A quintessential part of summer for most Minnesota kids is summer camp — and for 26 years Eden Prairie children have taken part in Safety Camp. Cities all over the state hold safety camps nowadays, but it started as the brainchild of Jim Clark (formerly of the Eden Prairie Police Department) who handed it off to Curt Oberlander (formerly of the Eden Prairie Police and Fire Departments). As Oberlander developed it, the mission of the first camp was to stop preventable injuries to kids. He said, “The main purpose was to get everyone to work together – police, fire and parks and rec. We’re all working for one common cause — to save lives.”
In 1989, Oberlander pulled together a group of City employees from police, fire and the Parks and Recreation Department, as well as other safety experts to plan and execute the first Safety Camp. One of the organizers was Fire Inspector Chuck Schaitberger, who has attended every Safety Camp since, making this year his 26th camp. He was recognized at the awards ceremony last week for his dedication to teaching the young people of Eden Prairie about how to prevent injuries and live safer lives.
Children entering 3rd grade are able to attend the two-day Safety Camp each year. There are six teams of up to 30 kids. The topics vary slightly from year to year, but include: fire safety, personal safety/stranger danger, bullying awareness and avoidance, water safety, dispatch/9-1-1, first aid, animal safety, electrical safety, bicycle safety, seatbelts/boosters/car seats, Internet safety, and weather safety.
The camps are planned and staffed by City employees. Sessions are taught by representatives from those departments or from outside speakers who specialize in specific hazards and can teach kids how to be safe when they encounter them.
Summer camp is a great venue to get kids excited about learning to stay safe — at the same time building important ties between the community, the children and their families. Eden Prairie’s Safety Camp will live on for generations to come.