The U.S. Marshals Museum hosted the 10th annual Safe Kids Fair on Friday at the Riverfront Pavilion, but this year’s event was renamed to Bill Cooper's Safe Kids Fair in honor of Cpl. William “Bill” Cooper of the Sebastian County Sheriff’s Office.
“He (was) involved with this event for years and years, and he (was) the biggest supporter,” said Patrick Weeks, CEO of the U.S. Marshals Museum. “We thought it would be appropriate to honor his memory and his partner and his wife and his son.”
The fair featured booths and tables from area sponsors, all who had one goal in mind: child safety. Along with the Sebastian County Sheriff’s Office, Fort Smith Police and Fire Departments, Sebastian County Prosecutor’s Office and other law and civil enforcement agencies, private entities, such as Cox Communications, and non-profit groups, like Antioch Youth and Family, participated.
“It’s very humbling for me, personally,” said Sebastian County Sheriff Bill Hollenbeck, who helped greet families at the safety awareness fair, and even posed for pictures with families. “He was the epitome of community policing. This (event) was a passion for him. Professionally, I’m so very excited for the U.S. Marshals Museum. As a community, we’ve come together to support this.”
As a father, Sheriff Hollenbeck can appreciate events such as this that emphasize educating parents and children on child safety.
“Being a father, there’s really some good information and programs out here today that are instrumental in keeping our kids safe, and that’s what we all want,” Hollenbeck added.
It’s a sentiment echoed by area parent Terra Fitch, a mother of four boys. One of her sons is a 10-year-old with special needs, and she says events like this that put her children in contact with local law enforcement is key.
“I wanted them all to see the badges and the officers and to know that they’re the good guys,” said Fitch. “It gives me peace of mind, especially having a child with special needs. I think it’s important.”
Fitch added that one of the reasons she came out to Friday’s event was for the DNA kits and fingerprints. It’s especially meaningful because of her son with special needs.
“That’s important, and they’re talking about training their officers on how to deal with children with special needs, so they know how to approach them, and I think that’s important,” said Fitch.
But it wasn’t all about public safety with the fair. Antioch Youth and Family focused on childhood nutrition.
“We’re giving out Goodness Bars, which have oats and nuts, and we’re letting them know about our community garden, so they can come to the garden and find the fruits and vegetables that are essential to a healthy diet,” said Garlanda Booth of the garden at the corner of North 9th and L Streets.
Another aspect of the fair dealt with keeping child safety online. Whitney Yoder, Arkansas public affairs manager for Cox Communications, hosted a table with pamphlets on keeping kids safe while browsing the Internet and cable television.
“We’re helping parents keep their kids safe digitally, educating them on how to restrict certain cable television channels,” said Yoder. “It’s getting harder to monitor things with children online, but there are a lot of different tools they can use, and we’re just trying to make them aware of those tools, so they can be more aware, and maybe how to open a dialogue with their kids about their Internet activity. What kind of devices they have, how they interact with those devices, making sure, as a parent, that they’re staying engaged with their kids’ activity online.”