Hundreds of kids journeyed from booth to booth Saturday, meeting officers from Carson City law enforcement departments, people from service and youth clubs, eating, playing and just plain having fun.
The carnival-like event at Cops and Kids Sheriff’s Open House outside the Sheriff’s Office gave officers and children a chance to interact.
“It’s called an open house, but it’s also a safety fair,” Lisa Davis, Juvenile Programs coordinator, told the Nevada Appeal.
“Every student should know at least one officer by first name. We want to break down those barriers.”
The kids themselves were there to have fun. In the process, they also learned a few things.
“Quizzing at the 911 (booth) was helpful,” said Margaret Lindhjem, who was there with her 4-year-old son Gunnar. “We need to keep practicing our address for 911 calls.”
Rosa, mom to Manny Santa Cruz, 4, also found the 911 booth helpful.
“He learned to call 911 if there’s an emergency,” she said.
Some booths offered helpful exercises disguised as fun and games.
The Explorer Scouts taught children to fight back by giving them a soft bat and a chance to swing at Explorer Alan Fitch, dressed in a heavily padded suit.
After swinging at the padding, Camryn Brennan, 6, said she especially enjoyed the K9 officers and horses.
The horses “are soft and silky, like a blanket,” she said. “I learned that Charlie (the police horse) has been a police officer a long time.”
Leslie Stoll, a mounted patrol reserve deputy, showed the kids and parents how and where to pet the large animals.
The children want to touch the horses so badly, she said, and “then when they get up there, it’s like, ‘they’re so big!’” she said of the kids’ reactions.
“This is my favorite part of my job. For a lot of them, it’s the first time they touched a horse.”
At only 3 years old, Melissa True wasn’t intimidated by the animal many times her size.
“He’s so cute,” she said.
The older kids found the Carson City SWAT Team booth particularly fascinating.
On display were the gear, guns and the trailer they use doing their job.
Joey Trotter, who has been on the team for six years, said the most frequent questions were about what SWAT stands for — Special Weapons And Tactics — and what the officers do.
“I tell them that when the cops need help, they call us up,” Trotter said.
The officers and others involved in the open house had a sense of mission as they mingled with the children.
It’s important that if the police officers or firefighters have to come to their homes, the children aren’t afraid and they understand we are there to help, said Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper Barb Stapleton, the department’s public-affairs coordinator.
“These kids, they’re our replacements. They will be the ones taking care of us,” she said.
“I hope at least five of these kids will be vying for my job.”