Jul. 17—Children were given opportunities on a bright and sunny Saturday afternoon for free bicycles, pizza, snow cones and up-close looks at all kinds of vehicles used by the region's first responders.
A few hundred people turned out for the community outreach event from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Roxbury Park, 1430 Franklin Street.
The event was in the making for a year and hosted by a team including Tim Grose, Dawn Thompson, Jessica Webb and Emily Hoffman from the 2021 Cambria Regional Chamber John B. Gunter Leadership Initiative.
"We wanted to do a summer activity for kids in town and couple that with helping people build positive relationships with first responders," said Grose, who is a community school director at the Greater Johnstown School District.
Music played from speakers as families spent time getting to know police officers, paramedics, fire fighters and members of the Cambria County water rescue team.
In addition, about 70 bicycles and helmets were given to children by CommuniCycle, an outreach program based in Beaver County.
Chas Cypher, Johnstown Police patrolman and school resource officer, arranged the gifts from CommuniCycle. Cypher gave a few bikes away himself during the school year, and he learned how many kids could really use one, he said.
Johnstown Police Capt. Mike Plunkard was at the park with his four-legged K-9 partner, Archie, a young French mastiff, the department's community comfort dog.
"It's a great event today," Plunkard said. "The kids enjoy seeing all the vehicles, and there are a lot of first responders here."
Police brought armored vehicles to show; Johnstown Fire Department Capt. Ben Meyers displayed a 100-foot ladder truck at the park, and Conemaugh Health System paramedics allowed children to climb into a medical helicopter.
"Kids are having fun, and it's nice to get out and do this," Meyers said. "It's a good way for us to share about what our job really is day to day."
Pizza was provided by The Efficiency Network (TEN). The organization is working on energy efficiency projects in the Greater Johnstown School District, and business development manager Chris Howe learned of the event at a school board meeting.
Greater Johnstown Elementary School assistant principal Molly O'Neil said the day was a success.
"Our community and school representatives have been working together on this for months, and the results are fantastic," she said.
Jessica Cunningham visited the event with her 4-year-old son, Nash.
"He's always afraid of guys with uniforms on, so it's nice to have this," she said.