AWS Foundation, in partnership with the Fort Wayne Fire Department, will be offering free safety kits to families of children with special needs. The kits are designed to safeguard against wandering and other situations that could endanger children with intellectual or developmental disabilities.
The kits include a safety checklist, a window alarm, identification bracelet and ID shoe bands and are available 8 a.m.-8 p.m. daily at all 19 neighborhood city fire stations. About 2,000 kits will be assembled initially at a cost of about $30 each.
Special-needs children can be prone to wandering, to place themselves in dangerous situations and are much more likely to be bullied, according to Tom O'Neill, AWS Foundation chairman. “The goal of this safety kit is to provide families with a variety of tools designed to help prevent a potentially harmful situation from occurring and to give them more resources if an emergency occurs,” he said in a statement.
Patti Hays, CEO of AWS Foundation, said the foundation developed the safety kit to protect some of the most vulnerable members of the community and “asked the fire department to help us distribute them because the local firehouse is a vital part of every neighborhood and plays a critical role should there be an emergency. We want kids to recognize it as a safe place and firefighters as their friends should they need help.”
In addition to a safety checklist and information on such issues as developing a safety plan, the kits also include a window alarm, identification bracelet and ID shoe bands, a safety belt for use in the car, safety-oriented signs and other items. Several items contained in the kit are produced by companies that employ individuals with disabilities. The kits were assembled by Fort Wayne Community Schools special-needs students as part of the Scherer Resources vocational skills training program at the Anthis Career Center. The program prepares high school students with special needs as they transition to work and community life. A study by the Interactive Autism Network found that 49 percent of children with autism are prone to wandering, and some continue to do so into adulthood.
In a statement, Mayor Tom Henry said “We're fortunate to live in a caring and giving community that values and appreciates all residents.” Added Fire Chief Eric Lahey, “The Fire Department's commitment to this community doesn't stop at the emergency response. Prevention is a very important part of our mission to save lives, and participating in this initiative will hopefully prevent injuries to some of our most vulnerable citizens.”
The kits will also be available to families of children receiving developmental specialty care at Lutheran and Parkview hospitals.
For more information about AWS Foundation, visit www.awsfoundation.org.