ELIZABETHTOWN — Elizabethtown personnel spent the day Saturday kidding around, when the Elizabethtown Police Department and the Elizabethtown Fire Department hosted the 13th annual Kids Appreciation Day at the Elizabethtown Municipal Building.
A rope swing suspended from a ladder truck, a potato sack race hosted by Families First, an inflatable obstacle course, and a bounce house were just some of the offerings for the hundreds of people who turned out under the warm sun. Cotton candy, snow cones, and pork sandwiches provided fare for the day, and some people brought their blankets and picnicked on the grass in between play times.
For nearly 10 children, the highlight of the day might have been at the close of the event, when the duo of agencies, along with a local business, gave away bicycles. Employees from Ace Wrecker were on hand to present a bicycle the business had donated to event. The Elizabethtown police and fire departments then drew ticket numbers for one girl’s bike for ages 3 to 5, a boy’s bike for the same age, three bicycles for girls ages 6 to 10, and three bicycles for boys ages 6 to 10. Employees from the police and fire departments, as well as representatives from other law enforcement agencies, congratulated the children and posed for pictures with them.
One of the purposes of the entire day was to provide just such positive interactions with local children.
“Usually when we see people, it’s during a tragedy or disaster,” Elizabethtown Lt. Dwayne Cheshire remarked. “We want to be community-oriented, where people can see us in a positive light and let us build rapport with them.”
At least one Bladen County family turned out for that very reason. Glenda Emerson was supervising her three grandchildren on the obstacle course while Elizabethown police offers stood nearby.
“People talk so negatively about police officers — well, any law enforcement people, really,” she said. “These grandkids of mine need to know they don’t have anything to be afraid of if they’re not doing anything wrong. That’s a lesson I try to teach them at home, so I bring them out here so they can see for themselves and meet some of the people who want to help our community.”
Others came from out of county for the event and were surprised by what was offered.
“I had my niece and nephew today, and I didn’t know what I’d do with them,” said Shirley Evans, from Fayetteville. “I can’t believe (the police and fire departments) would do something like this, just to improve relationships with the people here. Other (agencies) could take lessons from them.”
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.