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Safety officials share expertise at Health and Safety Expo
Katlyn Ray gets some help and advice on using a life vest Saturday from Kim Martin, Safe Kids Coalition Coordinator, at the Children & Health and Safety Expo put on by American Legion Post 328. - photo by Tom Reed

For a crash course in health and safety, it’s best to turn to the experts.

Kids and parents from the North Georgia community Saturday were able to ask questions and gather advice from service agencies at the inaugural Children & Youth Health and Safety Expo, conducted by American Legion Post 328 of Flowery Branch at the Academies of Discovery Gym.

The event featured Hall County Fire Department, Safe Kids, the American Red Cross and others. Experts talked with parents and kids about healthier lifestyles, fire safety and emergency preparedness.

“I was a little weary of the turnout with this being our inaugural event,” said Johnny Varner, children and youth committee chairman for Post 328. “Wednesday, we went before the Hall County Board of Commissioners, and they declared April as Children and Youth Month. We couldn’t have done it without (Superintendent) Will Schofield and the Hall County Board of Education.”

Varner also gave credit to the Gainesville High School ROTC, whose cadets helped set up and run Saturday’s event.

“It was all youth-oriented and youth ran. We just gave oversight,” Varner said.

GHS junior and ROTC platoon leader Dylan Martin said he found out Thursday night that his cadets would be in charge of the expo, and he didn’t hesitate to accept the offer.

“We’re anxious to do community service,” Martin said. “We love to give back to the community. ... We instill the value of community service (in the cadets).”

Tracey McGruber took her son and daughter to listen to the seminars and left very appreciative and aware.

“In general, I think it’s a great thing,” she said. “It’s good to have something like (the expo), especially for children. It just keeps people aware of risk factors, BMI (body mass index) and safety in general.”

McGruber’s 13-year-old son, Stephen, said he liked the expo on Saturday because of all the different things he learned.

Ken Mason, a member of Post 328, took part in Saturday’s activities as well and was appreciative of the education the kids were given.

“I think the purpose and benefit are outstanding, not only for the children, but also for the parents,” Mason said. “I think just knowing today’s lifestyle, health natured, I think the more you can educate them on and make them aware, the more beneficial it is for the kids. ... I’m very appreciative of the vendors who came and really being supportive of the community.”

Fire Department Lt. Beverley Walker said it was great to talk with those in the community and give them tips to keep them safe.

“Anytime we get the chance to work with the community, we do it,” she said. “It’s part of our mission. This time’s a busy time. We try to participate in all the community events as best we can.”

Kimberly Martin, coordinator for Safe Kids, saw Saturday as great opportunity to teach parents and kids about the leading injuries that plague children ages 14 and under. The organization is a partner to the Gainesville Police Department.

“It’s all about the kids,” she said. “We love what we do, and the kids are very smart. We’re out and about at community events, fairs and school functions. (Children safety) is something near and dear to my heart, especially since I’m a parent.”

Asberry Turner, commander of Post 328, said Saturday’s expo was “extremely important,” and that the information given was “good and valuable,”

For more information on the American Legion Post 328, visit

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