1A miniature mobile village has proven to be a valuable tool to educate local elementary school students about safety, but officials behind the venture say funds and donations are needed to enhance the project.

The Kiwanis Children’s Safety Village, launched in 2009 in Orillia, is an interactive experience whereby children can obtain hands-on training to address challenges in today’s world. The 27-foot trailer goes to a school with its volunteers and equipment and sets up, typically, in a gym that is transformed into a mini-village with cars kids can drive, a jail and many other realistic features.

“We have serviced over 30,000 kids that have gone through the program and learned a whole lot about safety (since 2009),” said Kevin Matheson, chair of the Safety Village. “We’ve serviced 17 schools for five years. It’s been amazing.”

That success has come at a cost as the wear and tear has led to the need for upgrades.

“We have some really great cars we hope to replace and in order to just maintain (the village) each year, we need to have a certain operating budget, so that is the purpose of fundraising right now,” said Matheson, who added the enterprise’s volunteers work with a variety of teaching partners such as the OPP, Orillia Power, Hydro One, Simcoe County EMS and others.

Local sponsors of the initiative include the Lions Club of Orillia, the Orillia Fire Department, Ramara Fire and Rescue Services, CN Police, Orillia Power Corporation and others that help with set up, run activities and help maintain the village.

This week, Kutting Edge also stepped up, donating golf shirts volunteers can wear to help them be more identifiable — something volunteer Gerry Dwyer, a retired OPP officer and driving force behind the village, said will help raise the profile of the program.

“The purpose of our shirts is to identify the members of the Safety Village, (so we) thank Kutting Edge for (its) support and donation of $500 … to get us up and running for the fundraising committee,” said Dwyer, who said Mike Harris from Tim Hortons recently donated $12,000.

“Since the launch in 2009, it has been an ongoing process, with many local donations from either our sponsors or from other businesses or people,” said Dwyer. “We are hoping to revamp the program a little bit by replacing some of the mats, getting new cars for the kids to use …”

Their mission is an important one, Dwyer said.

“We want to help educate (kids about) life issues, whether it’s walking, biking, driving, medical or hydro. You need to teach it to them at a young age while they are like sponges,” said Dwyer.

“If you teach enough to save one life, it was all worth it. You can’t put a price or an amount of time on the safety of kids. Prevention is the best form of enforcement,” he said.

As posted on: http://www.orilliapacket.com/2014/06/20/safety-village-needs-support-officials

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