BY ANDREW SMITH
PERTH COUNTY – Students across Perth County have a reason to look ahead to 2013 thanks to a new safety calendar launched by the OPP.
The Perth County OPP launched the first annual Youth Safety Calendar at a ceremony at Mitchell Public School recently. Community services and media relations officer Kees Wijnands said the project was sponsored by Tradition Mutual Insurance Company and over 400 Grade 3 students participated in creating art for the calendar.
“I didn’t expect as great a response as we’ve had on this,” he said. “Every school that participated within the county is pretty much represented.”
Wijnands said the police approached the schools last September to speak to the students on the calendar and give them ideas on what kind of art to create. Each school was given a different safety topic to have a variety to choose from for the calendar.
“Each school was given a different topic, pretty much,” he said. “That way it enabled us to make an easier choice of picking a child from every school.”
Wijnands added that it was a good way to connect with younger students and build a relationship with police at a young age.
“For the Grades 2, 3 and 4 age group, there isn’t a lot in the schools that as police officers we do,” he said. “Grade 3 is an excellent age that we find we can do something like this.”
After all of the art was submitted, Wijnands said the hard part was narrowing it down to the 39 pieces that would be included as part of the calendar.
“We ended up choosing the most appropriate and best ones for each of the months, and that was a pretty tough choice for us to make,” Wijnands said. “It was really tough to choose.”
Wijnands said the safety messages are seasonal, such as snowmobile safety during winter, water safety during the summer, and being aware of deer crossings in the fall. Each of the 39 winners selected received a laminated copy of their art and calendars to share among their families.
“It’s kind of neat because every participating student knows someone with artwork in the calendar,” Wijnands said.
With one year down, Wijnands said he thinks it’s going to become an annual event after the enthusiasm shown by students.
“I think from the reaction we’ve had from the kids, I almost think it’s impossible not to,” he said. “It was that well received.”