OLMSTED FALLS, Ohio – The Bulldog spirit again arose to help the young of our community.

More than 30 sponsors and partners are bringing needed improvements to the community’s Safety Town. The “little city” that teaches safety measures is located behind the Olmsted Falls City Hall. It is now in its second and final week for the summer.

The Olmsted Early Childhood PTA launched the project that raised almost $13,000 in cash sponsorships and more than $3,000 in product donation. And the PTA did this in just five months.

“It was phenomenal,” said Ashley Oaken, who spearheaded the improvement project. “So many wonderful groups, businesses and people came together in such a supportive way. It was truly overwhelming.”

Ashley is the OECPTA’s second vice president in charge of ways and means. She has been a PTA member for five years and heard the praises – and some needs – of Safety Town. The “needs” of the little city included faded signage, deteriorated buildings, an area without buildings and small fixes that need an uplift.

“The facility needed to be fixed,” she said. “We wanted to bring life into it.”

girl riding in Safety Town

: Lucy Milner is all smiles as she rides through the Olmsted Falls Safety Town that is in session this summer. (Joanne Berger DuMound, special to Cleveland.com)

Ashley did not have Safety Town where she lived before moving to Olmsted Township. Over the years she said she had questions about the facility and how to improve it, but it seemed the timing wasn’t right. Carli Markiewitz became the PTA president and the second vice president slot was open. She asked Ashley to fill the position and if she was still interested, to start a Safety Town improvement project.

Ashley learned the school district owns the Safety Town property, but Olmsted Falls D.A.R.E. Officer Bob and the city’s police department had a “big hand” in coordinating some of the activities.

Officer Bob actually started Safety Town about 17 years ago. He said that space was a skateboard park, which the city ran, but it saw some vandalism while there. The city’s parks and recreation board agreed to his turning it into Safety Town. Bob has a great background story. He said the traffic light there was created by putting together ones throughout the city. The service department painted the streets and sidewalks. The city kept it up for a few years and it was then turned over to the school district. Over the years Eagle Scouts and others have donated their talent and time to help maintain or create new buildings. However, its money stream for maintaining it now is at a bare minimum. That is when the PTA stepped into the project.

2 pta members standing next to safety town sign in olmsted falls

Cutline: Carli Markiewitz, left, and Ashley Oaken, Olmsted Early Childhood PTA officers, stand next to the new sign, which was part of the improvement project, that recognizes founding sponsors and partners of Safety Town in Olmsted Falls. (Joanne Berger DuMound, special to cleveland.com)

PTA is responsible for Safety Town’s registration. Ashley, who is the executive director of Engage! Cleveland, a nonprofit organization, knew what to do. She created a sponsorship document and sent it to all organizations in the community and surrounding areas. She began getting positive responses. Some said they could not donate money but offered services. She also met with school district officials who were willing to help and mentioned Polaris Career Center that had a construction trades program. Polaris offered to help by bringing in two small houses its students already built and used for another program. They also improved some roofing, painting and masonry issues. The Polaris-OECPTA partnership will continue as they address other Safety Town needs.

The first person to respond to Ashley’s sponsorship letter was Caprina Gates, whose triplets attend Olmsted Falls High School. She is also a local realtor and sponsors an annual Coats for Kids campaign in the school district. Caprina was a single mom when her three were eligible to attend Safety Town. She, however, couldn’t afford it. She never mentioned that to anyone at the time. She said she felt others “needed it more.” She is now an active and successful businesswoman, married, proud mom of her three Bulldog High honor students and the Presenting Sponsor of Safety Town for Olmsted Falls.

“It was an absolute honor to support Olmsted Falls Safety Town as its Presenting Sponsor! My goal was to ensure that every child could experience the program and learn these vital skills before they start Kindergarten,” Caprina said.

realtor standing next to Safety Town building that has her name.

Caprina Gates proudly stands next to a Safety Town building with her realtor sign. Caprina is the Presenting Sponsor of the little city in Olmsted Falls that is undergoing renovations.

The fundraising helped upgrade some of the buildings and a new sponsorship sign at this point. Businesses who could not donate money provided food for the youngster’s graduation ceremonies.

Officer Bob said Safety Town is an integral part of the community.

“It is very important to have our young kids who are starting Kindergarten know what to do, like crossing the street, bicycle safety, fire safety, stranger and gun safety,” he said. It is also very important for young kids to be in Safety Town to get ready for school and kindergarten. And PTA is a big help in all they do in volunteering, scheduling, registering and ordering material. It is an all-year project.”

Safety Town, in which about 200 kids registered this year, runs Monday through Friday for 2 l/2 hours sessions. Kids attend for five days. The program offers two weeks in which to participate. Each has morning, afternoon and evening sessions.

Safety Town improvement sign Olmsted Falls

This Olmsted Falls Safety Town sign thanks all who are involved in the improvement project of the program that teaches various safety measures prior to entering Kindergarten. (Joanne Berger DuMound, special to cleveland.com.

Ashley’s nonprofit organizational background certainly helped make this project successful. She is thankful and appreciative to all involved.

“It was an honor and privilege to work with the entire community to obtain over $15,000 in sponsorships or donations to renovate and improve Safety Town to make it a state-of-the-art experience. We had over 30 sponsors and partnership who supported this,” she said. “It is a great reflection of the Olmsted community.”

This type of project again proved the Bulldog spirit is alive and well, even during the summer. Thanks to all who helped make this a reality.

Vietnam remembrance: The 3rd annual Vietnam Veterans Remembrance Day is at 5:30 p.m. at the Village Green this Saturday (June 25.) It starts with an opening prayer followed by the National Anthem, Pledge of Allegiance, Taps, bagpiper and a Vietnam veteran’s speech. The event is always touching to attend. Afterward, you are invited to walk across the Charles A. Harding pedestrian bridge for hot dogs, refreshments and music. The music will continue from 6:30 to 10 p.m.

A rockin’ good time: Enjoy Rockin’ at the Rift from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. this Saturday (June 25). The Rift – Repurposed & Intented For Today – offers more than 65 vendors. It is located in the Mill River Plaza.

This Saturday it will present live bands, food and 10 percent off the entire store. Why not stop by, listen to the music, grab some food and check out the amazing vendors at the store.

Shredding: The city is offering its free Community Shredding Day from 9 a.m. to noon this Saturday (June 25) outside of the Olmsted Falls City Hall. The address is 26100 Bagley Road, right next to Falls-Lenox Primary School.

Downtown fun: The Vintage Marketplace at the Falls returns during the summer months on this Sunday (June 26.) Enjoy vintage, antiques, art, craft and just some pretty cool items for sale as well as live music and food trucks. It’s at Grand Pacific Junction and in downtown Olmsted Falls.

Park concert: The Olmsted Falls Parks and Recreation Board offers its first Sunday concert at 6 p.m. at the East River Park, which is on Lewis Road, just north over the Norfolk Southern Railway tracks. The QS Jazz will play through 8 p.m. Be sure to bring a chair or blanket.

Clementine’s and the Grand Pacific Popcorn Company will offer food while you enjoy the outdoor concert. Oh, the concert is free.

Kampus kudos: The following Baldwin Wallace University students earned the Dean’s List.

They are Rob Berg, cybersecurity analyst major; Logan Bratsch, pre-allied health/pre-physical therapy; Dominic Gentile, business administration; Alex Gibson, business administration; Maddie Hofmann, pre-allied health/pre-physical therapy and exercise science; Cristina Honchuk, chemistry; Kat Hradek, psychology; Seth Johnson, business administration and finance; Logan Kaschak, economics; Caitlin Kilbane, history; Rachel Korba, adolescent and young adult education and history integrated social studies; Josiah Lander, biology; Annie Lindley, national security; Brianna Meredith, psychology; Lotanna Okoroafor, accounting; Emily Pechaitis, biology; Logan Schramm Schramm, sport management; Elizabeth Schultz, early childhood education; Simon Skoutas, political science; Esme Tapia, public health; Dan Wahl, marketing and Lee Walters, human resource management major.

The honor recognizes students who earn a 3.6 GPA or higher while enrolled in 12 or more graded hours during the semester.

Heritage Days: Jim Wallace appreciates those who want to be part of the Aug. 4-7 Olmsted People’s Heritage Days that was featured in last week’s column.

The Bulldog Summer Bash will return to its Grace Church location to help celebrate that weekend. It will offer games, crafts, raffle baskets, face painting and other activities from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 6. More details on this event and others that weekend as they organize their activities.

Remember to contact Jim at [email protected] for more details or to be part of the activities that weekend.

Information, please: To include news, tidbits, honors or activities in Olmsted Falls and Olmsted Township, contact Joanne DuMound at [email protected]. She is also on Twitter, @JoanneDuMound. The column’s online version at cleveland.com/olmsted has direct links for many news items.