thursday afternoon.
Westlake Historical Society President Lysa Stanton has arranged for a photo to be taken of Safety Town alumni tomorrow at 3 p.m. at the safety school, located next to the police station at 27300 Hilliard Blvd.
Stanton happened to be at the police station during a graduation ceremony of a recent Safety Town session and witnessed Mayor Dennis Clough handing out diplomas to graduating students.
“I thought, ‘What a wonderful, wonderful program,’” Stanton recalled.
She went through the historical society’s archives to look for photos or other memorabilia related to Safety Town, now in its 43rd year, but didn’t find many. So she came up with the idea of inviting alumni to gather for a reunion photo.
Through postings on the historical society’s Facebook page, Stanton has already heard from many alumni. The organization is currently collecting photos, mementos and former students’ memories of the safety sessions, she said.
Stanton said she’s planning additional Safety Town reunions in coming years, with the goal of a big celebration to mark the institution’s 45th and 50th anniversaries.
Anna Cavender, the Westlake police officer who has instructed attendees for the past 12 years, is excited about Thursday’s reunion photo.
During the past decade, roughly 250 to 300 young children signed up for Safety Town annually, Cavender told West Life. Nearly the same number of middle- and high-school students serve as volunteers, she said.
Cavender said she’s constantly promoting Safety Town around Westlake because of the important life lessons it imparts to youngsters. In addition to learning such things as how to safely cross the street, students learn that real guns can look like toy guns. During a tour of the Westake police station, Cavender shows children a display of guns confiscated by officers over the years. She asks the youngsters which are real and which are toys. Some children say the very small guns are toys, even though all are real.
The city plans to eventually move Safety Town from its current location at the police station to the recreation center, as the police department would like to expand its garage and expand parking, Cavender said. The department is currently accepting donations to fund a future move, she said.