There were fire engines, SWAT vehicles and cement mixers, but it was the helicopter that stole the show.
Hundreds of children got to experience professional vehicles up close at the ‘Touch a Truck’ event in the parking lot between Illinois and Washington in downtown Morris on Saturday, Oct. 19.
The Morris Police Department, Grundy County Sheriff’s Office, Morris Fire Department and Emergency Management Agency, LifeStar and Will County SWAT all contributed vehicles to the event. GFWC Morris Women’s Club helped run the event, Calvary Baptist Church contributed a bounce castle and popcorn machine, while face painting was offered by student volunteers from Morris Community High School. All proceeds from a 50/50 drawing went to a criminal justice scholarship for students from Grundy County.
The fire engine made quite an impression on five-year old Logan Mayes of Morris. He grinned as his parents helped him into the driver’s seat.
“He wants to be a firefighter or a race car driver, so this is just making his day getting to check all these vehicles out,” said Amber Mayes, Logan’s mom, “It’s really cool that we can walk around and explore without any restrictions.”
Morris Firefighter Dan Wilson said he has a blast at events like this.
“It’s a perfect day for families to be out and it’s great we get to teach kids about the vehicles,” Wilson said, “Plenty of Facebook updates will take place today.”
Barrett, 7, and Braycin, 10, Hiller of Morris said their favorite vehicle of the day was a massive army-green SWAT Vehicle, complete with a turret on top. Sean Wojtczak of the Grundy County Sheriff’s Department and Grundy-Will SWAT team spent the day helping kids climb into that huge green SWAT vehicle.
“Kids and adults come up to [The SWAT Vehicle] and get excited about it. I know exactly how they feel. I ride in it and I still get excited every time I see it. This thing is awesome,” Wojtczak said.
He said besides just being a fun experience, events like ‘Touch a Truck’ are important for teaching kids not to be afraid to ask police officers or fire fighters for help.
“This event lets them know we’re normal people, just like them. We tell jokes and help them to be relaxed around us if they ever need our help someday,” Wojtczack said.
One of the most exciting moments from the event was when a Life Star Helicopter landed in Stratton State Park for a few hours, allowing kids to explore the inside.
Wendy Dudek, a member of the GFWC Morris Women’s Club Touch a Truck Committee, said the morning was a complete success.
Chairperson of the Committee Michelle Mitchell agreed.
"The entrie community came together to pull this off," Mitchell said, "Calvary Baptist Church, the Sheriff's Office and LifeStar all contributed and it turned out really great."
“It was just fantastic. The helicopter was freaking cool,” Dudek said with a laugh, “The kids were just going crazy over it.”