Kids who don't ride a school bus and have no other have way to get home now have a friend they can rely on.
The Tampa YMCA has started the "Walking School Bus" program to make sure kids stay safe, especially those who live in troubled neighborhoods.
"They are finding the lack of sidewalks, stray dogs, vacant homes, bullying to be an issue, so having that safe passage to and from school for the kids and for their parents was critical," said Saima Qadree, who coordinates the all-volunteer program for the YMCA.
Funded by a $20,000 community grant arranged by the University of South Florida's Center for Urban Transportation Research, The Florida Blue Foundation, and the YMCA, "Walking School Bus" teams a trained volunteer with a group of elementary school aged kids. Every day, rain or shine, the walking bus driver accompanies each child home in a group.
During the walk home, the kids wear bright-orange safety vests so they can be seen in crosswalks and street corners. Sammie Fudge of Sulphur Springs became one of the first trained volunteers. He instructs the kids on safety in a fun filled, game playing manner all the way home.
Sammie got involved because two years ago, an 8-year-old girl was struck and killed by a car while crossing Busch Boulevard.
"The vest is the main priority of the walking school bus program. If they don't have the vest, they are basically invisible to the driver," Sammie said as he led the kids across a busy intersection.
Grassroots safety programs are commonly seen as a first response to reduce traffic-related injuries and deaths among children, whether they are playing outside or walking home from school. The Tampa YMCA has 14 trained volunteers in the "Walking School Bus" program, and hopes to add more as awareness spreads in local neighborhoods.
For more information:
Tampa YMCA Communications Director
813.275.9622 ext. 1240 (office)
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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