Gateway: Living

Key Peninsula firefighters make special trip to educate students on helmet safety

At Vaughn Elementary, Key Peninsula Fire Department’s Robert Fisher shows off Key Peninsula Co-op pre-schooler Jaxson Chatigny, whose bi/tricycle helmet Fisher was adjusted correctly for safe riding.
At Vaughn Elementary, Key Peninsula Fire Department’s Robert Fisher shows off Key Peninsula Co-op pre-schooler Jaxson Chatigny, whose bi/tricycle helmet Fisher was adjusted correctly for safe riding. Special to the Gateway

Vaughn Elementary School Principal Susan O’Leary summed things up nicely.

“We are honored each year to have our two amazing fire departments come together to visit our preschool classrooms, take time to talk with our children on their level about fire safety, and to fit each of them with bicycle helmets. We are so thankful for their time!”

And I got to join them for the bi/tricycle helmet fitting exercise.

Key Peninsula Co-op is a parent participation preschool that provides a quality, developmentally appropriate, learning experience for children ages 3 to 5. Through collaboration among teachers, parents, Bates Technical College and the Peninsula School District, it makes available a stand-alone classroom at the Vaughn site and an inclusive classroom at the Evergreen Elementary site.

Vaughn’s ECEAP (Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program) staff includes: teacher Kim George, classroom assistant Jennifer Carter and family support specialist Caren Halvorsen.

“Because kiddos look up to firefighters as heroes,” said George, “it makes bicycle and tricycle safety more important to them. When a firefighter spends time with a child to make sure the helmet fits, they are excited to wear it each time they get on one of our tricycles.”

Student Livian Maravilla-Libby said, “I am so excited!! Teacher Kim, is it true that this helmet is just for me?”

And classmate Zaiden Reel-Chipman says, “Oh yeah, they just gave me this AWESOME helmet!”

Said KP firefighter Robert Fisher, who was on the scene with KP Lt. Chris Hagen, “Any time I have the opportunity to visit young kids in the district’s schools, I’m available. I feel they enjoy and love it as much as I do. It helps when we visit on an emergency situation if the kids have seen us previously in a different environment. It helps change the tension and mood. Helping make kids happy makes me happy.”

“I am so glad that my helmet is going to match my new bike,” said student Kolten Croxen, whose classmate Andrew Jones exulted, “Wow, a new bike helmet, for me?”

“Each year Teacher Kim invites us to her classroom to custom fit helmets for her preschool students to ensure each student’s head and brain is protected while riding trikes at school,” Gig Harbor Fire’s Nanette Tatom said. “Children who learn at an early age how a properly fit helmet feels and protects them are more likely to wear one the rest of their lives.”

Tatom was assisted by Sheila Spaulding, a teacher who recently moved here from California.

“A chance meeting with Nanette at the Scarecrow Festival got us talking about our teaching careers and how her job as fire prevention specialist involved quite a lot of interaction with all the schools in the Peninsula School District,” said Spaulding. “I asked to volunteer. That day we had been to Chapel Hill Preschool to talk to kids about smoke detectors in their houses, to the Gig Harbor Library to read a fire safety book at reading hour, and then out to Vaughn.”

This sort of collaboration makes our community so special.

Hugh McMillan is a longtime contributing writer for the Gateway. He can be reached at hmcmnp1000@centurytel.net.

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