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Today's story comes from Dayna, who wrote this story to support the Keep Kids Fire Safe Foundation:
My name is Dayna Hilton and I am a volunteer firefighter in Clarksville, Arkansas.
In 2008, when I kneeled to listen to 5-year-old Angelica tell me how she knew what to do when her house caught fire after a fire safety presentation that my Dalmatian, Sparkles the Fire Safety Dog, and I had done at her school, Angelica’s story confirmed for me the value of partnering with canines to teach fire safety.
"Firefighter Dayna, I was in bed under the 'cobers' and the smoke came,” said Angelica. “I crawled out of bed and crawled low, just like Sparkles showed me to. I said, 'C'mon daddy, you have to get on the floor and crawl low like Sparkles.'"
By that time, Angelica’s dad had become disoriented because he had been standing in the smoke-filled room. Thankfully, he was able to follow Angelica out of the house. The firefighters later shared with me that as soon as Angelica’s dad reached the exterior house door, the home flashed over (a "flashover" is where the home totally becomes engulfed in flames).
Thanks to Angelica’s quick thinking and the fire safety training she learned from Sparkles, Angelica is now a teenager.
That was just the beginning of something very special.
Just before Sparkles crossed over the Rainbow Bridge in 2010, I started a non-profit, the Keep Kids a Fire Safe Foundation (KKFSF), a non-profit 501 (c)(3), dedicated in honor of Sparkles.
I realized shortly thereafter hearing Angelica’s story that I wanted to dedicate my life to helping reduce fire-related deaths and injuries and the Keep Kids Fire Safe Foundation was the perfect way to help carry on Sparkles’ legacy.
To this day, the foundation, along with its donors and corporate partners, carry on the work of Sparkles, continuing her legacy of helping keep children and their family safe.
Donating my time and talent to help continue the mission of the Foundation, it means everything to me to help continue the work she loved and helping keep children, like Angelica, safe.
THE "POWER OF THE PAW" AND MOLLY THE FIRE SAFETY DOG
Each time I share fire safety with children, whether it be "in person and in dog" or through the KKFSF’s fire safety Skype program, I continue to be amazed at Molly [the Fire Safety Dog] (who is following in Sparkles’ pawprints), and what I like to call, "The Power of the Paw."
Now, five-year old Molly, a Dalmatian famous for her red vest, badge, and red toenails, is a fire service dog who has been following in Sparkles pawprints and helping me keep children safe since she was 9 weeks old.
Believing in the “Power of the Paw,” I have donated hundreds of hours of training Molly to be a Fire Safety Dog as mascot of the Keep Kids Fire Safe Foundation, in hopes she will help to continue to keep children safe with her fire safety efforts.
KEEP KIDS FIRE SAFE FOUNDATION'S FIRE SAFETY PROGRAMMING
Keep Kids Fire Safe Foundation’s goals are to meet United States Fire Administration's identified goals that target children under the age of 14 by developing and implementing innovative fire safety programming.
I’m grateful to Molly for helping save the lives of several children and their families by making fire safety presentations with me across the United States.
Each year, Molly and I travel over 25,000 miles, and, together, we have traveled to 27 states in the US sharing fire safety.
When we are not traveling, Molly and I love Skyping her fire safety program with school children from the United States and around the world.
Skype Programs are delivered to school audiences throughout the year at no charge. A popular 30 minute, fun, educationally sound and interactive fire safety program for children, the “Let’s Read with Molly” fire safety program features meeting a real fire safety dog, reading a children's fire safety book, learning fire safety messages, singing fire safety songs and swearing in children as Jr. Firefighters. The program also includes a question and answer time.
The program aims to teach basic fire safety knowledge and skills to pre-school and elementary children through Skyping in an assembly or in-class visit. The Fire Safety Dog Skype Program is delivered primarily to pre-school, elementary school, to the home-schooled, and to young children at home, libraries and summer camps via the web, and, in addition, the foundation makes presentations at schools and in many other settings across the country, including conferences, fire stations, fire museums, etc....
The program's purpose includes reducing fire related deaths and injuries among children and their caregivers and reducing property loss.
Students learn four valuable fire safety messages that will help keep them and their family fire safe, including: 1) Recognizing the firefighter as a helper and a friend; 2) Knowing the sound and purpose of a smoke alarm; 3) Understanding the importance of practicing a home fire drill using an escape map, and 4) Knowing when and how to crawl low under smoke.
The program offers children an opportunity to learn or review strategies and techniques for prevention and surviving house fires and pass these ideas along to their caregivers.
As of November 3, 2017, 400 fire safety Skype programs have been conducted, reaching over 14,000 children and 1,500 adults since the program’s inception in 2010.
The fire safety Skype program has reached children from 44 states in the US and from 23 countries on six continents. To that end, the Fire Safety Dogs and I have traveled over a half million “virtual” miles, which is equal to 21 times around the world. Put another way, the Fire Safety Dogs and I have traveled enough “virtual” miles through this program equal to the distance to the moon and back!
Whether it is sharing a fire safety tip on her Facebook page with her over 111,000 friends, helping make fire safety presentations at schools, libraries, fire departments, or fire museums, or Skyping with children throughout the United States and the world, Molly is happiest when she is working (In 2016, Molly and the KKFSF conducted 85 fire safety programs, reaching 5,500 children and 661 adults!).
"Dayna was outstanding with her presentation to the six-year-old students. Molly helped to capture their attention while Dayna explained the importance of fire safety. The book reading was also a big hit with the kids. This was a very helpful lesson for our students. I want all the kids in my school to experience Dayna and Molly's message!" Ms. Harlem, Park Avenue School
"Students discussed their exit plan with family at home and brought back their plans to share." Ms. Haden, Palencia Elementary
"Thanks so much the children loved it!!! Loved the reinforcement of being safe in case of fire! Awesome job bringing the difficult material in a fun way down to the level of the children." Ms. Powell, Washington Elementary
We have documented helping save the lives of 7 children and 4 adults with the Fire Safety Dogs and the KKFSF. In addition, Molly the Fire Safety Dog has quite the following on Facebook, with 114,000 wonderful fans who are like family.
Together, the Keep Kids Fire Safe Foundation, Molly the Fire Safety Dog and I, work hand and paw to help keep children and their families’ safe.
As long as I live, I will continue to give. It is my hopes that with dedication and hard work, I will be able to help enable the Keep Kids Fire Safe Foundation (KKFSF) to reduce fire deaths, civilian injuries and economic losses, as well as increase fire safety awareness to the public with an emphasis on activities that prevent fire injuries to children and their caregivers.
To learn more about the work of Molly the Fire Safety Dog, she would love to be your friend on Facebook.
I wrote this in support of Keep Kids Fire Safe Foundation.