Safety Town celebrated 40 years of nurturing Naperville’s youth with an open house free for all families to enjoy ice cream, face painting and bicycle races.
Thousands of children have come through in the years since it started and learned about safety from all angles. Whether it’s fire safety, water safety, roads or even railroads, many of those same kids come back to Safety Town later on, this time with children of their own.
“I grew up in Naperville, and I was probably four or five when I first came to Safety Town. It wasn’t like it is now; I believe it was in an elementary school gym,” said Naperville resident Mike Evans. “Like I said, it was much different, but what I do, I remember Officer Friendly, who became Mayor Pradel, and I had an awesome time here. So, we’re raising our family here in Naperville, and hopefully they’ll get the chance to enjoy Safety Town the way I did.”
Although the program has been a constant in the community for decades, safety town has come a long way since it launched with the support of the Naperville Junior Woman’s Club all those years ago.
“We started in schools, we went to the individual schools and used their gym. We’d take tape and put it on the floors and make streets. And we did little bicycles,” said Mayor Emeritus A. George Pradel. “First safety town was two weeks and it just grew and grew. Finally, we said we have to have a permanent site.”
Mary Fraley, the first president of the Naperville Junior Woman’s Club was also in attendance with Mayor Pradel as Safety Town commemorated the life of long-time board member Deb Hansen by planting a tree in her honor.
The past 40 years have been a success at Safety Town; and with the help of people like Officer Friendly – it’s safe to assume they’ll be teaching children for years to come.
“As long as we stick behind it and put our children first, and their safety,” said Mayor Emeritus Pradel. “We’ll make a big hit in this community, as we have for the last 40 years.”
Reported by Peter Medlin for Naperville News 17.
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