By Lauren Cabral
Killeen Daily Herald
HARKER HEIGHTS - Bounce houses, K-9 demonstrations and Smokey Bear were a few of many entertaining features Saturday at the Safety and Health Awareness Expo in Carl Levin Park.
The event was sponsored by the Killeen Junior Service League, the Municipal Court System and Boy Scout Lance Dugger. This was the first year the three entities have worked together to put on the event, said Erin Mills, a member of KJSL and chairperson of Family Fun and Fitness Day.
Mills said KJSL has hosted fun days at the park before, and when Dugger voiced his idea to city officials, it was decided joining the ideas would be best.
"Lance approached us and we sort of combined forces," Mills said.
Dugger said he came up with the concept of a safety fair as part of his Eagle Scout project. To become an Eagle Scout, he had to organize a project that benefits the community.
"Why not benefit the community I live in?" he said. "I wanted to do something that helps the city of Harker Heights."
A total of 57 organizations and businesses were represented at the expo. One section of the park was filled with health and safety booths, and the other half was filled with carnival games, face painting and other activities.
A fun run took place in late afternoon, and children ran one lap around the park and received raffle tickets for door prizes. KJSL sold tickets for carnival games, and the proceeds went to Option House, an emergency shelter for youth ages 3-17 in Killeen.
"My ultimate goal is to provide a fun day in the community, and give to Option House," Mills said, adding so far donations had almost doubled from the previous year.
Julie Helsham, Municipal Court court coordinator, worked with Dugger to plan the event.
"It looks great, and everyone is having fun," she said, adding the municipal court always pushes traffic safety. "We have so much support from the Texas Department of Transportation and the Department of Public Safety."
The Bell County Smoke House was available to crawl through, McGruff the Crime Dog made visits, and the Texas Department of Transportation brought a rollover simulator. Jaws of Life demonstrations were held, too.
Sgt. Jason Livingston and his team showed the skills of four Fort Hood K-9 dogs, and said the group's goal was to promote safety and fun at the same time.
"The big thing for us is we like to get out and interact with the public, and make them understand we do more than just arrest bad guys."
Two narcotics-sniffing dogs and two dogs who specialized in locating explosives showed performed in demonstrations, and earned respect and praise from the crowd, especially the children.
"We try to keep it fun but we also hope the kids learn something," Livingston said.
Josh Hagen, a representative of the Texas Forest Service, said his booth was promoting fire safety with children's activity books and TFS literature.
"The big thing we're pushing is fire prevention, with it being as dry as it is," he said. "Anything we can do to keep fires from happening, and catch them quicker before they blow up into a massive fire."
At a booth nearby, Susan Burchfield, trauma injury prevention coordinator for Scott & White Hospital, and her team were promoting the Safe Kids, Safe Babies programs.
"We just want to talk about family safety," she said.
The team's main focus was raising awareness about leaving children in hot cars, which could result in death. A thermometer at the booth showed the outdoor temperature as 92 degrees Fahrenheit, which translated to 132 degrees Fahrenheit inside a vehicle.
"We're wanting to show people why it's so important children not be left in cars," Burchfield said.
University of Mary Hardin-Baylor nursing students were helping out at the booth, and other topics addressed included shaken baby syndrome prevention and preventing trunk entrapment.
"We're so pleased to be involved with this program, and the turnout has been great," Burchfield said. "We hope that they've benefitted from the information."
Kimberly and John Davis brought their 9-year-old niece, Cydney, who lives in Round Rock, to the event so she could learn and have fun.
"We knew it would be a nice event," Kimberly said. "We live here, and we thought it was important for her to come learn about health and safety."
Tania Glendening brought her two girls, ages 5 and 3, to the expo to have some fun, and support the cause.
"We like to support the community events," she said.
Dugger said he was pleased with the turnout, and thanked everyone for coming out.
"It has exceeded my expectations," he said.
Contact Lauren Cabral at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7476.