Operation Kidsafe

Operation Kidsafe opened to the public last Friday with a ribbon cutting ceremony at Poage Chevrolet in Wentzville.

Different community members came together to celebrate the launch of Operation Kidsafe, a program that emphasizes protection and education for children. The event featured refreshments, a firetruck, and a raffle drawing for a basket of goodies donated by the Bank of Old Monroe.

With the program officially open, anyone from the public is welcome inside the dealership, where an employee will help them create a document with their child’s fingerprints, picture taken at that moment, and any other useful information to hand to the police in case a child goes missing or other emergencies. The piece of paper then has several other safety tips and tricks on it to help educate parents and children on common sense practices against kidnappings. The table will be set up in the dealership every day of the year they are open.

Joel Hauk, general manager for Poage Wentzville, decided to bring the program to the dealership after receiving an email from Operation Kidsafe. Hauk used the program 15 years ago for his son, and felt it was a good way to give back to the community. 

“Anytime there’s children that we can protect that’s a good win for all...and even if it doesn’t get down to looking for fingerprints, its a reminder of ‘hey, what could happen,’” Hauk said at the event. “On the flyer it has also some safety tips, and it keeps parents aware. And their children, Children need to know just as much, it’s really the children more.” 

The dealership has also wrapped a red pickup truck they can take to community events along with the program equipment so parents can take advantage of the program during those times as well. 

Operation Kidsafe has connected with over one million children since being founded 18 years ago by Mark Botts. The program works towards giving parents the tools to be prepared for the worst situation, while always hoping such a situation never comes. Operation Kidsafe works to educate parents and children on common sense safety practices.

“We have a system called ‘check first,’” Botts said. “And all you teach the younger kids is if anyone asks you to go anywhere do anything or take anything, run as fast as you can to the adult in charge.” 

He commented in an interview that phrases like “stranger danger” or family passcodes don’t work well because, according to Botts, a majority of crimes against children are committed by people that they know or are at least familiar with. Those phrases can also cause danger as they place the pressure of recognizing if a person is good or bad on a child.

“99 percent of the people in the world are awesome, but that little less than one percent spend their time stealing our cars, breaking into our homes and a very small amount of those have a specialty, and that specialty is harming kids. And if your child runs headlong into that person, you’ve got a real problem. And that’s what we need to stop…. What works is prevention, education and we have to out-network the badguys,” Botts said.

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