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Touching trucks teaches kids

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From police cars to helicopters, children can see and touch more than 30 vehicles to gather deeper insight into what the operators of the vehicles do for the community during the Fifth Annual Touch a Truck event.

Held by the Junior League of Wilmington, Touch a Truck will take over parking lots and lawns within Mayfaire Town Center from 12:30-4:30 p.m. Sunday, April 6.

Mary Heidenreich, president of the Junior League of Wilmington, said she thinks the hit for the 2014 event will be the North Carolina Aquarium’s Beach within Reach, a traveling outreach program featuring a saltwater touch tank.

“They’re bringing live starfish, horseshoe crabs — things that they can actually touch, sea creatures,” Heidenreich said.

There will also be garbage, fire, tow and weather trucks. Another big hit is the VitaLink helicopter from New Hanover Regional Medical Center, which will land and take off from the Mayfaire event field.

In addition to all of the vehicles, there will be a maze created out of trashcans, CPR training for parents, face painting, bounce houses and food vendors.

The event idea originally came from the Junior League in Richmond, Va.

“We wanted a hands-on activity for kids that the junior league could sponsor in Wilmington,” Heidenreich said. “It’s just grown and grown every year.”

In 2013, more than 1,000 people attended the event, raising $18,580 for the league. The proceeds benefit league programs, like the partnerships with Nourish N.C. for the Backpack Buddies program and with New Hanover County Schools focusing on the youth enrichment zone.

“It’s a hands-on educational event,” Heidenreich said. “Kids can actually see and touch the trucks and meet the people who protect our community and serve our community. … What does a policeman do? What does an ambulance do? What does the inside of it actually look like? These kids see them out on the roads here in Wilmington, and they’re curious about them. So actually getting their hands on them and getting to go inside of them, it’s just a really good educational opportunity for the kids.”

Ashley Brewster, membership vice president of the Junior League of Wilmington, said other vehicles that are popular with 2- to 4-year-old kids are the school buses.

“Little kids who aren’t in school yet are fascinated by the school buses,” Brewster said.

And the event’s impact is not only on the children who are seeing and touching the vehicles.

“The truck operators almost have more fun than the kids,” she said. “… They will sit and talk with these kids for forever.”

From 12:30-1:30 p.m., there will be a horn and light-free hour for children with special needs.

Every child who comes to the event gets his or her own construction hat. Tickets are $5 each or $15 for a family of four.

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