Night Out enjoyed by all of Oak Harbor
By REBECCA OLSON
Whidbey News Times Staff reporter
August 11, 2012 · Updated 5:41 AM
As children partook in games and families enjoyed interactive booths at Oak Harbor’s annual National Night Out event Tuesday, the partnership between the community, Navy and law enforcement agencies was lighthearted but reinforced.
Fun games, prizes and a life-like SWAT dummy certainly ramped up the excitement for children.
“It’s about police and community partnerships and safety and resources available to families in the community,” said Cathy Niiro, executive director of United Way of Island County and vendor manager for the event.
Often, the community only sees law enforcement members and firefighters taking care of the community by handling problems. At National Night Out, families can chat with them and get to know them, and children can enjoy activities and demonstrations by the agencies.
“It went great. We had lots of families and lots of kids who enjoyed the games,” said Amy Melquist, funds the games,” said Amy Melquist, funds development coordinator for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Island County, which had a booth with a ball toss for children.
Niiro also said the event went very well.
“I think it’s the largest crowd we ever had,” Niiro said, adding that with more than 50 booths, this year’s event had the most booths ever, too.
“It was very exciting as far as the attendance,” Melquist said.
Represented were local officials, law enforcement, fire personnel, NAS Whidbey Security, social service agencies, family resource organizations and demonstrations like a Search and Rescue demonstration, climbing wall, K-9 demonstration, crime scene investigations booth and DUI car crash.
“It was busy the whole time,” Niiro said.
The Oak Harbor Police Department’s booth got a lot of attention for its Peacekeeper tank, guns and realistic SWAT dummy.
“It went very well. I think everybody had a great time,” said Detective Sgt. Teri Gardner with the OHPD.
Detective Jim Hoagland, a member of the High-Risk Entry Team of OHPD, answered questions about the dummy, which was outfitted head to toe in gear, including a gas mask, ammunition and a face shield.
“Everybody said it looked real,” Hoagland said. The goal was to help people understand what the SWAT team wears. When people heard that the gear weighs 80 to 100 pounds, Hoagland said the response was, “Wow.”
The OHPD also set up a DUI crash scene, complete with dented cars and volunteers wearing makeup so they appeared to have been in a car crash.
“It’s pretty intense,” Hoagland said. The scenario played out with a rescue, sobriety test and mock arrest.
The OHPD also offered sign-ups for its upcoming block watch program. Gardner said the program saw a lot of interest. Sign-ups are still open. To sign up, call the OHPD at 279-4600.
A booth that caught Niiro’s attention was Feed the Need by the Interfaith Coalition. The booth featured an activity to help children understand what it’s like for families living on limited incomes and the decisions they have to face, like paying the rent or putting food on the table.
New this year was the Oak Harbor Youth Commission.
“They had a lot of good feedback and interaction with people about needs for youth in the community,” Niiro said.
Also new to National Night Out was the Whidbey Island Bicycle Club. Members handed out maps of bike routes and taught about healthy choices, Niiro said.
“The families seemed to have a good time,” Melquist said.
Melquist said Big Brothers Big Sisters of Island County would like to thank United Way for putting on the event.Contact Whidbey News Times Staff reporter Rebecca Olson at email@example.com or 360-675-6611 ext. 5052.