Cen­ter for Chil­dren hosts Touch-a-Truck

Touch-a-Truck in­spires chil­dren in La Plata

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum - By MICHAEL SYKES II msykes@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @SykesIndyNews

Af­ter ini­tially be­ing rained out ear­lier in the spring, Cen­ter for Chil­dren hosted their eighth Touch-A-Truck event rais­ing money for the cen­ter’s dif­fer­ent re­sources of­fered to fam­i­lies with chil­dren in need on Satur­day.

Men­tal health, qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion and cri­sis in­ter­ven­tion are some of the cen­ter’s spe­cial­ties said Cathy Mey­ers, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Cen­ter for Chil­dren in La Plata. The event helps the or­ga­ni­za­tion raise money to tend to those needs.

This year’s event was held on the Charles County Gov­ern­ment build­ing park­ing lot af­ter be­ing rained out at Re­gency Fur­ni­ture Sta­dium in Wal­dorf, where the event is typ­i­cally held. With the change in lo­ca­tion, Mey­ers said, there were less peo­ple at the event. But the theme still re­mained the same.

“It’s a lit­tle bit down be­cause of the change of date and lo­ca­tion. We usu­ally ex­pect about 2,000 peo­ple,” Mey­ers said. “But we’re just glad to be out here on such a nice day for a great cause.”

All event pro­ceeds raised from ven­dors, spon­sors and donors go to­ward the cen­ter’s re­sources, Mey­ers said.

“They all help us. We couldn’t do it with­out them,” she said.

Through­out the event, Mey­ers said, chil­dren have the op­por­tu­nity to ex­plore dif­fer­ent ve­hi­cles and learn about pro­fes­sions in­volv­ing trucks. Along with that, a rock climb­ing wall, face-paint­ing sta­tions and a blowup slide were avail­able for chil­dren to en­joy.

Bob Swarts, a pro­fes­sional luge racer who has com­peted in the X Games, said hav­ing the op­por­tu­nity to show chil­dren what he does and po­ten­tially spark some­one’s in­ter­est is what draws him to the event each year.

Swarts brings out his jet-pow­ered luge fu­eled by an ac­tual en­gine that can pro­pel him up to 160 miles per hour. That al­ways draws the most in­ter­est from not only chil­dren, he said, but ev­ery­one at the event.

“Other peo­ple have tried to copy it over the years, but I’ve been do­ing that for 11 years,” Swarts said. “It’s tough to do. The chil­dren love it.”

Swarts said he takes pride in show­ing chil­dren they can do dif­fer­ent things and have many op­por­tu­ni­ties. They just have to do what they love, he said.

And even if they are not into ex­treme sports or luge, Swarts said, Touch-a-Truck presents them with “so many dif­fer­ent trucks and ve­hi­cles.”

“You never know what will in­spire a kid and their ca­reer,” Swarts said. “Maybe they come out here and hop on one of th­ese fire trucks or one of th­ese boards. You never know.”

Swarts said he has been a men­tor for chil­dren with Asperger’s Syn­drome, which is a com­mu­ni­ca­tion dis­or­der, at the Cen­ter for Chil­dren for years. Th­ese are real is­sues, Swarts said, and “it’s a big deal” to help them.

“The thing is to get them over their prob­lems. They’ve got a lot of pro­grams that help,” Swarts said.

Greg Whit­man, a chief en­gi­neer for the Hol­ly­wood Vol­un­teer Res­cue Squad in St. Mary’s County, said help­ing chil­dren and be­ing part of the Cen­ter for Chil­dren’s cause is what keeps bring­ing him back to the an­nual event.

Whit­man, who used to work for Cen­ter for Chil­dren, said the event will al­ways be spe­cial to him be­cause of his pre­vi­ous con­nec­tions with the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

The goal for the Touch-a-Truck event is to help chil­dren have fun while show­ing them dif­fer­ent op­tions and equip­ment in many pro­fes­sions.

Whit­man brought out the depart­ment’s emer­gency ser­vices ve­hi­cle equipped with med­i­cal sup­plies, dispatch com­mand cen­ter con­trols and other equip­ment along with the res­cue squad’s “Gator” of­froad util­ity ve­hi­cle. “They love the Gator,” he said.

“They in­spire them to want to pur­sue things. Maybe a vol­un­teer ac­tiv­ity like this one,” Whit­man said. “What a great way to open the door.”

STAFF PHOTO BY MICHAEL SYKES II

The Bene­dict Vol­un­teer Fire depart­ment brought along this mas­cot to in­ter­act with par­tic­i­pants and vol­un­teers as they walked through the park­ing lot at Satur­day’s Touch-ATruck event hosted by La Plata’s Cen­ter for Chil­dren.

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