Cuyahoga Falls -- The city celebrated its first First Responders Appreciation Day, an all-day celebration of the service men and women who are the first to respond to emergencies and disasters, on Sept. 29 at Falls River Square. The event was sponsored by Summa Western Reserve Hospital, the city of Cuyahoga Falls and the Cuyahoga Falls Fire and Police departments.
Kathy Romito, Community Outreach Coordinator for Summa Western Reserve Hospital, said she was very pleased with the outcome.
"The attendance was incredible," said Romito. "There were about 1,000 people who showed up to help honor the city's first responders."
A local citizen, Angie Joeris-Drexter, went to Mayor Don Robart with the idea to have the celebration in Cuyahoga Falls and the mayor eagerly accepted.
"Our first responders are so giving and they never ask for thanks," said Joeris-Drexler. "I have seen the compassion they feel when helping others."
According to Joeris-Drexler, First Responders Day is a national event that occurs on Sept. 27. Many states have adopted this movement and Joeris-Drexter hopes all of Ohio will some day adopt it.
"It is so important to show our first responders that we appreciate them being there," said Joeris-Drexler. "We need to look past the uniform and see the compassionate people who work so hard to protect us."
The celebration included an address from Mayor Robart and an interfaith prayer to commence the festivities, followed by a variety of family-friendly activities that included face painting, service trucks on display, rock wall climbing, police K-9 demonstrations, Kid ID cards being made, the Woodridge High School marching band performing, Paws and Prayers with adoptable animals, Summit County mounted patrol, raffles and much more.
"People really loved the K-9 demonstrations," said Romito. "Kids had a great time looking at the displays of equipment. Over 100 Kid ID cards were made."
The event concluded with a performance by the country band "Buck Naked" composed mostly of Akron Police Department employees.
"The band was the crown jewel of the day," said Cuyahoga Falls Police Chief Tom Pozza. "Not only was the celebration a way to honor first responders, but it was also a way of showing local citizens we are out there to help."
Prior to the celebration, kindergarten through fifth-grade students had a chance to participate in a poster contest. Based on creativity, four winners -- two boys and two girls -- were selected to receive new bicycles as prizes. The posters were on display at the event.
Winners were Alistair Larson of Silver Lake Elementary, Karsyn Brazelton of Lincoln Elementary, Liam Work and Olivia Aloisi of Richardson Elementary.
Cuyahoga Falls Fire Chief Paul Moledor was also pleased with the experience.
"I enjoyed seeing first responders enjoy a beautiful fall day on the riverfront," said Moledor. "It was an honor to be part of the committee that put the event together."
After the success of this event, the city plans to celebrate First Responders Day annually.
"We're looking forward to doing this again next year," said Pozza.
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