Zachary Avery, Marissa Stoner and Ben Rayfield, second-graders at Pumpkin Center Elementary School, laugh with â€œTrooper Safe T. Firstâ€ during Wednesdayâ€™s Adopt-a-Cop picnic at Betty G. Ross Park. Jenny Walling / LTN Photo
Angie McMahan and Megan Moore from Battleground Elementary School take a trip down the inflatable slide. Jenny Walling / LTN Photo
Wearing matching white T-shirts and grinning from ear to ear, about 1,200 second-graders converged on Betty G. Ross Park Wednesday for the annual end of the year Adopt-a-Cop picnic.
They ran from station to station, learning about seat belt use, fire safety and stranger danger.
The Adopt-a-Cop program aims to teach elementary school students the basics of safety and also serves to build strong relationships between kids and law enforcement officers.
â€œThe Lincoln County Sheriffâ€™s Office and the Lincolnton Police Department understand that the power of example is very important to these children, and we try to set a positive one for the kids by educating them on what we do,â€ said Lt. Kent Lukach, training and crime prevention officer for the LPD.
Officers visit the second-grade classrooms about once a month. Their lessons focus on every aspect of safety.
â€œIâ€™ve really learned to call 911 if you see anyone hurt or anything,â€ said 8-year-old Caitlyn Potter.
â€œWhen you see a fire, donâ€™t try to put it out, go tell your parents and tell them what happened,â€ said Aubrey Sigmon, 8.
â€œI learned about different kinds of drugs and not to take them,â€ said 8-year-old Noah Cline.
â€œIt was good to listen to them, and he tried to teach us safety and stuff,â€ said Ashton Ivey, 8.
A host of agencies were positioned around the park, and members offered up exhibits and demonstrations for the kids.
Troopers with the North Carolina State Highway Patrol used a motorized trooper named â€œSafe T. Firstâ€ to teach children the importance of wearing their seat belts.
â€œThe Highway Patrolâ€™s goal is to educate children at an early age to get in the habit of wearing their seat belt, so when they grow up to be adults, itâ€™s like second nature,â€ Sgt. C.D. Berry said. â€œIf you get them while theyâ€™re still young, theyâ€™ll just stick with it.â€
Lukach said that being a law enforcement officer comes with the responsibility of education.
â€œEvery great law enforcement officer I have ever known has also been a great teacher, able to give those around him a sense of perspective and to set the moral, social and motivational climate among those around him,â€ he said.
â€œWe try to do this with the children all year long, and near the end of the school term we hold this event to give them one last thing before summer starts.â€
by Alice Smith