Beach safety themed kids activity sheets target families at Gulf Shores restaurants

Published: Mar. 7, 2023 at 4:47 PM CST
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GULF SHORES, Ala. (WALA) - A drowning in Gulf Shores over the first weekend of spring break was a tragic reminder of the danger a trip to the beach can present. A single red flag was flying at the time, warning of a high risk of rip currents. Beach safety officials are continuing to explore new ways to educate visitors to those dangers.

Most would agree that what draws the attention of parents is whatever it is drawing the attention of their children. That was the idea behind the Shelly Sander Project. It’s the brainchild of Gulf Shores firefighter, Lieutenant Justin Parks who focuses on community risk reduction. Parks named the project “Shelly,” for the sea turtle mascot and “Sander,” after his mother. With his idea, his sister’s artistic talents and the support of Gulf Shores public safety officials, a new kids activity sheet is finding its way into local restaurants.

Gulf Shores public safety officials hope to hand out 50,000 kids activity sheets this year
Gulf Shores public safety officials hope to hand out 50,000 kids activity sheets this year(Hal Scheurich)

“I just know as a dad, that when I’m sitting down with my family and my kids are doing those menus and activities that I’m heavily engaged in what they’re doing, especially my daughter, so having the opportunity to reach families while they’re sitting down together, eating dinner and have the time to actually talk about this stuff, I think is very important,” Parks explained.

Twenty thousand kids activity sheets were given out last year and the goal is to more than double that this season. LuLu’s in Gulf Shores is eager to partner in the effort. The restaurant has already ordered a run of activity sheets with their custom kid’s menu included. LuLu’s President, Gerald Tipton has seen successful partnerships in the past with Share the Beach and Leave Only Footprints and is ready to spread the safety message to his patrons.

“It’s not just about educating the parents but it’s about educating the kids and making them be inquisitive, you know? You’ll see,” Tipton said. “The kids will see like, look Dad, it’s a yellow flag or it’s a double red flag. Remember? We saw that, so they retain that information as well.”

The Klapperich family from Minnesota was one of the first to use one of the new kids activity sheets. Daughter C-C was immediately drawn to it and her mother, Alex immediately saw the value.

“I think it’s wonderful. Yeah. I think any way to get kids to play more safely is fantastic and have fun learning about safety in the water. It’s great,” Klapperich said.

That’s just what public safety officials hope to see…parents and kids teaching one another about beach safety. You can easily stay on top of things by texting ALBEACHES to 888777 and know before you go by receiving daily flag reports.