Safe Kids Expo founder Judge Kim Chaney and Brooks’ Place Director Gail Swafford (W.C. Mann for The Tribune)
CULLMAN – Cullman’s Safe Kids Expo, sponsored by Brooks’ Place child advocacy center, had to be postponed Saturday due to the threat of bad weather, but some things are too important to wait for long. On Sunday afternoon, the awareness event went ahead despite cold, windy weather and a waterlogged Sportsman Lake Park.
Parents could get information from Brooks’ Place and Cullman Caring for Kids, while kids got up close with the Cullman Police Department helicopter and Cullman County Sheriff’s Office gear. A few even got to saddle up on motorcycles on display from Bikers Against Child Abuse (BACA; see www.cullmantribune.com/articles/2017/04/27/child-advocacy-leather-and-chrome-bikers-against-child-abuse). The putting course was open, and inflatables were set up near the park’s train shed.
Kids could get their faces painted; and there were free hot dogs, drinks, popcorn, and snow cones for everyone.
Brooks’ Place Director Gail Swafford told The Tribune, “It’s the one time a year we get to give back to the community. We want families to come out and just have a good time. We got use of the whole park from Cullman County Parks and Recreation: all the rides, putt-putt, everything is free to the family. In addition to that, though, we want to give out information about how to keep kids safe.”
Brooks’ Place is a nonprofit organization that offers advocacy services to children who are the victims of physical or sexual abuse. It offers forensic interviews, counseling, medical exams and support for families headed to court.
The Safe Kids Expo was the brainchild of District Judge Kim Chaney about 20 years ago. According to Swafford, “He wanted to have something for families to come out and just get information, and so he kind of started it. And then we kind of picked it up after that. He’s still very involved.”
While making the rounds at the park, Chaney shared, “There’s a lot of volunteers that are here, and a lot of agencies here that work to support the interests of children. And Cullman County’s a special place, because they care about their kids; this is a priority. And for people to be out here on sort of a coolish Sunday to support kids and programs, I think it speaks well of our community. I’m just glad to see it. Children are our most important natural resource.”
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