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Kids and parents learn to walk safely

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

HOLYOKE Students who attend the H.B. Lawrence School and their parents received a lesson in safety on Wednesday when International Walk to School Day was celebrated in Holyoke.

About 100 parents and children gathered at the Holyoke Public Library before 8 a.m. to participate in a special walk to the Lawrence School.

Mandi Summers, the Safe Kids Coalition Co-Coordinator, said this was the first time in western Massachusetts such a program has taken place.

The goal of the morning was to teach children how to safely cross the street and other safety tips for the walk to school.

The program was also to encourage parents to walk their young children to school.

"Parents need to model good pedestrian safety, too," she said.

The program was the result of a number of community agencies working together across western Massachusetts and was sponsored by Fed EX and Kohl's Cares for Kids. Baystate Children's Hospital, The Holyoke Public Library, the Holyoke Police and Fire Departments were also participants in the event.

Each child received a water bottle, safety tips and a tee shirt and then walked to the Lawrence School in groups of ten with their parents. The children carried signs reading in English and Spanish, "Be Safe. Be Seen," "Respect," and "Stops for Kids."

Once at the school there was an assembly planned to underscore the lessons of the morning.

Despite the serious message, the mood was festive with the Holyoke Fire Department's talking fire truck interacting with the children.

Although the Lawrence School is quite close to the library, Summers said the route used that morning brought the walkers through streets on which there has been improvements to lights and signage.

Summers explained the area and the Lawrence School had been selected because there have been a significant number of injuries to children from walking to school in the city.

Summers said the Safe Kids Coalition has been working since January on the project and are now looking for additional grant funding to continue the effort in Holyoke.