'Respect the Rock River' campaign

The Rockford Park District has launched a new safety campaign aimed at educating children about the dangers of the Rock River.

“Last year at this time, the Rock River was closed for much of the spring and early summer due to flooding. There was a lot of dangerous debris pulled along by strong currents. A few kids drowned when they slipped into the river, and a few more had really close calls,” remarked spokesman Sgt. Theo Glover of the Rockford Police Department, who is featured in the 30-second public service announcement airing on local television stations. “We don’t want to see any more tragedies of children drowning in the Rock River. We want them to live to play another day.”

Jessica Frederick, manager of the District’s Aquatics facilities, added: “We wanted to explain to kids, especially those in the third grade, that our Rock River is one of our greatest community attractions, and kids are naturally attracted to the banks to chase ducks or poke around in the water. None of the children who fell in meant to, and they didn’t plan to go swimming, either. But that’s what happened.”

The public information program features a 3-minute DVD of two Rock River residents, Max and Molly Mallard, learning about the dangers of the river and what to do if you fall in. Children will receive an activity book with information about respecting the Rock River, and take home a signed contract promising to follow the rules of river safety. Rockford police officers will participate in the educational program, along with District staff members in classrooms and school assemblies, learn-to-swim classes, and other youth programming.

Local actors Stephen Vrtol and Linda Abronski voiced Max and Molly, graphic artist Nathan McDonald created an original comic/coloring book to accompany the DVD, filmed and produced by Curt Johnsen. New signs will be placed along the banks of the Rock River to warn people about the dangers, and a series of school assemblies will be taking place to present the “Respect the Rock River” program to area children.

The District received a $2,500 safety grant from the Park District Risk Management Association (PDRMA) to assist in the cost of printing and producing this program.

From the June 8-14, 2005, issue

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!