Friday, October 10, 2008

Fire Prevention Week 2008

We are just concluding a very busy and successful fire prevention week here in the Des Moines area. Sparky has been very busy with prevention activities every day!

We started last week with our "Delivering Fire Prevention" program where LAFS For Life teamed up with Des Moines Fire, Papa Johns Pizza, State Farm and the Greater Des Moines Safe Kids Coalition. Sparky rode the fire truck and we selected families randomly that ordered pizza delivery that night Their pizzas were delivered with a fire truck in tow. We proceeded to test smoke detectors in the homes with pizza delivery. If their smoke detectors worked, they received a coupon for a FREE pizza. Every home we entered were given a combination smoke/carbon monoxide detector.

We discovered some alarming statistics:
  • Of the 18 homes visited we were able to enter 15 of the homes.

  • 8 homes had NO smoke detectors.

  • We found a total of 13 smoke detectors of which 11 of them worked.

  • 16 smoke detectors were given away.

  • 43 informational packets were distributed to interested neighbors.

We have one one pizza delivery remaining which will take place in Ankeny, IA on the evening of October 16th.

Sparky "edutained" at the Des Moines Fire Department's Fire Prevention Week Open House, which was held last Sunday at Firestation #3. It was a beautiful fall day and the public came out to spent an enlightening afternoon at the firestation. There were numerous educational displays for families to see and learn about fire prevention/safety. The Fire Safety House was on site for tours.

I kept busy all week long presenting educational programming in 4 schools and one senior living apartments. I was able to educate over 1,100 people this week. I presented all-school assemblies to 2 elementary schools and programming to all first graders of 2 elementary schools.

I was able to send out prevention messages to over a hundred elementary classrooms through our new video e-mail program through Talk Fusion.

This week was a milestone for LAFS For Life as we celebrated 10 years of providing educational programming in Des Moines and beyond! Over the past 10 years we have had the opportunity to present educational safety programs to over 150,000 children and older adults!!!!

Fire Prevention Week may have come to a close, but LAFS For Life will continue to work year-round with their prevention efforts. If you would like to follow our schedule, you can do so at our online calendar of events:

Remember, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!"

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Do they listen?

October of 2008 I celebrate 10 years of presenting educational programming in area schools. My efforts have been concentrated primarily on grades K-5 in the form of all-school assemblies. Shows most always consist of my clown character, Sparky, combined with puppets, music, skits and magic. Programs are changed completely each year with a new theme, set and educational messages. We do this because we’re invited back to the same schools year after year so most of the children in Des Moines have grown up with my character and programming.

Over the past year I have presented hundreds of shows to over 150,000 children primarily in Central Iowa.

Last spring I shared a unique experience and stepped into a “middle” school with teenagers! I was working on a task force with the Greater Des Moines Safe Kids Coalition and we spent an entire day in a Middle School educating students on a variety of safety messages. To set the scene, we had five stations set up in the gym. Each station had a different presenter with an interactive project for students to do. It was all created with a competition theme and the overall event was entitled “Safety Olympics.” As kids entered Gym class they would begin the “Safety Olympics.” Once through all five stations they were presented with a Gold Medal for their efforts.

I was working at the “Fire Safety” station. All within 7 minutes time we talked briefly about smoke detectors followed by the competition when teens put a battery in a smoke detector and test it. Two competed against each other at a time. Then they were off to the next station and I would begin all over again with another group.

I was working totally “outside of my comfort zone” both in working with teens AND working without a costume on. The day was long and fairly uneventful. I marveled at how comatose and non-conforming this group of students was compared to my usual perky elementary school kids. The majority of these kids were more into laying on the floor, than participating in our activities. Some looked rough and tough. Some looked stoned. Some depressed. Most had their pants down around their knees. It certainly wasn’t the “fun and friendly environment I was accustomed to.

Finally, in came the last class of the day. They were 6th graders. How refreshing to see they were not much different than the prior year when I saw them as 5th graders at their elementary school. This would be the perfect class to conclude our day!

The fourth group that came through my station…….it happened! As I worked in stealth mode (without costume) all day, nobody recognized me. Until the fourth group of the last hour of our long day. One girl commented that I sounded just like a clown that used to come to her old school all of the time. I grinned and said, “really?” The group started to buzz as they recalled the many antics of Sparky the clown and her friends during the many shows they had seen throughout their elementary school years. Except for one girl.

Lady Godzilla had entered the class late that day and in tears. Her gothic clothing and overly applied black eye makeup was streaming down her cheeks. She sat in a line with the other kids along the South wall of the gymnasium as the teacher explained the rules of the day and our event. She obviously did not want to be there as she continued to stifle her sobs as she smudged black tears from her cheeks. As we began, I quickly lost track of her as I began leading group after group through their fire safety session of the safety Olympics.

There she was, in-group four before me. Her tears were now gone and her demeanor was one of arrogance and anger. The moment the first person brought up “Sparky the Clown” from their old school, she began to share her thoughts. Unlike all of the other students in group four, she shared, “I always hated that clown! She drove me crazy….with that squeaky little voice. Every year I said I wished I had a gun cause I would KILL her.”

For a brief moment, I lost my breath! I couldn’t believe the violence and anger coming from this teen and all aimed at poor sweet little Sparky! I was about to take it personal….but just then her words turned into another direction. No, they weren’t any kinder, but I began hearing:

“That one year when she burned her stupid finger…..and then had that squirrelly bowl that she used to put cool water on it. And that time that one guy choked and she used the Heimlich to save him.” Yes, she continued to go on and on and on and recalled probably the last 3 years of education I had taught her during my “stupid” assemblies.

I began to smile. What started out to be an indirect personal attack on my character, actually turned into a testimonial to the power of our programming. You see, in my business it is rare to ever see the result of your work. I go into a school, present my program and leave. It’s very rare that you ever hear of an incident where a child or family has truly benefited from a real emergency due to my efforts. I think of my efforts with Sparky as being like the story of the pebble that is thrown into the water. The rings come out from where the pebble entered the water, long after the pebble is out-of-site.

This is what educational programming is all about!