The first Tuesday of August is a night that many Warwick groups reserve for the children. National Night Out, an event created by the National Association of Town Watch, is geared towards lowering crime and drug use in cities all across America. On Tuesday, those who attended the Warwick celebration in Oakland Beach saw children playing, laughing, and, most importantly, getting to know their community and who protects it.
“It’s a lot of work, but it’s great because it brings the police and community together,” said City Council President Donna Travis. “It’s a fun night. We have a lot of fun.”
Travis also said that the night was all about the children, because it gave them the chance to interact with many of the different agencies and groups in Warwick, including the police department and the fire department.
The event puts the spotlight on local law enforcement. Funding comes from the city’s department of tourism that pays for the fireworks, a Wal-Mart grant, the police department and numerous donations.
Lieutenant Michael Gilbert, who runs community services, helped coordinate the event. He said the department provided tables and chairs, some of the giveaway prizes and helium for the balloons.
“I like the event. I wish we had a better turnout and a more diverse group from across the city, but it’s a great concept.”
The National Guard supported the event by bringing a rock wall. Staff Sergeant Christopher Dupris thinks the event is geared not only towards children but to young adults as well.
“Most of it is to get the kids out and let them know their options, especially high schoolers,” he said.
Dupris spoke about how coming to the event can give a junior or senior in high school who doesn’t know what they want to do some ideas for the future. He also enjoys interacting with the younger crowd.
“I like to interact with people and talk about what I do because I enjoy it so much. It’s good to open people’s eyes to what we do.”
Dupris also mentioned that National Night Out is important for children because it gives them an appreciation for the law enforcement around them and lets them know that they are there for them, even in the community. Dupris’ sister-in-law is a teacher at Toll Gate High School, and he likes to tell others that to let them know that their neighbor could be a member of the military.
The event did not just showcase law enforcement groups. There were many Warwick organizations there for children and adults to learn about. These groups included the Norwood Neighborhood Association, the Warwick Veterans Services Organization, Allstate Insurance, the Inner You Counseling Center, Operation Lifesaver, The Rhode Island Special Needs Emergency Registry, the Oakland Beach Crime Watch, the Lions Club, Herbalife, The Mayor’s Substance Abuse Task Force and Boy Scout Pack 383 Warwick.
Even Target, which is a national sponsor of National Night Out, works with the police department and Donna Travis to help plan the night. The Warwick Mall Target and Bald Hill Target both had employees volunteer their time to help with giveaways and programs at the beach.
“Its mostly about the children,” said AJ Romanofski, the asset protection manager at the mall Target. “We want them to be able to interact with law enforcement so they know who they can turn to. I have the pleasure of working with the Warwick Police Department and they’re awesome.”
Pam Charpentier, who is the store manager for the mall Target, was also glad to be sponsoring the event.
“This is just one of the great events we do all year. It gives us an opportunity to give back to the community. Target believes in the community.”
There was also entertainment provided for the eventgoers. Bouncy houses, a magic show and a DJ were there for good fun, but learning was still part of the agenda. One of the groups invited to come was the Eastern Medicine Singers, which is a Native American band composed of people from different tribes around Rhode Island. One of the chiefs, Daryl Blackeagle Jamieson, stated that the reason they come to events such as this one are for education purposes.
“We’re here to support the kids, and we wanted to bring the native culture to them. “
Travis has helped coordinate the event with the Oakland Beach Association for more than 10 years. She schedules the groups and entertainment that wish to be showcased and is already thinking ahead for next year. She would like to invite the New England Patriots for the 2014 National Night Out so that even more people will come, but she is mostly concerned about the children. She said that she tries to book as many events for kids and by kids so that people in the community will see that there are still good children and teenagers in the city.
“Each year there’s something a little different,” she said.