Local Boy Scout troops volunteered to paing the "town," on which the campers can practice their street and pedestrian safety.

Five of the original founders of Safety Town, a summer camp designed to teach preschool through elementary school students safety techniques and protocols, gathered at Lincolnwood School on June 17 to celebrate the camp’s 40th summer in Evanston. The founders included Sharon Petersen, Sandy Swanson, Jenny Glick, Carol Burns, and Nancy Doyle, as well as the current camp director, Emily Guthrie.

The idea of bringing Safety Town to Evanston was first proposed at a PTA meeting in 1977 when a board member found an article about the National Safety Town Center. “Dorothy Chlad, who ran the National Safety Town in Dayton, Ohio, is still around. Someone brought in the article, and we thought it was an outstanding idea,” said Ms. Guthrie.

While much of Safety Town’s advertising today comes from their website and other online platforms, Ms. Glick explained that when she was the camp’s director, “we never had anything online﹘ we had to go around to all the schools. I got to know every school in Evanston extremely well, and all the secretaries.” Since then, Safety Town has grown in both size and popularity. “When we only had two schools, it was 600 campers a year, and the teens, probably another 100, 150 teens. [Now] it’s thousands. We’ve got about 160 enrolled here this summer,” said Ms. Guthrie.

Safety Town’s curriculum covers a wide variety of topics that are taught over the span of two weeks. Some of the topics include crossing the street; pedestrian/motorist safety; first aid, seat belts, and 911; poisoning prevention and home safety; fire prevention; playground safety; bus safety; and bicycle safety. When asked about changes made over the past 40 years, Ms. Guthrie answered, “We’ve added a couple of topics. One is ‘I own my body,’ and another is ‘stranger danger.’ And then, because I happen to know a woman who has a dog sitter trained for therapy, she now comes and we talk about pet safety. Anna, who is our teen aide this session, is a lifeguard, so she talks about [beach and] water safety. We’ve tweaked it a little bit.”

Young campers are supervised and managed by middle-school “teen aides,” who come from all over Evanston. Though the aide positions are purely voluntary, students can earn community service hours through the camp and/or find babysitting opportunities through the campers’ parents.

Several Evanston-based organizations also volunteer their time to educate the campers, such as the Evanston Police and Fire Departments, representatives from bike stores, Goldfish Swim School, and local Boy Scouts. Four Scouts who were looking for volunteer opportunities to earn their Eagle Scout badges are responsible for the new “town” that is painted onto the Lincolnwood school pavement next to the playground. This new development allows the kids to practice their street and pedestrian safety with a more hands-on approach: the town contains stop signs, streets, intersections, and small wooden buildings.

“It’s so much fun, the kids don’t even realize they’re getting all of this information,” said Ms. Guthrie. “We create a memory book that they take home on the last day, and the teens write a little note that goes in there. I’ve had parents tell me they still have theirs from three decades ago.”

Five of the original founders of Safety Town, a summer camp designed to teach preschool through elementary school students safety techniques and protocols, gathered at Lincolnwood School on June 17 to celebrate the camp’s 40th summer in Evanston. The founders included Sharon Petersen, Sandy Swanson, Jenny Glick, Carol Burns, and Nancy Doyle, as well as the current camp director, Emily Guthrie.
The idea of bringing Safety Town to Evanston was first proposed at a PTA meeting in 1977 when a board member found an article about the National Safety Town Center. “Dorothy Chlad, who ran the National Safety Town in Dayton, Ohio, is still around. Someone brought in the article, and we thought it was an outstanding idea,” said Ms. Guthrie.


While much of Safety Town’s advertising today comes from their website and other online platforms, Ms. Glick explained that when she was the camp’s director, “we never had anything online﹘ we had to go around to all the schools. I got to know every school in Evanston extremely well, and all the secretaries.” Since then, Safety Town has grown in both size and popularity. “When we only had two schools, it was 600 campers a year, and the teens, probably another 100, 150 teens. [Now] it’s thousands. We’ve got about 160 enrolled here this summer,” said Ms. Guthrie.


Safety Town’s curriculum covers a wide variety of topics that are taught over the span of two weeks. Some of the topics include crossing the street; pedestrian/motorist safety; first aid, seat belts, and 911; poisoning prevention and home safety; fire prevention; playground safety; bus safety; and bicycle safety. When asked about changes made over the past 40 years, Ms. Guthrie answered, “We’ve added a couple of topics. One is ‘I own my body,’ and another is ‘stranger danger.’ And then, because I happen to know a woman who has a dog sitter trained for therapy, she now comes and we talk about pet safety. Anna, who is our teen aide this session, is a lifeguard, so she talks about [beach and] water safety. We’ve tweaked it a little bit.”


Young campers are supervised and managed by middle-school “teen aides,” who come from all over Evanston. Though the aide positions are purely voluntary, students can earn community service hours through the camp and/or find babysitting opportunities through the campers’ parents. 

Several Evanston-based organizations also volunteer their time to educate the campers, such as the Evanston Police and Fire Departments, representatives from bike stores, Goldfish Swim School, and local Boy Scouts. Four Scouts who were looking for volunteer opportunities to earn their Eagle Scout badges are responsible for the new “town” that is painted onto the Lincolnwood school pavement next to the playground. This new development allows the kids to practice their street and pedestrian safety with a more hands-on approach: the town contains stop signs, streets, intersections, and small wooden buildings.


“It’s so much fun, the kids don’t even realize they’re getting all of this information,” said Ms. Guthrie. “We create a memory book that they take home on the last day, and the teens write a little note that goes in there. I’ve had parents tell me they still have theirs from three decades ago.”

More about the Evanston Safety Town curriculum and registration is available at evanstonsafetytown.org.

More about the Evanston Safety Town curriculum and registration is available at evanstonsafetytown.org.