DeKALB – For Jayme Hillmer of DeKalb, talking to a police officer for the first time was “a little scary,” but the 8-year-old quickly got over it.
Jayme was one of many area children who tried out a 911 simulator at the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office booth during the 30th annual National Night Out Aug. 6 in the Target parking lot in DeKalb. At the simulator, children talked to an dispatcher just like they would if they dialed 911 in a real emergency.
“I just thought I’d see what it was all about,” Jayme’s mother, Kristin Lowry, said. “My fiance works at Target and he told me about it.”
Sponsored by the National Association of Town Watch, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the development and promotion of crime prevention programs, National Night Out brings community groups and organizations together. Beginning with 2.5 million participants in 400 communities in 1984, it has grown to an estimated 37 million people in 15,000 communities across the U.S. today.
According to coordinator Nick Andreas, this was the seventh year Target hosted the local event. More than 30 organizations participated, including the DeKalb and Sycamore police and fire departments, the American Red Cross, Kishwaukee Community Hospital, the DeKalb Public Library, Bill Cho’s United Tae Kwon Do, Feed’em Soup and Boy Scout Troop 33.
At the RAMP display, children tried to assemble a Mr. Potato Head blindfolded in an effort to simulate what it’s like to be sight impaired. Instructors from Bill Cho’s taught children basic self-defense moves. There were also free treats, games, an inflatable bounce house and plenty of handouts.
One of the biggest draws was the hourly K-9 demonstration. Sheriff’s Deputy Toby Jennings said he and his 5-year-old German shepherd, Kane, have been together since 2009.
“Although it’s our event, it’s really a community event, we just get to host it,” Target coordinator Brian Wedoff said. “This is our way to give back to the community.”