A scary and potentially tragic incident at one of JCPRD’s summer camps has inspired the launch of a new public safety campaign.
“The Take a Minute, See What’s In It campaign came about as a result of an incident that occurred at New Century Fieldhouse on July 31 when a young child brought a loaded gun in his backpack to one of our camps,” explained Executive Director Jill Geller. “My understanding is that he was fumbling around in his backpack during the camp to grab something else and the gun discharged. Luckily, no one was hurt, but it could have been tragic.”
In response, a meeting of applicable staff was hastily called, and during a brainstorming session which lasted until 8 p.m. that night, the idea for the new backpack safety campaign was formulated.
“We touch so many lives through our before and after school programs - 1,500 to 1,800 kids every day - and we’ve provided information to all of those parents about the campaign,” Geller said. “We recognize that we are responsible for the safety of children by providing appropriate activities, proper supervision, and safe facilities, but we need the parents to partner with us. That’s why we’ve reached out to parents through direct communication and to the community through a Facebook posting saying ‘please help us out - take a minute and look in your child’s backpack.’”
A total of 5,000 luggage tags for backpacks, and keychains for parents to use have been produced with the Take a Minute, See What’s In It logo to serve as reminders of the new campaign.
The goal of the campaign, Geller said, is simply to make sure that “what happened never happens again, and we don’t have incidents where children bring items in their backpacks that are inappropriate for their participation in a JCPRD program or camp. We may never truly know the outcome of this campaign. If one, or two, or 200 inappropriate things are found in children’s backpacks, if it opens up conversations among parents and their children, and if it is a learning experience for families, then it is a good thing.”
JCPRD also plans to reach out to other community groups and organizations to see if they would like to be part of this campaign as well.
“We’ve already been contacted by park and recreation agencies across the state, and have been asked to present at our state conference about the incident and about the backpack campaign,” she said. “If we can get school districts, park and recreation agencies, and others to get on board, our reach will go even farther.”
The executive director added that she is especially proud of the support of JCPRD staff for this campaign.
“I am really proud of the buy-in we’ve had from our staff on this. “They came up with the idea, they’re implementing it, and they’re promoting it. It’s been a true team effort to make this happen.”