There’s something awesome about watching more than 20 kids foil a would-be kidnapper.
Even if it’s only for practice.
At the Seal Beach Police Department Friday, children from Long Beach and Orange County went through their last day of the radKIDS program, a weeklong class designed to teach them how to escape potential abductors.
Kids got some hands, elbows, knees and feet-on experience in “resisting aggression defensively” as Sgt. Stephen Bowles of the SBPD donned his protective gear and pretended to be a kidnapper.
The program was sponsored by the SBPD and The Joyful Child Foundation, a nonprofit aimed at preventing crimes against children
Former Stanton resident Erin Runnion started the nonprofit after a man abducted, sexually abused and killed her 6-year-old daughter Samantha in 2002.
“The reason they (criminals) target children is they expect it to be easy,” said Runnion at the event. “And when they fight back, it’s not easy.”
With the help of their instructors Becky Schmidt, a Garden Grove Elementary school teacher, and Andrea Perez, a self-described “concerned PTA mom,” students evaded Bowles by screaming, running away and using special physical attacks.
Throughout the course teachers told students to “Yell loud” if they were assaulted or were approached by someone they felt was suspicious.
Schmidt's mantra was “Yell loud, run fast and hit hard."
According to organizers, screaming loudly can help startle the attacker and alert any adults nearby that the child needs help.
“Remember your voice is your best weapon,” said Runnion, as she helped one of the children put on their own protective padding to face Bowles.
Despite his role as a bad guy – and the endless beatings his protected knees, stomach and face received – Bowles said he was having fun teaching the kids how to escape predators.
“It doesn’t get any better,” Bowles said.
Watching from the side of the room with his 2-year-old son Kieran, Seal Beach resident Glenn Sawada said he had signed his son Soren up for the class to make sure Soren knew what to do in an emergency.
“We know Seal Beach is pretty safe, but you never know,” Sawada said. “I think it’s (the class) helped him open his eyes. “
Seven-year-old Grant Boyer, from Seal Beach, said he enjoyed the week.
“We’ve learned some cool moves, and we’ve learned some things that I don’t think most people know,” said Boyer, as he waited for his turn to show off his training against Bowles.
And just because they were learning how to resist kidnappers and other potential threats didn’t mean the kids couldn’t enjoy themselves.
After 5-year-old Chloe Olson of Long Beach fought back against Bowles’ simulated abduction attempts, she went to see her mom, waited moment and then walked to the center of the large room and smacked the padded protection on Bowles' stomach with her hand.
“Because I thought it would be funny,” Olson said.
The program also taught kids how to dial 911 (children got to call real 911 dispatchers from cell phones) and provided safety tips on a number of topics including escape routes, internet safety, drugs and alcohol awareness and bullying.
For more information about The Joyful Child Foundation, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on the program or other community police programs, contact Bowles at 562-799-4100, extension 1160 or email@example.com.