JOHNSTOWN – Dozens of children had the chance to climb inside an armored Cambria County Special Emergency Response Team vehicle, meet police officers, check out fire trucks and even pet a police dog on Tuesday during National Night Out in Johnstown’s Central Park.
“It seems the community loved us being here,” Cambria County Detective Bill Hines said, standing at the SERT vehicle. “They got to see everything and touch everything and put a friendly face to somebody who can help them out.”
It was perfect for 9-year-old Tyler Mihuk and 7-year-old Noah Chapman, who raced around the park checking out all the displays. Tyler wants to be a police officer and Noah wants to be a firefighter.
Johnstown Police Department’s booth included information packets and a chance to meet the newest K-9 officer-in-training, Archie. Officer Melissa Nagle was passing out information about services and programs in the area while engaging children with sticker “badges” and other gifts.
“It brings the whole community together,” she said. “We are here to serve the community, so hopefully we helped some people.”
Several police officers volunteered to climb into the seat of a dunking booth.
Cuddles for Kids Executive Director Robin Hagins brought a new program to the park. The Johnstown Free Store was modeled after the Free Store in Braddock, which was founded by Pennsylvania second lady Gisele Barreto Fetterman.
Hagins said the idea is to provide people what they need – without paperwork or other requirements. She and some other interested people put together a committee that worked with Fetterman to launch the Johnstown program.
“We are separate, but we used Gisele’s model,” Hagins said. “We don’t have a permanent location, so we are going to do pop-up events.”
Several tables were set up in the park for clothing and personal hygiene products and other toiletries.
The event also featured music performed by Kevin Dale, ax throwing provided by Steel City Axe and a Hogue’s Fun Factory bounce house. The Cambria County Drug Coalition and Cambria County Bar Association had information booths.
Another National Night Out event was held in Nanty Glo. The annual Night Out is designed to build positive relations between police, first responders and the communities they serve.