Florida International University

More than 3,000 residents came out to Charles Hadley Park Saturday, Aug. 22, for the last of the community’s Safe Summer Events.

The four-hour program starting at 1 p.m. offered free school backpacks to children but only if their families took them through a before-school-starts health screening.

Safe Summer 2010, a series of eight events, was the outgrowth of an initiative created by the city of Miami 10 years ago to provide young people with safe activities to keep them entertained and out of trouble during the long break from school.

The program was brought back after police began enforcing a strict teen curfew last May.

“We want to see all are our kids come out, all our kids who are idle,” said Miami Police Major Craig E. McQueen.

Although the backpack giveaway was the main draw for many parents, children were not eligible to receive one unless they went through a series of screenings offered by the health fair.

For many, it provided much-needed check-ups they would not otherwise get, as well as an opportunity to get necessary and free vaccinations before the start of the new school year.

“It’s a very nice program, a very good program,” said Linda Raiford, a mother.

“If the child has a problem, then you know.”

Families arrived early and poured into the center of the park. Pre-registration was not required but many parents had already signed up and received checklists to be signed when the children completed general health, vision, dental, hygiene and weight screens.

All our kids who are idle,” Miami-Dade County employees and city of Miami police officers were on hand to assist.

“It’s a lot of work but it’s worth it,” said Linda Roberts, a crime prevention specialist with Miami Police.

The backpacks were donated by Target in Miami’s Midtown Plaza, an event sponsor.

“We’ve been here two hours. So far so good,” said Hamlet Del Rosarrio, a Target employee who helped with the giveaway.

Jessica De Leon may be reached at jdele002@fiu.edu