Waconia child safety event draws crowds

By Staff Reports

Public safety officials and emergency responders took part in Children’s Safety Day at the Waconia Fire Department on May 20. (Submitted photo)

The first annual Child Safety Day in Waconia met with both wet weather and scores of people.

According to event organizers, more than 200 people came out for the Saturday, May 20, event at the Waconia Fire Station to hear from emergency personnel and public safety officials.

Event coordinator Leah Soltis said Child Safety Day was inspired by the Jacob Wetterling case.

“In the wake of the tragic ending to the Jacob Wetterling case, I felt compelled to not only do something to ensure the safety of my own children, but that of all of the children in our community,” Solstis said. “I was the same age as Jacob Wetterling when he was abducted in 1989. I still remember seeing his face on posters and on the back of milk cartons.”

Soltis said those feelings re-emerged when the case started down the path to closure last year.

“When his body was found last fall, my sons were the exact same age as he and his brother were when Jacob was abducted while they were riding their bikes. My husband and I had just recently started to let our boys spread their wings venture out on their own,” Soltis said. “I realized that I had not had the proper conversations with my boys to warn them of the possible dangers, and I had not taken the proper precautions so that we would be prepared to act fast if the unthinkable were to happen. And it can happen anywhere, even in Waconia. That was how our Child Safety Event came about.”

As part of the event, more than 100 children were provided with Child Safety IDs. The IDs proved so popular with attendees, there was a 30 minute wait at one point.

“We apologize to anyone who was not able to wait and promise to do this again soon,” Soltis said. “This will most definitely be a yearly event. It is important that the vital information on the cards is updated frequently and we want to provide IDs for everyone who wants one.”

Families also learned the importance of having a crisis plan in place, should tragedy strike.

“This event shows the importance of having updated information on your child, as well as, discussing the importance of having a plan in place, should your child ever be missing or lost.” Deputy Gary Stahlke of the Carver County Sheriff’s Department, who attended the event.

Soltis said most parents left with a wealth of information aimed at keeping their children and families safe.

“Bags that were full of safety information that was provided by the Waconia Fire Department, the Carver County Sheriff’s Department and Carver County Public Health were also provided to the kids,” Soltis said. “Local businesses -including Soltis Family Chiropractic, Balance Life Wellness, Waconia Dance Company, Kruckman Family Dentistry and The Hancock Group – also donated items to be put in the bags.”

The event was sponsored by Soltis Chiropractic and Thrivent Financial.