Children learn about health and safety at expo in Morris

Children learn valuable lessons at Saratoga School expo

Jenny Menz and Josh Collins brought their children, Parker and Caleb, to the Children’s Health and Safety Expo Saturday morning for a fun weekend activity, but the young boys ended up learning something, too.

The spinning wheel at the Grundy County Emergency Management Agency, manned by Marcy Schroeder, enthralled them. Each spin landed on a question about preparedness, such as, “What should be included in a disaster supply kit for animals?”

Schroeder helped them understand the answers to the questions, and the boys spun the wheel over and over, initiating new situations each time.

“We always have kids who love this,” Schroeder said. “Some of them stay to read every question.”

“It’s a good way to engage the kids,” GCEMA Director Joe Schroeder said. “It also sparks conversation with their parents about emergency preparedness.”

Schroeder said he hoped the information sparked home discussions about how families can prepare for such emergencies like storms.

The agency also had take-away materials on what should be included in disaster supply kits, among other information.

The expo was sponsored by state Rep. David Allen Welter, R-Morris, and state Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, and held at Saratoga School. It featured more than 35 booths of state and local agencies, nonprofit organizations and local businesses.

Welter said he began hosting the expo a few years ago as a learning experience for area families.

“We want to let parents and youth see what’s here for them,” he said.

Welter said pulling together law enforcement agencies and nonprofit organizations all in one place gives parents a great resource for a wide variety of information. A good example was the Illinois State Police, Welter said, who were there making identification cards for children, using their fingerprints and photos. Welter said he and his wife had cards made for their children, too.

Starla Farmer also was at the expo, representing the Morris Area Public Library. There is a lot for children at the facility, she said, including the new Kids’ Book Club every Saturday in September. Family Flannel Fest will return this year on Sept. 25 during the Grundy County Corn Fest, and Lab Ratz, a hands-on science club, will meet the last Saturday of every month.

Farmer also leads “Starla’s Study Studio” Mondays after school at the library, which she said is a safe space for students to do homework and have some after-school snacks.

A kid favorite at the expo was the Touch-a-Truck in the parking lot. Enormous snowplows especially got a lot of attention.

Two-year-old Theo Lurquin was particularly fascinated with the fire trucks, said his parents, Pete and Val Lurquin, of Joliet. He also enjoyed watching the demonstration of the K-9 unit by the Illinois State Police. He wasn’t even afraid of the dog.

“We have a 90-pound lab at home,” Pete said.

Amber Stambaugh, Kelsey Panico and Sue Castanier, of Oswego and Morris, brought kids Quinn, 5; Ellie, 17 months; and Spike, 1, looking forward to the animals from Brookfield Zoo. Quinn said her favorite was the hedgehog. The zoo also brought an owl, a skink and spiders.

Cub Scout Pack 476 Committee Chair Amanda Carlson and Den Leader Michaela Boaz hosted a display on what scouts offers. The pack accepts boys and girls now, who Boaz said learn lessons about building character, citizenship, and setting goals, among others. Carlson said they are already planning a Halloween lock-in for this fall, camping trips and a pinewood derby.

Members of Donna Mueller’s School of Dance also gave lyrical, musical theater and dance presentations at the expo.

“Not only does dance provide exercise,” Mueller’s teacher Kristin Olsen said, “but it also promotes confidence, helps kids work together as a group and allows them to form bonds of friendship. ... Our girls can compete with each other and still support each other.”

Olsen said several parents signed their children up for classes while at the expo, and many others showed interest.