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"Play It Safe" Attracts 600 Participants

  • Category: In The News
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  • Written By: Melanie Zaffuto

Brad and Katie Cascio of Hammond and their daughter Olivia, 3, were among 600 community members who took advantage of North Oaks Medical Center’s Third Annual Play It Safe event from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sept. 30 in Cate Square.

“Part of our Trauma Center’s mission involves providing 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,” states Dr. Marquinn Duke, Medical Director of the North Oaks Trauma Center.

To accomplish this, North Oaks and nearly 40 community partners organized Cate Square into “zones” focused on safety in the home, sports, outdoors and motor vehicles. Each zone highlighted hands-on safety and injury prevention activities.

Zones also were offered for refreshments and fun, including a coloring contest sponsored by The Daily Star and won by 4-year-old Rosie Pedeaux, 6-year-old Charlee Phillips and 9-year-old Skylar Ashford.

After a fitting for a free bike helmet, Olivia spent time navigating a bicycle through a child-size replica of Historic Downtown Hammond in the “Wheels Zone,” known as “Safety City.” The interactive course was sponsored by the City of Hammond and the Louisiana Children’s Discovery Center and made possible by a Louisiana Safe Routes to School grant.

Grants from the Hammond Rotary Club and the Ron S. Macaluso Law Firm made it possible for more than 300 children to receive free bike helmets, which were carefully fitted by Lane Kropog of Mandeville, Dr. Juan Martinez of North Oaks Primary Care in Hammond and Dr. James Nelson of the North Oaks Foundation. All are cycling enthusiasts.

“Olivia really enjoyed riding through the Safety City – especially stopping at the railroad crossing and stop sign,” notes her father Brad Cascio.

The Northshore Regional Safety Coalition was on hand to help reinforce proper traffic signage identification. After the children were guided through an explanation of the specific signs for railroad crossings, bicycle lanes and roundabouts to name only a few, they were able to create their own edible stoplight out of graham crackers and M&M’s.

“Our mission is to reduce traffic-related fatalities and injuries, so in that respect, we share the same goals as the North Oaks Trauma Center,” notes Nelson Hollings of the Northshore Regional Safety Coalition. “Events like Play It Safe are beneficial because they start the conversation at a young age through fun activities that foster a culture of safety.”

Katie Cascio appreciated the demonstration on how to approach an unknown dog safely, which was sponsored by Animal Care Center & Pet Care Center and the Hammond Police Department’s K9 Unit.

Hammond Police Chief James Stewart explains, “Some kids take dogs for granted given that many have friendly one’s at home.”

“It’s a wonderful event,” Brad Cascio comments. “I think it’s great how the first responders came together to support a safer community.”

“As police officers, we find it very helpful when children and their parents meet and talk to us,” Stewart shares. “It gives the children a sense of confidence when their parents have positive interactions with police officers in the event they actually need to ask an officer a question or need assistance when their parents are not around. I always use the lost child at Mardi Gras example. If a child gets displaced, the first person we hope they go to is one of us, so we can work on reuniting them with their parents.”

Crime Stoppers of Tangipahoa, a Play It Safe partner since inception, also was on hand to help parents and children get streetwise. They distributed child ID kits – one of law enforcement’s most important tools in cases of missing children – along with reflective trick or treating bags and clip-on safety flashers.

“Play It Safe is very much needed in our community, and it aligns with everything we do,” affirms Jodie Wright Rohner, executive director of Crime Stoppers.

Fun Zone partners include: Alpha Omicron Pi; American Society of Safety Engineers – SLU Student Section; the North Oaks Stroke Team; Northshore Broadcasting; The Daily Star; Theta Phi Alpha; and Sigma Sigma Sigma.

Home Zone partners include: Crime Stoppers of Tangipahoa; North Oaks Nutritional Services; North Oaks Primary Care Clinic – Hammond; The Home Depot; TRACC Coalition; and Well-Ahead Louisiana.

Sports and Outdoors Zone partners include: Animal Care Center & Pet Care Center, Aqua Safety First Community Program; Cricket Wireless; Louisiana Search and Rescue K9 Team; North Oaks Pediatric Clinic; and North Oaks Sports Medicine.

Snack Zone partners include: Domino’s; Champagne Beverage Co.; Kiwanis Club of Hammond; and Jackson-Vaughn Insurance.

Wheel Zone partners include: Acadian Ambulance Services; Alexis Ducorbier Insurance Agency; Children’s International Medical Group; City of Hammond; the Hammond Fire Department; the Hammond Police Department; Hammond Rotary Club; Louisiana Children’s Discovery Center; the North Oaks Education Department; North Oaks Shock Trauma; North Shore Regional Safety Coalition; Ron S. Macaluso Law Firm LLC; and KEYs Alliance.

Play It Safe is a community outreach effort of North Oaks Medical Center’s Level II Trauma Center, one of only six trauma centers in the state. It has trauma surgeons in-house at the hospital 24/7 to attend to victims suddenly stricken by serious traumatic injury. The hospital’s Trauma Center serves patients in Region 9, which includes Tangipahoa, Livingston, St. Helena, St. Tammany and Washington parishes.

“An increase in the number of patients treated as a result of All-Terrain Vehicle crashes actually was the push for Play It Safe to be organized,” explains Tyler Brignac, Trauma Program Manager with North Oaks Medical Center. “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.”