NEW PORT RICHEY — A local event gathers thousands of people every year by combining safety and family activities.

The 2019 Pasco Kids First Family Fun Day was held for the 12th year on Nov. 2 in Sims Park. The event was presented by AdventHealth, with over a dozen sponsors.

Becky Bennett, the director of development for Pasco Kids First, is always impressed to see the amount of companies and organizations that come out to support the event.

“There’s an increase of sponsors and vendors every year,” Bennett said. “It started out with just a few partners and now, every year, we have more and more.”

She said that the biggest draw is that it’s an inexpensive opportunity for families to meet with first responders as well as learn about the resources in their area.

“They get to learn about all of the community partners,” Bennett said. “Just seeing all the smiles on the kids’ faces and seeing them interact with the first responders is really neat.”

The event featured more than 50 vendors and 15 touch-a-truck participants. She said that the attendance is expected to match their average from past years, which is around 6,000.

New Port Richey-based Pasco Kids First is a private, nonprofit group that provides services to children in Pasco and Hernando counties. It was founded in 1989 as the Pasco Family Protection Team.

“Our mission at Pasco Kids First is keeping kids safe and strengthening families so we believe in bringing together families for a fun event like this,” Bennett said.

Transportation of all sizes packed the parking lots for children to explore and sit behind the wheel. The vehicles included the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office SWAT and Rescue Vehicle, a dump truck, an excavator, a John Deere tractor, a school bus and more.

There was a Pasco County Fire Rescue fire hose shoot where children had the opportunity to “extinguish a fire” by using a real fire hose. There was also a New Port Richey Police Department K-9 Unit Demonstration and performances by the Odessa-based Ignite Dance Studio.

Besides the Touch-a-Truck event, youngsters flocked to a helmet giveaway. The safety gear were fitted by nursing students and donated by Safe Kids Florida and Healthy Families Pasco-Hernando.

Amy Schulz, chairperson for Safe Kids Florida in Pasco County, said that the local chapter of Safe Kids Florida has been involved with the annual family event for about ten years because the helmet giveaway embodies what they stand for.

“Injury prevention is our entire focus and being able to give the helmets out at no cost puts them in the hands of people that might not have them,” she said.

They had 1,000 helmets that they hoped to give away to local children, as well as teach families about the importance of helmets fitting properly.

“Most people don’t fit their helmets,” Schulz said. “And nobody ever teaches anybody how to fit a helmet which is why we make that education part of the giveaway.”

Kelly Supley attended the event because it caught the attention of her three grandchildren.

“We were just riding our bikes and the kids wanted to come to the park,” Supley said. “They have a lot of great events for the kids and families.”

There was also the Family Trails & Tales Walk which promotes literacy by allowing people to walk around Orange Lake while reading a storybook with pages set up along the path.

Pasco Kids First is a nonprofit organization that aims to keep children safe with programs that assist with the trauma of abuse and neglect. Visit pascokidsfirst.org for more information.