GARDNER – The annual Kids Safety Day sponsored by Gardner Elks Lodge #1426 has become a popular summer community tradition. This year's event will be held Saturday, June 25.
Officials said they expect about 200 children and their families will turn out for the event, to be held 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Elks Lodge at 31 Park St.
Jonathan Croteau, exalted ruler of the Gardner Elks, said the free event is aimed at educating local children about various ways they can keep themselves safe throughout the year. Sponsoring the event is one of the ways the organization can give back to the community, he added.
“It’s just important to us to get out in the community and show the public what we do,” Croteau said. “They community loves it, and we love doing it. It’s one of our bigger events of the year.”
In addition to bicycle safety demonstrations from the Gardner Police Department and fire safety tips courtesy of the Gardner Fire Department, the event will also offer free bicycle helmets (while supplies last) and fittings, child fingerprinting, a K9 search demonstration from one of the Phillipston Police Department’s bloodhounds, and the Elks’ Drug Awareness Trailer, featuring lodge mascot Elroy the Elk and police mascot Daren the Lion.
“We’ll also have raffles where we’ll be raffling off various size bicycles, and every child that comes in will get a ticket that they can enter for whichever bike they want” Croteau said, adding that there would be a new item included in this summer’s raffle. “We’ll also be raffling off some scooters this year.”
Croteau said he is grateful to the members of the police and fire departments for their participation in the Safety Day event each year.
“It’s really important to get the children to actually talk to the police and not be afraid of the police, so that way if they ever need help, they know who to call,” he said.
Free hot dogs, ice cream, chips, and water will be served by Elks Lodge volunteers, Croteau said.
“We do have a handful of members that will come out and help, and they’re usually the same ones who come out every year – so, everybody kind of has their job every year and they know what to do,” he explained.
The Elks National Foundation, which local lodge members donate to throughout the year, is funding the event, Croteau said.
“Our lodge actually comes in first place consistently throughout the state of Massachusetts for donations,” he said, adding that the lodge then had the opportunity to apply for grants for events such as Kids Safety Day. “And this year they actually gave us $500 more than in previous years, so that really helps get all the bicycles and all of the supplies we need to make this happen. And we do spend every penny of the grant on Kids Safety Day.”
Public reaction to the event has been overwhelmingly positive over the years, Croteau said.
“People will comment on Facebook and other social media, or even talk to us at the event itself,” he said. “And they say they love it, they think it’s great, and it’s something to do that’s free, which is really helpful. Children can win a bicycle, or they can just get a free helmet and a gift bag, along with free food and safety lessons - they are really happy.”
This article originally appeared on Gardner News: Gardner Elks Lodge to host annual Kids Safety Day