MARSHALL - A couple of weeks back, when Hansja Braam read about the National Night Out event scheduled in Marshall, she knew she wanted to bring her four children there. On Tuesday, Braam, of Tracy, followed through on those plans and brought the entire family to Justice Park in Marshall.
"I just moved here a couple of years ago and I thought that this event would be a really good thing for the kids to do," Braam said. "It's really fun."
National Night Out programs are designed to promote police and community partnerships, especially in the fight to lower crime. In Marshall, education, information and recreation went hand-in-hand. Presented by the Marshall Area Crime Fund, Marshall Police Department and the Lyon County Sheriff's Office, children of all ages had the opportunity to ride ponies, play games, bounce in the YMCA hopper, see police equipment and vehicles, witness a drug dog demonstration and much more.
Photo by Jenny Kirk
Lyon County Sheriff’s Department Investigator Tony Rolling, left, demonstrated the use of several SWAT items to Amanda Anderson, right, and Lexi, Hansja, Joey and Donald Braam Tuesday afternoon at the National Night Out event at Justice Park in Marshall.
"My son Donald got his own dog tags, got to see a helicopter for the first time and got to ride his first horse," Braam said. "There are lots of things here that you normally can't do. That's the fun part."
Alexus and Natalie Laleman of Marshall waited patiently in line to get their individual Army dog tags, as did Joan Mitchell for her sons Tanner and Terry. Others got their face painted, arms tattooed or played bean bag. And, when the helicopter could be heard flying in, most of the children, and many of the adults, couldn't wait for it to land so they could check it out.
"It's been a good turnout every year," Lyon County Sheriff Mark Mather said. "We try to change it every year. Some years, we have our boat here and other years, we have our armored vehicle here. It switches around. It's been successful."
switches around. It's been successful."
The Chemical Assessment Team (CAT) was on-site for people to view, as well as displays of gang-related materials and SWAT team equipment.
"It's heavy," Lexi Braam said about the "Blackhawk Dynamic Entry" ram.
A number of people listened to Tony Rolling, investigator for the Lyon County Sheriff's Department, explain how each of the weapons or tools were meant to be used.
"You don't carry all of this around at the same time, but the extra equipment can easily add 100 pounds of weight to carry," he said.
Handler Richard Shamla from the Chippewa County Sheriff's Office brought "Rico," a narcotics detection dog, with him to the event, making the canine an instant hit with the kids. A large crowd also gathered when "Rico" and Shamla gave a demonstration.
"It's great for people to get to see all the different divisions and learn about what the SWAT team does and what the sheriff versus the police department does," Mather said. "People sometimes think that one can do everything, but it doesn't always work that way. This event brings out a nice mixture. It really does."
McGruff the Crime Dog was also seen meandering through the park, handing out goodies, compliments of the Troop 238 Boys Scouts of Marshall and a few Holy Redeemer youth who eagerly suited up for the cause. Four-year-old Sierra Killett wasn't quite sure she wanted to get close to McGruff but eventually gathered enough courage to accept a prize, a tattoo, from him.
"It's a cool event," said Marshall sixth-grader Daniel VanKeulen, who took his turn in costume. "I'm heading over to see the helicopter next."
After joining their grandmother at the event, Kaydence and Serenity Schulte of Farmington were all smiles as they sat atop the popular ponies. Two-year old Eve Rice and 4-year-old Elliot Rice of Marshall were on the go but stopped long enough to enjoy an ice cream sandwich. When asked what his favorite activity of the afternoon was, Elliot Rice said "the ponies."
For the older youth, the annual event featured a challenging driving course, designed to simulate drunk driving or driving while texting.
"I should probably just not drive," said Marshall East Campus Learning Alternative senior Ashley Hardenberg, who attempted the drunk driving course. While driving with the goggles on in the golf cart alongside Marshall Police Officer Eric Klenken, Hardenberg clipped a stop sign and ran over several cones. "It was way tougher with the goggles on."
Marshall graduate Erik Stibbe said he tried the "beer goggles" last year and decided to attempt the texting course this time around.
"We did one run-through and I only hit one cone and took 50 seconds," Stibbe said. "The next time, I had to text 'ride a fox, jump over a white fence' and I got eight wrong. I blew a stop sign. So there is a difference."
The experience validated Stibbe's past decision to always keep his phone in his pocket while driving.
"I've heard how many people have gotten in accidents because of texting and I just decided to keep mine in my pocket because I don't want to have that big fine on me or feel guilty the rest of my life if I hurt someone," Stibbe said.
The news sat well with Klenken, who said any distraction while driving can have negative consequences.
"There's been a big push against distracted and aggressive driving nationally and statewide, along with speeding," Klenken said.
Attendees also received plenty of goodies, like whistles, pinwheels and candy, and take-home safety literature from organizations such as New Horizons Crisis Center and Women's Rural Advocacy Programs (WRAP). Children could also take coloring books and other items courtesy of area law enforcement.