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Halloween safety urged

By Ed Brock

Perhaps the last thing Alice House expected to see Wednesday night was Trick-Or-Treaters.

For one thing, it was two days before Halloween. For another, House was a patient in Southern Regional Medical Center undergoing treatment for pneumonia.

"I think it's beautiful. I'm a little kid at heart so I love things like that," said House, who lives in Jonesboro. "People who care enough to make the trip to do this, there are very few people like that left in this world."

The Trick-Or-Treaters were members of the Clayton County Sheriff's Office Explorers Post 922, and they weren't there to get candy but to distribute balloons and spread a little cheer.

"I think it's nice for them to know someone's thinking about them, some of them might be down," said 15-year-old Explorer Meagon Wyatt.

Members of the Explorers, an offshoot of the Boy Scouts of America, are teens between 14 and 18 years old who are interested in a particular career field, in this case law enforcement, Clayton County sheriff's Sgt. Tina Daniel said. Along with learning about law enforcement techniques, Daniel said, they perform community services like cutting yards for the elderly, feeding the homeless at Thanksgiving and, for the first time Wednesday, making a Halloween visit to people in the hospital.

"I always like the community service because you get to meet new people," 15-year-old Erika Faulkner said.

Faulkner was dressed as a belly dancer for the visit while other costumes included a clown, an angel and, in Wyatt's case, a teen-ager in blue jeans holding balloons.

"I like the angel," said Mary Johnson of Hampton who was in the hospital for stomach problems.

With Halloween drawing near events are planned to give parents and young people safe options while officials are handing out safety tips instead of candy.

On Halloween night parents who have plans for some grown-up celebration can bring their children to Sparkles Roller Rink on Ga. Highway 85 for the "Safe Night" celebration.

From 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. children 15 and under will be locked in to the rink under the watchful gaze of Riverdale police. The $10 entry fee includes the cost of skate rental and a hot dog, chips and drink with the chance of winning pizza and birthday parties by playing several games, Sparkles General Manager Robert "Buster" Cato said.

"I just felt like since Sept. 11 security has been on the minds of everybody," Cato said. "You don't want to deprive your kids of a great time on Halloween but you want to be secure in their safety."

During the event Cato will also unveil the newly repainted giant roller skate car that, mounted on a pole, serves as the rink's sign. It will have the names of the four schools in Sparkle's 300 Club (schools that have brought more than 300 children to an event at the rink).

Morrow police host a similar Safe Halloween event each year at the park near Morrow City Hall to give Morrow residents a safe option to Trick-Or-Treating.

For those who plan to have a traditional Halloween going door to door in search of treats, Clayton College & State University Director of Public Safety Bruce Holmes has some safety tips.

Drivers should be alert to young children walking on the side of the road or appearing suddenly from behind parked cars.

When choosing a costume, avoid facemasks, large hats or other items that could obstruct the child's view and add reflectors for visibility.

Tell children not to run and to "stop, look and listen" for traffic.

Don't eat candy until it can be inspected in adequate light.

Parents should let someone know where they will take the children Trick-Or-Treating and when they expect to get home, and they should leave early enough to get home before it gets too dark.

"Oh, yeah, my mother's favorite, remind Trick-Or-Treaters to say ?Thank you' at each home they visit and that includes the house where they get the ?healthy treats' as well," Holmes said.