Cuyahoga Falls -- The city will host the fourth annual First Responders Appreciation Day, an all-day celebration of the men and women who are first to respond to emergencies and disasters, on Sept. 24 at Falls River Square.
The event, sponsored by Western Reserve Hospital, the city of Cuyahoga Falls and the Cuyahoga Falls Police and Fire departments, will offer family-friendly activities to visitors, including K-9 demonstrations, emergency vehicles on display, Paws and Prayers with adoptable animals, a remote-control electric car and much more.
"Our first responders are directly responsible for keeping our community safe on a daily basis, and their finest hours are often our most dire ones," said Cuyahoga Falls Mayor Don Walters. "First Responders Appreciation Day is our opportunity to show how much we appreciate their bravery, dedication and service."
The free event is Sept. 24 from 3 to 8:30 p.m. at Falls River Square at Broad Boulevard and Riverfront Parkway in Cuyahoga Falls. The schedule includes an award ceremony for first responders, live music from the Happy Mon Band, free bike helmets to kids and food vendors throughout the event. All attending first responders will be entered into a drawing to win prizes. Members of the Cuyahoga Falls Police and Fire departments, the Ohio State Highway Patrol, Summit Metro Parks, Metro SWAT, Barberton SWAT, Tallmadge and Springfield Police K-9 units will be on hand, according to Kathy Romito, community relations manager for Western Reserve Hospital.
She said about 500 people attended last year's event and organizers are hoping for about 1,000 event-goers this year. In an effort to bring more people downtown, the event is happening on a Saturday instead of a Sunday as it did in the past three years, Romito noted.
"As a community hospital, we've always worked closely with first responders, and we see the lives saved by their courageous efforts every day in our emergency department," said Dr. Robert Kent, President and CEO, Western Reserve Hospital. "First Responders Appreciation Day brings our community together to collectively say 'thank you' to those who help keep it safe and well."
The leaders of the city's safety forces are also looking forward to the event.
"We are looking to have a fun-filled afternoon " said Cuyahoga Falls Fire Chief Paul Moledor. "Come out and show your appreciation and support for the first responders. Enjoy some food and island music provided by Happy Mon Band All groups have been working all year to put on this appreciation day."
Cuyahoga Falls Police Chief Jack Davis said officials are "so fortunate to have a resource like Western Reserve that sponsors this event," and noted he appreciates the planning committee's hard work in organizing the event. He added the event gives residents and safety force workers a chance to interact, and noted it serves an educational purpose.
"The displays of equipment and demonstrations give the community some idea of what resources and skills our safety forces and other caregivers have," said Davis. "Any opportunity that we have to show our first responders appreciation for the hard work and dedication they have should be taken."
Kindergarten through fifth-grade students also participated in a poster contest leading up to the event. Students submitted posters to their teachers showing first responders in action or what first responders mean to the community. Based on the poster's creativity, four winners -- two boys and two girls -- will be selected to receive prizes. The posters will be on display at the event.