Five years ago, Lake Forest’s Kristin Wildman was brainstorming with Gorton Community Center’s former executive director Brenda Dick about how to keep the young children, who visited the beloved Drop-In Center at Gorton, coming back after they graduated from the program. She remembered her childhood days in Ohio where she attended a camp called Safety Town.
“It’s such a simple idea but something I wanted my girls to experience because I loved it so much,” says Wildman.
Safety Town is an interactive safety awareness program for children ages five to seven offered by Gorton during the summer. The children are introduced to various safety issues in a fun and awith hands-on topics led by community guest speakers as well as visits from the Lake Forest Police Department and Lake Forest Fire Department. Students learn about pedestrian safety by tricycling about a miniature town complete with streets, sidewalks, buildings, stop signs, and a working traffic signal.
“I never imagined that this program would take off as it has,” says Wildman, as Safety Town typically sells out within hours of enrollment opening in the spring. Safety Town was built and donated by Altounian Construction and designed by Lake Forest’s Meredith Drake.
Because of Safety Town’s popularity and the fact that children are only allowed to enroll one time, Gorton enhanced its offerings this year to add sessions for children up to age 10.
The focus of this camp covered many categories pertinent to this age group and included what to do if your security alarm goes off, gun safety, walking home alone, falls, poison, and medicine safety, as well as bullying, cyber bullying, and mindfulness.
“It’s exciting to live in a city that is so open to offer programming like this,” adds Wildman. “We weren’t sure how things were going to unfold because none of us had ever done anything like this before. But it worked, somehow, because we all wanted it to. It makes me wonder about what other things we could dream up and make happen for our children.”
For more information about Safety Town at Gorton Community Center, visit gortoncenter.org.