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Nearly 400 "Play It Safe"

  • Category: In The News
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  • Written By: Melanie Zaffuto
Nearly 400 "Play It Safe"

Hundreds of local children and their families combined education with games, refreshments at “Play It Safe.” The inaugural event was sponsored by North Oaks Health System and 30 community partners on October 24 in Historic Downtown Hammond’s Cate Square.

“We welcome opportunities to get involved with activities like Play It Safe that have a positive influence on the quality of children’s lives in our community,” affirms Stephanie Kropog, secretary of one community partner—the Hammond Kiwanis Club.

From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., the park was organized into “zones” highlighting safety and injury prevention within the home, sports, outdoors and motor vehicles. Snack and fun zones also were featured.

Play It Safe supports North Oaks Medical Center’s voluntary efforts to become an American College of Surgeons-verified Level II Trauma Center.

The event also complemented Hammond’s accreditation through the National Safety Council’s Safe Communities America program. This designation is awarded to communities demonstrating leadership in promoting safety, reducing injuries and preparing their citizens for both natural and man-made disasters.

“Hammond prioritizes safety in everyday life,” states Hammond Mayor Pete Panepinto. “This event brings it all together by enabling families to find hands-on learning activities and simple changes that can make their lives safer.”

More than 150 pre-registered participants, ages 2-12, were fitted for a free bike helmet in the Wheel Zone, compliments of North Oaks and the Hammond Rotary Club with GrayCat CycleWorx employees ensuring proper fit. Daryl Ferrara, president of the Hammond Rotary Club, points to the organization’s passion for serving others, especially children, as their motivation for sponsoring the bike helmets.

Anchoring the Wheel Zone was a child-size replica of Historic Downtown Hammond, known as the “Safety City.”

“The Safety City exhibit, courtesy of the City of Hammond, was a big hit with the children,” asserts Leon Philpot of the Louisiana Children’s Discovery Center. “The hands-on nature of the exhibit reinforced the concepts being promoted and gave the children a visual image of what it means to ‘Play It Safe’ in our community.”

Hammond’s Safety City is made possible by a Louisiana Safe Routes to School grant. Playologists from the Louisiana Children’s Discovery Center helped the children navigate through the course on bicycles.

All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) safety – an area of increasing concern for local law enforcement and health care providers alike – also was emphasized in the Wheel Zone with the assistance of Alexis Ducorbier Insurance Agency.

“An increase in the number of patients treated as a result of ATV crashes actually was the push for Play It Safe to be organized,” explains Tyler Brignac, a trauma performance improvement nurse with North Oaks Health System. “When we saw an uptick in the number of children and adults suffering head and neck injuries, broken limbs and even death from ATV rollovers and collisions, we knew we had to do something to bring ATV safety to the forefront. Play It Safe was born and just grew to include other community safety concerns from there.”

North Oaks Certified Programs Director Katie Sheets adds, “A big part of our Trauma Program’s mission is to provide education to minimize the occurrence of preventable injuries in our region, which are the #1 cause of death among children in the U.S. according to Safe Kids Worldwide.”

North Oaks Shock Trauma Program Medical Director and Trauma Surgeon Juan Duchesne agrees, “This statistic really hits home for our Shock Trauma and Emergency Room teams. We treat thousands of children each year who suffer injuries that could have been prevented.”

Dr. Duchesne and fellow Trauma Surgeon Marquinn Duke warned teens and adults about the dangers of distracted and impaired driving—the consequences of which they deal with all too often in the Operating Room. To drive home the point, participants navigated oversized tricycles while wearing “fatal vision” goggles to simulate impairment.

The Wheel Zone also gave children the chance to explore first responder vehicles, including a Hammond Fire Department ladder truck and an Acadian ambulance.

Certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians from North Oaks and the Louisiana Passenger Safety Task Force offered free, on-the-spot car seat checks and installations to give parents peace of mind. For children no longer in car seats, KEYS Alliance and TRACC Coalition shared lessons on the importance of proper seatbelt use.

In the “Home Zone,” health, hygiene and emergency preparedness were the orders of the day. North Oaks Dietetic Interns showed children how to wash their hands, and Junior Girl Scout Troop gave peer-to-peer lessons on home and kitchen safety. Troop members represent DC Reeves Elementary School, Martha Vinyard Elementary School and Tangi Academy.

Poison Control and the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s DARE program helped warned against the dangers of illegal drugs and flammable and poisonous materials. Children worked with Becky Haase, a nurse practitioner with North Oaks Primary Care Clinic in Independence, to stock their very own “ouch kit” with bandages and other first aid supplies. Tangipahoa Parish 911 officials used Plinko, a trivia wheel and beanbag toss games to teach children when and how to use the universal emergency phone number.

Jodie Wright Rohner, Executive Director of Crime Stoppers of Tangipahoa, outfitted participants for Halloween with reflective trick-or-treating bags and flashing light clips. Play It Safe offered a great avenue for us to share tips for being street-wise year-round and enlist children and adults in crime prevention efforts,” Wright Rohner affirms.

“My boys had a great time and learned a lot,” said Hammond resident Lindsey Higgins, who attended the event with her sons Logan Higgins, 5, and Landon Richoux, 9. “The event was very informative to me as a parent. Fire safety made the biggest impression on us, but we picked up many tips throughout the day—even on gun safety, which was really timely as my oldest is about to get his first BB gun.”

Landon Richoux pinpointed the Pillowcase Project, sponsored by the American Red Cross in cooperation with Disney, as his favorite activity of the day. The Pillowcase Project uses a “learn, practice, share” framework to teach children about personal and family preparedness, local hazards, and basic coping skills. Upon completion, they receive a Disney pillowcase to use to build their own emergency supplies kit at home.

Logan Higgins excitedly shared his newfound knowledge of what to do in case of a fire in his home, including checking to see if closed doors are hot to the touch before opening, having alternative escape plans, and how to stop, drop and roll.

Powerful Paws Ambassador Hayward the dog enjoyed lots of attention from adoring fans, while helping to spread Child Advocacy Services’ mission of giving voice, healing and security to children.

In the Sports and Outdoors Zone, Hug-A-Tree shared outdoor survival skills, North Oaks Sports Medicine stressed the importance of proper stretching and hydration, and Small Time Skate Shop demonstrated skateboard safety. The Natalbany Elementary School Girl Scouts promoted playground safety, and Louisiana Wildlife & Fisheries demonstrated the use of tree stand harnesses to prevent hunting accidents.

In between learning, children frolicked in the “Fun Zone” to music provided by KAJUN 107.1 FM, created masterpieces for the Daily Star-sponsored coloring contest, had their face painted by members of Alpha Omicron Pi women’s fraternity and took “safety selfies.”

They also fueled their energy with snacks provided by Berrytown Produce, Champagne Beverages, Chick-fil-A, Hammond Kiwanis Club, Raising Canes, Santa Fe Cattle Company, Subway and TRACC Coalition.

North Oaks Medical Center has trauma surgeons in-house at the hospital 24/7 to attend to victims suddenly stricken by serious traumatic injury. The hospital’s trauma program serves patients in Region 9, which includes Tangipahoa, Livingston, St. Helena, St. Tammany and Washington Parishes. In addition, the program is part of the Louisiana Emergency Response Network, an agency of state government created to develop and maintain a statewide system to coordinate care for trauma patients.

To learn more about Play It Safe and the North Oaks Medical Center Shock Trauma Program, watch a recap video or call North Oaks Public Relations at (985) 230-6647.