Wednesday was bittersweet for Gerry Dwyer as he celebrated 10 years of the Kiwanis Children’s Safety Village.
He’s the one who got the wheels rolling on the portable safety unit when he was an Orillia OPP officer.
Discussions began in 2000, and fundraising soon followed. In 2007, an educational display was painted on the ground outside the Ramara fire hall in Brechin. That was a good start, but Dwyer had something else in mind. He wanted to take the show on the road, so he made a pitch for a mobile unit.
“About two months later, we got a cheque for $21,000 from Union Gas,” he said. “This gave us the seed money. From that, we got up to about $120,000, which is amazing because it came from our community, for our community.”
The safety village is now taken to multiple schools in the region to teach kids various safety-related lessons in an engaging way.
Numerous partners have come on board over the years, including Simcoe County Paramedic Services, Rama Police Service, Orillia Power, Hydro One and more.
Representatives from all of those organizations, as well as local school boards, were on hand Wednesday at ODAS Park to celebrate a decade of the program — and to bid farewell to Dwyer, who is stepping down from the committee.
“It’s time that I take a step back and spend more time with family,” said Dwyer.
He’s proud of what the Kiwanis Children’s Safety Village has become. Educating kids is something he has been passionate about since his days with the Toronto Police Service.
“In my years in Toronto, I saw so much death and destruction, so many sad things involving kids,” he said. “In my sorrow, I thought, ‘There’s got to be something better.’ I was driven to do it.”
He admitted Wednesday’s event was “kind of sad” for him as friends, former colleagues, and young students said goodbye and wished him well, but he’s excited about the future of the program.
“I hope that it grows and improves and it continues on,” he said. “Onward and upward.”