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Over 20 preschool students spent a week at the Hopewell Valley YMCA Safety Town, the fourth annual collaborative summer program coordinated by the Hopewell Valley YMCA and MOMS Club of Hopewell Valley, hosted at Hopewell Elementary School.  The week-long summer camp educates rising kindergarteners all about safety.

To create Safety Town, the elementary school gymnasium is transformed into a small village with designated streets, crosswalks, railroad crossings, a working traffic signal, and various street signs. The children ride bicycles, wearing personal helmets, and learn about safe travels and habits.  They “drive” around a traffic circle, stop at miniature stop signs, yield, and learn about railroad crossings and pedestrian crosswalks.

“The kids learned all about crossing streets safely, in addition to numerous other safety protocols.  They learned to walk facing traffic and to ride bikes going with traffic. They learned how to properly use a crosswalk and to always wear a helmet when riding a bicycle, skateboard, or scooter.  And their teen mentors modeled the way,” said Doug Pszczolkowski, CEO of the Hopewell Valley YMCA.

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Numerous buildings dot the town and include safe places for children to go: police station, fire house, schools, hospital, and local businesses such as Hopewell Valley Community Bank and Pennington Quality Market.

In addition to maneuvering the miniature town, campers are able to ride in an actual school bus with an emergency evacuation drill provided by the Hopewell Valley Regional School District. And, every day, instructors use songs, games, and crafts, to make daily lessons fun and memorable. Each child is assigned a safety buddy, a volunteer teenager from the local schools, providing a one-to-one ratio for the participants. Pictured are many of the teen safety buddies who helped make this year’s program a success.

“I’m so happy to finally have one of my children benefit from the program,” exclaimed Andrea Stover. Andrea was the Safety Town Chairperson for the MOMS Club of Hopewell Valley and worked with the YMCA staff to launch the local program four years ago.  “My daughter really enjoyed it! She learned a lot and had fun.”

This year’s guest presenters included firefighters from Hopewell Fire Department, Nancy Distelcamp of Capital Health, “Mr. Ron” from Hopewell Valley Regional School District’s Transportation Department, and Kenneth Chrusz of the American Automobile Association. The Hopewell Valley Y is also especially grateful to Kim Shugar and Judie Mochel for overseeing the program this year.

Thanks to the help of teen volunteers, working alongside YMCA staff, the village streets, crosswalks, train tracks, and parking spaces are created through clever application of vinyl floor tape.  The miniature buildings are owned by the Hopewell Township Police Department and are loaned to the YMCA for the week. Five additional buildings were added to this year’s program through the work of local Boy Scout, Erik Wendt, of Titusville.  Erik’s Eagle Scout project consisted of designing and building additional models and signs for the YMCA.

“Programs like Safety Town are exactly why my family and I support our YMCA,” shared YMCA Board President Ryan Kennedy. “By joining the efforts of the Hopewell Valley MOMS Club, the school district and our team of volunteers, the Y is able to provide a great week of education that makes a difference to our community’s kindergarteners and their families.   We’re all grateful to the 26 middle-school and high school volunteers who helped the YMCA make this happen.  I say that on behalf of this year’s kindergarteners – and my own Safety Town graduate from just two summers ago.”

To contribute, volunteer, or participate in YMCA opportunities, please contact 609-737-3048 or visit www.hvymca.org.

About the Hopewell Valley YMCA

The Hopewell Valley YMCA is a charitable organization dedicated to building a healthy spirit, mind, and body through programs which promote good health, strong families, youth leadership, and community development.  YMCAs are open to men, women, and children of all ages, abilities, races, and religions.  The Hopewell Valley YMCA serves over 1,400 individuals each year.  The Hopewell Valley YMCA is approaching its 90th year of operations from Pennington.  Local programs include before/after-school care, youth sports, summer day camps, swimming, and arts.  The YMCA also operates the Hopewell Valley Youth Activity Center, the “YAC.”  This free drop-in center provides a safe and nurturing environment for local teens to experience leadership opportunities, participate in enrichment classes, and socialize with friends.  Most recently, the YMCA began providing programming for local youth with special needs… securing 13 medals in last summer’s Special Olympic International Games.

About the MOMS Club of Hopewell Valley

Welcome to the MOMs Club® of Hopewell Valley, NJ chapter of the International MOMS Club, a nonprofit organization formed specifically for at-home mothers. It is the largest and fastest growing support group for all at-home mothers, including moms who work part-time or run a business from home.  The mission of the MOMS Club® (MOMS Offering Moms Support) is to provide a daytime social outlet for mothers who have chosen to be at home with their children.

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Mary Galioto
Mary Galioto is the founder, publisher and editor of MercerMe. Originally from Brooklyn, Mary has progressively moved deeper and deeper into New Jersey, settling in the heart of the state: Mercer County. Formerly the author of an embarrassingly informal blog, Mary is a lifelong writer and asker of questions and was even mentioned, albeit briefly, in the New York Times and Washington Post. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English from SUNY Binghamton and a Juris Doctorate from Seton Hall Law School. In her free time, Mary fills her life with excessive self-reflection, creative endeavors, and photographing mushrooms. Mary also works as the PR Coordinator at the Hopewell Valley Arts Council, serves on the volunteer Board of Trustees of the Lawrence Hopewell Trail (LHT), holds a seat on the Hopewell Borough Board of Health, and is a member of the Hopewell Valley Municipal Alliance.

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