Safety Camp combines fun with serious message

A trip to the emergency room isn’t something parents normally wish for their children during summer camp. Unless, of course, the camp is Valley Medical Center’s annual Safety Camp.

  • Thursday, August 28, 2008 8:46pm
  • Life

A trip to the emergency room isn’t something parents normally wish for their children during summer camp. Unless, of course, the camp is Valley Medical Center’s annual Safety Camp.

The free, day-long program is run by volunteers from the hospital’s Emergency Department, so a trip through the emergency ward is all part of the fun.

The hospital district includes part of the south Bellevue area.

The fourth annual VMC Safety Camp takes place 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. today at the hospital’s Medical Arts Center, 400 S. 43rd St., Renton.

It is open to children ages 7 to 10, and includes safety seminars, a tour of the emergency department, interactive sessions with Renton Police K9 officers and Renton Fire Department personnel, and a chance to hop inside fire engines, police cruisers and ambulances.

The day starts out with small-group tours, led by volunteer “camp counselors.” On the tours, children get to see how the emergency department works, and what staff do on a daily basis.

Standing in one of the emergency center’s patient rooms, Safety Camp coordinator Shane Edwards pointed out some of the medical equipment campers interact with during their tours — heart monitors and blood pressure cuffs.

“We hook them up to our monitor, snap on the three leads, print out their heart rhythm and they get to take (the print-out) home,” he said.

The children also get to don latex gloves and surgical masks, to “make them feel like they are part of the ER,” Edwards said.

After the tours, campers will congregate in the hospital’s MAC building for the more serious part of the day: safety talks.

Emergency department nurses will open the seminar sessions with a talk on bicycle safety, titled “Trauma Nurses Talk Tough.” Edwards, who will be one of the speakers, said the nurses tell kids some true stories about children who ended up in the ER because they didn’t wear properly-fitting bicycle helmets, or any helmet at all. For example, he said, “One (child) got hit by a car and became mentally delayed.”

Other talks throughout the day will cover a variety of safety topics, including water and life jacket safety, and gun safety. All the talks aim to help children see the importance of taking simple steps to prevent serious accidents.

VMC provides a free lunch for all the campers, as well as a free T-shirt and a backpack full of prizes.

Probably the highlight of the day for most campers is the final hour, when they get to go out into the parking lot with firefighters and police to visit the emergency vehicles.

“They open all the doors; they get them in the back of the medic unit,” Edwards said. “The fire department actually breaks out a fire hose and the kids get to use it (with a firefighter).”

The Safety Camp has proved a hit with both parents and children in the community.

“I have seen only positive (feedback) from people I’ve talked with,” Edwards said.

It’s so popular that, although the camp takes place at the end of August, 52 campers had already signed up by July 2. The camp can accommodate up to 75 children.

Part of the reason for the camp’s overwhelming popularity, Edwards said, is the fact that it’s free.

“I’ve seen other (safety) camps about the U.S., and they’re charging $25 to $75 for the same things,” Edwards said.

Funding for the camp comes from donations by the VMC Volunteers in Action, Associated Emergency Physicians, the Lions Club of Kent, VMC Human Resources and Public Relations departments. Also, all the people working at the camp – from nurses to firefighters – all volunteer their time.

Registration for the camp will remain open – via e-mail only – until all the spots have been filled. For more information or to register for Safety Camp, e-mail Edwards at

Contact staff writer Christine Shultz at 253-872-6600, ext. 5056, or

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