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Safety Campers and friends Macey Spolidoro, 8, right, and Morgan Voyda, 8, practice CPR on the Cottage Grove Fire Department's high-tech dummies. The two-day Safety Camp provides fun and educational opportunities for children in the community relating to emergency preparedness. (Bulletin photo by Emily Buss)

Cottage Grove Safety Camp 20 years strong teaching emergency preparedness

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Cottage Grove Safety Camp 20 years strong teaching emergency preparedness
Cottage Grove Minnesota 7584 80th Street South 55016

More than 75 Cottage Grove kids took over Hamlet Park last week for two full days of fun and educational activities aimed at teaching basic safety skills.


The city’s 20th-annual Safety Camp exposes children to everyday emergencies and provides solutions for when those situations arise.

“They just love it,” Cottage Grove police officer Gail Griffith said. “It’s a great opportunity for kids to learn about safety. And the cool thing is they bring the information they’ve learned back to their families. So the parents and their friends are learning too.”

The first day, kids learned about safely navigating the Internet, had a visit from the Washington County Mounted Patrol, learned kitchen and firearm safety, and investigated a mock crime scene.

Police officers Matt Foucault and Gena Schill demonstrated how law enforcement extracts shoe and fingerprints from a crime scene. They also taught what to look for and remember when describing a suspect.

Cottage Grove firefighters also drenched the kids with a high-pressure hose off the back of a fire truck.

Day two consisted of bike safety, run by Griffith and retired police officer Gina Lamers. Helmets donated by 3M-Cottage Grove were given to each Safety Camp participant. Team leaders helped kids learn the proper signals for turning on a bike, and the session ended with a bike ride around Hamlet Park.

One of the most anticipated events took place shortly before lunch and had each Safety Camper in awe. Each year, Rogers Auto and Truck Parts, in Cottage Grove, donates a vehicle which the fire department uses for demonstration.

Cottage Grove Fire Marshal PJ McMahon and his crew showed campers the delicate maneuvers required to extract drivers from a vehicle. Once the front doors were removed by the Jaws of Life, Safety Campers that had experienced the two-day camp before began chanting, “Burn it up!” The van erupted into flames for several minutes before firefighters extinguished the fire.

The afternoon wrapped up with CPR lessons from firefighter/paramedic Lisa McMahon and a demonstration with police K-9, Blitz, and officer Mike Vandervort.

A brief graduation ceremony was also held.

Other activities held during the camp included a “Buckle Up!” seminar, dog safety, first aid training, and chemical, backpack and water safety.

“This is just so much fun,” said Molly Pietruszewski, Parks and Recreation supervisor, who has been involved with many of the last Safety Camps. “It’s a great way for kids to get outside and learn about safety. Plus, it’s a lot of fun.”

Emily Buss
Emily Buss joined the South Washington County Bulletin in February 2013. She covers local government in Cottage Grove, St. Paul Park and Newport, along with other general assignment reporting. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and mass communications from Minnesota State University, Mankato.
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