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Kids soak in safety tips at daylong camp
Josue Frayle, 7, smiles while his helmet is checked to make sure it fits properly Tuesday during the annual Camp LifeSavers camp at Laurel Park. Children who participated in a bike safety lesson received a free bicycle helmet. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

"Handcuff me!" five children shout as Gainesville community police officer Melissa Begley holds up her pink handcuffs.

"Pink. Those are for girls," one boy said.

Welcome to Camp LifeSavers, a daylong camp by Hall County Fire Services at Laurel Park to teach children about water safety, poison prevention, bike safety and the jobs of firefighters and police officers.

On Tuesday, 21 children ages 5 through 8 made their own first aid kits, created fire trucks out of tissue boxes, learned how to strap on free bicycle helmets and sprayed water from a fire hose.

"That was my favorite part," said Eddie Venegas, 8, about the hose. "I came again this year because last year was fun."

For Tyler Stevens, 8, the day was all about watching the police.

"I want to be a policeman," he said. "Then I can have handcuffs and a billy club."

In the third year, the camp attracted the biggest group yet and welcomed back repeat attendees.

"Some have been coming since the first year," said coordinator and Fire Services Lt. Beverley Walker. "The kids get excited, and parents like the safety aspects. One parent brought in three students today."

The camp has been successful in the past and may be turned into a two or three-day camp in the future, said Fire Services Capt. Scott Cagle.

Although most of the students claimed they want to work as a police officer or firefighter, self-proclaimed future animal groomer Maddie Woodward, 8, said the information about poison safety interested her the most.

"We learned about poison — spiders, medicines and under your sinks," she said. "You don’t need to mess with it, and you keep things in their original containers."

It’s even a unique experience for the volunteers.

"It’s good to hear that kids want to grow up to be firefighters," said Chad Cooper, a Hall County firefighter who helped the students hold the fire hose. "It’s great to have someone look up to you."

The camp will be held Thursday for 25 children ages 9-11, featuring a look inside a helicopter after it flies into the park.

"I think these sessions are important, and hopefully the kids will remember about safety in the summer," Walker said.

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