Each year, members of the several Orange County Red Cross High School Clubs hold a Children’s Safety Festival. It’s one way the Orange County Chapter of the American Red Cross (Santa Ana, California) teaches children what to do in the event of a fire, how to call 9-1-1 in an emergency and the best way to wash their hands to avoid contracting colds and flu.
More than 800 excited children attended this year’s festival, receiving lifesaving information and a toy. Megan Pierce, youth advisor and AmeriCorps member, sums up the mood: “I saw a child walk away with a simple gift, a football. He turned to his sister and said, ‘This is the best day ever’.”
Focus on Safety and Preparedness
“Bringing attention to safety and preparedness in a fun and engaging way is what makes this event special,” said Gina Arreola, Red Cross youth manager, “the gifts and holiday activities are only a part of the service to families in the community.”
A first aid booth, for example, included an opportunity to practice CPR compressions on a mannequin.
Arreola watched a little girl, about five years old, practice CPR compressions. “I could see in her face that she was trying so hard,” Arreola said. “Her parents and the crowd were encouraging her. She looked so proud. I think this captured what the Children’s Safety Festival is truly about.”
Kevin Tran, a member of the La Quinta High School Red Cross Club, leads the Youth Special Events Committee that was responsible for the work and planning. Tran appreciates the leadership skills he is developing, and also likes it that as a Red Cross volunteer he can “create an impact on the community and the lives of other people.”
Preparations start in September with offers to schools to participate. Each school receives ten invitations to send to ten families of their choosing.
As some young volunteers are completing the invitation process, others seek community partnerships. The fire department provided an ambulance and fire safety demonstrations; Southern California Edison brought a mobile unit with tips for green living.
Still other volunteers are holding toy drives. This year volunteers gathered so many toys that they had some left over, toys they dropped off at nonparticipating schools.
On the day of the festival, about 200 young volunteers, along with adult supporters, were there to staff the event. Volunteers manned Red Cross health and safety booths, painted faces, made balloon animals and helped children decorate cookies.
Join a School Club in Your Community
Young philanthropists in Orange County are becoming Red Cross volunteers by the dozens. This fall the chapter had about a thousand new applications. “Unlike other organizations or clubs which only have busy work for volunteers,” explains Tran, “the Red Cross offers the chance to save lives and truly make an impact on the lives of people all over the world.”
Become a Red Cross volunteer. Contact your local Red Cross to learn about opportunities for youth and young adults.