Craig Porter Walker, 6, sat expectantly on a bench Saturday morning in Centennial Mall.
Erica Stewart, an occupational therapist with the Moffat County School District, knelt before him and unwrapped a shiny, black bike helmet.
“This is one of the BMX kind of helmets,” Stewart said as she fitted it on to Porter’s head. “Now, make sure you wear this whenever you’re out riding your bike or scooter or skateboard.”
“I mostly like to ride my skateboard,” Porter said. He then stood up and found an available tricycle, riding it around in circles inside the mall with several other children in their shiny new helmets.
Free bike helmets and trike rides were just a few of the activities available at the 2010 Celebrate Children Festival.
Each of the 20 organizations present offered a fun or creative activity, as well as a lesson on local services for families.
The eighth annual event, sponsored by the Northwest Colorado Coalition for Children and Families and the Moffat County Early Childhood Coalition, kicked off Month of the Young Child, a celebration intended to create awareness of early childhood education and needs.
Judi Whilden, Sunrise Kids Preschool & Child Care director, said the event turned out “fabulous.”
“The kids get quality time with their parents,” Whilden said. “Quality family time. Just look around. They’re all smiling. And they get the opportunity to be introduced to the services available.”
Hundreds of children of all ages walked around the mall Saturday with decorated crowns and painted faces, stepping on spilled popcorn kernels that peppered the floor.
Several sported new bike helmets, which were given to them for free by Stewart and the rest of the school district’s Traumatic Brain Injury Team.
“This year, we’re focusing heavily on prevention,” team member Wendy Nadolny said as she fitted a blue, adjustable helmet onto 3-year-old Madeline Soper.
The team received a $5,500 grant to distribute the new helmets at local events.
Madeline’s mother, Kara Soper, said her daughter had just gotten a new bike complete with training wheels.
“This is so awesome that you’re doing this,” she said to Nadolny.
But, a new bike helmet wasn’t the only gift the Sopers would go home with Saturday.
At a booth for Moffat County Social Services, children eagerly lined up to fill a small paper cup with soil and plant a single sweet pea seed in the center.
RaeAnne Durham, foster home coordinator, said she hoped the children who brought sweet peas home would learn that a plant, just like a child, needs nurturing to grow.
Aside from teaching children about botany, she hoped her presence at the children’s festival would help educate the community on the need for qualified foster care homes.
“There is a great need in Moffat County,” Durham said between handing out stickers and educational booklets to passing families. “Most of the kids come from abuse and neglect cases, and we really try to prevent them from leaving the county.”
She said Saturday was her second year hosting a booth at the children’s festival.
“It’s a great event to get to know people in the community,” she said. “You get to see kids and interact with them.”